2000's, Amy Irving, Dakota Fanning, Dylan Baker, Elisabeth Shue, Famke Janssen, Hide and Seek, John Polson, Melissa Leo, Psychological Thriller, Robert De Niro, Robert John Burke
A very contrived psychological thriller that could have used a bit of work on it, Hide and Seek at least generates some jolts of terror and has two great central performances from Robert De Niro and a young Dakota Fanning.
David Callaway (Robert De Niro ) is a renowned and talented psychologist in New York City with a glamorous wife Alison( Amy Irving)and adorable 9 year old daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning). One night, David awakes in the middle of the night to find that Alison has committed suicide by slitting her wrists in the bath. Emily sadly sees her mother dead and withdraws into herself from that very moment. In an attempt to get Emily away from the trauma of her mother’s passing, David uproots her to Upstate New York . This is against the advice of fellow psychologist and and family friend Katherine(Famke Janssen), who doesn’t think it is a wise idea to just move Emily without letting her deal with what has happened. Emily is traumatised, morose and distant towards David, though he attempts to get her to open up to him. Moving Upstate to a large house with only a few neighbours ( who are all depicted as rather creepy and too curious) , David hopes that a fresh start will help both him and Emily work through both shock and grief . He strikes up a conversation and attempted friendship with sexy divorcee Elizabeth( Elisabeth Shue) but this is met with aversion and awkwardness from Emily. One day, Emily tells her father she has a new friend called Charlie. As no one has seen Charlie, David deduces that Charlie is imaginary. He is at least happy that Emily seems to be doing a little better than before , but things begin to change for the worse. Emily plays games with Charlie , their favourite being hide and seek. All seems innocent enough at first before a string of horrifying events begin to manifest. Soon the so called games between Charlie and Emily escalate to vicious scenes and overt hostility towards David, resulting in danger and death. A twisted game is afoot as David attempts to uncover who Charlie really is before it gets too late. Is Charlie simply a figment of Emily’s traumatised imagination? Or has Emily herself got something to do with it? Or is Charlie truly a flesh and blood person who is intent on mayhem and evil? You’ll have to watch to find out.
John Polson is not a bad director, he just goes down the rather obvious route here. This makes it seem like he’s simply ticking a box to make it a thriller, but not adding too much difference along the way. That being said, he at least manages to scare up some rather unnerving moments throughout. It’s just a shame it couldn’t coalesce better with the full picture The problem with Hide and Seek is that it feels tired and derivative, plus it tries to be overly serious but winds up looking anything but. I don’t mind predictable when it’s done well, sadly Hide and Seek has its fair share of problems. The big twist is effective enough but it feels a bit too telegraphed if you watch close enough. Once things are revealed, events do get more intense and harrowing it has to be said, with Emily put through the emotional mill. Yet it can feel a too little too late eventually as what’s come before has been impactful enough I guess, but then descends into standard psycho horror territory . There are many cases of misdirection involving the neighbours which don’t go anywhere or ring true, resulting in numerous plot holes . The bad thing is that the movie thinks it’s being clever by throwing in many red herrings; but it ends up coming off. The music and atmosphere are things that kept me watching , even if the film is largely illogical. The score from John Ottman has a ghostly feeling too it, with choral voices and foreboding ambience elevating the material. The autumnal setting and muted colour scheme brings a certain chilliness to feel proceedings. So while, certain elements do manage to keep you watching in Hide and Seek, it doesn’t add up to a cohesive whole.
Robert De Niro is one of my favourite actors and I find even in films that aren’t quite worthy of his talents , he still delivers. Such is the case here with his quiet and often contained performances as a caring father trying to understand the horror around him, but occasionally not realising that he’s treating his daughter and not another patient. It’s not one of his best performances , but it’s still good and one of the better parts of Hide and Seek. It’s Dakota Fanning, who at the time was movie kid royalty and with good reason, who really delivers the goods and provides one of the most effective parts of the routine movie. Using her saucer like eyes to unnerving and devastating effect, a dark haired Fanning taps into the mystery of her character who is by turns traumatised and creepy. Fanning is compelling at displaying emotions far beyond her young years and especially in the latter half of the film, she pulls you in and holds her own against Robert De Niro with a haunting performance. Robert De Niro and Dakota Fanning are the people who hold Hide and Seek somewhat together. Famke Janssen has some good moments as the supportive family who is protective of Emily, but the rest of the talented cast are wasted. You have the likes of Elisabeth Shue, Melissa Leo, Dylan Baker, Robert John Burke and Amy Irving here. And they are all given barely anything to work with
So it’s a pretty standard psychological thriller that is rather pedestrian in parts and mixed, but Hide and Seek gains points from the main cast and some good atmosphere crafted. It still doesn’t come up to scratch, but it’s not completely unwatchable.