Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Movie Review: Hide and Seek

United States, 2005
U.S. Release Date: 1/28/05
Running Time: 1:42
Rated: R (Violence)
Cast: Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Janssen, Elisabeth Shue, Amy Irving, Dylan Baker

Director: John Polson
Producer: Barry Josephson
Screenplay: Ari Schlossberg
Music: John Ottman
Studio: 20th Century Fox

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One would think that in order to secure two high-stature stars like Robert Deniro and Dakota Fanning in a psychological-horror film, the script would have to be of the highest caliber. Then again, money can buy big names for films with mediocre screenplays. Even with its two high-profile actors, Hide and Seek is nothing more than a disappointing gimmick that frustrates with its worn-out plot twist.

David Callaway (Robert Deniro) and his wife Alison (Amy Irving) are meandering through a rocky marriage. Nevertheless, they have a daughter, Emily (Dakota Fanning), and that is where their love is concentrated.

One morning, just after 2am, David awakes to find his wife dead in the bathtub of their house; she slit her wrists and committed suicide. After Emily witnesses her mother’s blood-bathed body, David decides to move him and his daughter into a rural New York home to escape their past.

Once inside their new house, Emily informs her father that she has made a new “friend” named Charlie. Despite the psycho-babble – explained by Emily’s psychiatrist Katherine (Famke Janssen) – which describes Emily’s “friend” Charlie as imaginary, David begins to second-guess the diagnosis when weird occurrences start happening around the house. The words “You let her die,” are scrolled on the bathroom walls; dolls are mutilated; and the cat is found drowned in the bathtub. David is determined to get to the bottom of whom or what Charlie is and why he is terrorizing the household.

Hide and Seek contains an inexcusable romance – between David and a younger woman named Elizabeth (Elizabeth Shue) – that doesn’t even bud; it just appears. This romance is ridiculous—only serving one main purpose: to keep the plot rolling. Of course, the actors can’t help it if the script is unsatisfying and the editing is choppy; the filmmakers have brought that upon themselves. The solitary fact that the DVD features four alternate endings is a huge hint that the production team did not have a clue as to how they were going to close this publicity stunt of a motion-picture.

In this throwaway thriller there are diversions aplenty. Usually in a "who-done-it?," whenever attempts are made to make a character look guilty, that should be proof enough that he or she is innocent. With Hide and Seek, obvious clues and red herrings are thrown at the viewers—making the twist unrewarding. In fact, the twist is so expected that when it occurs, there is not an ounce of revelation or poeticism to be felt. Further, after the twist, the main characters manage to exit their mansion and randomly run into a dark cave. What a poor stab at intensifying the already minimalist frights that preceded.

When children play hide and seek in a single room, there are only so many places to stay out of sight; this quickly makes the experience dull and curbing. Sadly, the same can be said about Hide and Seek. Being solely based on a gimmick, there are only so many ways to wrap up this charade, and once its time is up, the result is corny and undesirable. Hide and Seek is one disappointing game that no one should play. (*1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2005