Hide and Seek (2005) / Thriller-Horror
MPAA Rated: R for violence , some sexuality and mild gore
Running Time: 100 min.
Cast: Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Janssen, Elisabeth Shue, Dylan Baker, Melissa Leo, Robert John Burke, Amy Irving, David Chandler, Molly Grant Kallins
Director: John Polson
Screenplay: Ari Schlossberg
Review published January 29, 2005
Nice cast, bad movie. I’m not sure what attracted this cast of actors to be in such a standard horror-thriller (I’m guessing a paycheck, in De Niro’s case), but their efforts are all for naught, as it strictly adheres to formula shocks, and a twist that has been overdone in movies in this genre of late. The problem with this little bit of trickery isn’t just that it is redundant and tired, but that once all of the cards are revealed, the glaring plot holes run through your mind for the remainder of the film. Unfortunately, as a plausible psychological horror film, it just doesn’t make a great deal of sense.
De Niro (Meet the Fockers, Shark Tale) plays New York psychologist David Calloway, who moves with his traumatized daughter, Emily (Fanning, Man on Fire), to a small town upstate after the tragic suicide of his wife, in the hopes that the change of scenery will break her back out of the shell she is in. It doesn’t seem to be working, until one day he notices that Emily is a little happier than before, and when upon further inquiry, he learns about Charlie, her new friend. At first, David patronizes Emily about her new “imaginary friend”, until it appears that Emily’s behavior is becoming more and more disturbing, especially around 2:06am, the time when David’s wife committed suicide.
To say much more about the film would encroach into spoiler territory, so I shall refrain. What I will say is that, despite moments of interest into the nature of Charlie and whether or not he is real or just a figment of a grieving child’s imagination, it does begin to fall apart. The main reason why it doesn’t work is due to the fact that the most bizarre set of coincidences, as well as the most befuddling character motivations, are necessary in order for this film to come close to working, and even then it makes very little sense from a practical standpoint.
Director Polson (Swimfan) leaves no cliché untouched, as this film feels more like an amalgam of much more efficiently constructed movies over the past few decades. Derailed by a preposterous ending, the maddening payoff doesn’t merit the time and effort to invest in, even if you’re a fan of De Niro or Fanning. It doesn’t help that no one in the film acts like a real person would in his/her situation, setting up another mind f*ck thriller that will probably make you angry at the unconvincing explanations. Despite quality actors, Hide and Seek proves that some films are better off staying hidden.
©2005 Vince Leo