and Seek. Twentieth
Century Fox presents a film directed by John Polson. Written
by Ari Schlossberg. Running time: 100 minutes. Rated R
(for frightening sequences and violence). Starring Robert
De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Janssen, Elisabeth Shue,
Amy Irving, Dylan Baker.
this review gives away Hide and Seek's main twist.
Don't read if you don't want to know, but trust me: it's really
there's the family, and the dad's a psychiatrist. And his
wife just killed himself, right? This is all, as you could
imagine, a bit traumatic to his daughter (Dakota Fanning),
so he moves them out the country to start over. Unfortunately,
his daughter invents this imaginary friend, Charlie, who,
unshockingly, starts killing people. Such is the high concept
of John Polson's Hide and Seek. The film starts out
promising, with a creepy atmosphere and a seeming lack of
cheep thrills. Had it kept on this track, it could have been
something special; an M. Night Shyamalan picture without the
lame dialologue. But no.
Hitchcock once spoke of "refrigerator movies;" that
is, those whose flaws only become clear after viewing the
film, specifically while getting a snack from the fridge.
Hide and Seek is not a refrigerator movie. Its ultimate
twist, one that I think I've seen about a hundred times in
the past year, is so obvious and illogical that, once we're
past the terrific beginning, the movie unravels as it plays.
Red herrings are trotted out in front of us, and anyone with
half a brain will be able to figure out where the movie is
heading long before it reaches its conclusion. We can tell
that things don't make sense because we know where they're
going to end up.
distraction makes it impossible to concentrate on the film's
strengths, and there are strengths, chief among them being
the strong performances from its two leads. Dakota Fanning
exploits her wide eyes and disconcerting self-possession to
full effect, turning in an effortlessly creepy performance.
Better yet is Robert De Niro, who here does his finest work
in years, with a nuanced and subtle performance that nicely
supplements his character's late, dark turn (surprised? Didn't
think so). Even as the film falls apart around him, De Niro
is genuinely chilling.
also some rather clever subtext about child abandonment and
abuse. The father isolates himself and his daughter in the
country and proceeds to ignore her in favor of his work, while
she (apparently) slowly goes nuts. She tries to get his attention
by (apparently) inventing an imaginary friend and dressing
like the world's youngest goth princess, but it doesn't work.
For a short while I hoped that the film would genuinely try
to examine the effects of emotional isolation on a child's
mind, but I expected far too much. The twist reveals De Niro's
focus on his work as something entirely different, and entirely
illogical, and the girl's emotional trauma as a cheap gimmick,
which, beyond being an infuriating fake-out, is also a little
morally questionable. It's hard to find very many cheap thrills
in a child's psychological rape.
to be angered by the cheap cop-out of the ending is not to
deny the first hour's effectiveness. Director John Polson
has a way with atmosphere and thriller direction, letting
the claustrophobic environment seem to smother the characters.
In the end, though, none of it matters. Hide and Seek
is all foreplay, no climax.
2005 Matt Noller, not that anyone would ever want to steal