Friday, January 28, 2005

MOVIE REVIEW: Hide and Seek

Hide and Seek, Dir. John Polson
Stars Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Jensen

What an eventful day it was at the theatre! I went to the Rainbow Cinema to see Assault on Precinct 13 with my friend. She had checked the showtimes on the theatre company's website last night, and this movie was listed for today. When we got there, we realized that it was not going to be shown afterall. Disappointed, we bought tickets to see Hide and Seek. I was thoroughly surprised with the result.

Hide is about a psychologist named David Carraway (De Niro). His wife commits suicide, and in an effort to help his daughter cope with this trauma, he decides to move him and his daughter into a small town in upstate NY, away from the sad memories of the city life. Jensen plays the child psychologist, who tries to help little Emily (Fanning) through this tough period in her life. Emily's father wants to help her as well, since he is a psychologist, but Jensen and Emily have a very special friendship that is irreplaceable, just like Emily's relationship with her mother. As much as David loves his daughter and wants to help her, he can't, and she won't let him either.

Before selecting Assault, I had read some reviews about Hide at Most of them were very disproving of the film, saying that it developed too slowly, that the story followed too many horror cliches, that the ending was a cop-out and the twist was blah blah blah blah blah. After seeing this movie, I have to wonder, did those critics go into theatre expecting it to be a failure? Did these critics already have all these colourful reasons why this movie should be so poorly crafted before the opening credits even came up? I'm puzzled, because I thoroughly enjoyed this film, as did my friend, and the rest of the theatre audience.

Like The Blair Witch Project and The Sixth Sense, the story does start off quite slow -- as far as the action is concerned. What was put in place of the action was a lot of imagery, dialogue and character acting, all working together to create a mood. The atmosphere of the setting for a horror story is primary to its effectiveness. If you can create a creepy atmosphere that makes your viewer expect something dreadful to pop out at you (and they do several times throughout), then you would have succeeded, and the rest of the film just has to keep up the pace of revealing the creepy elements bit by bit. Polson's directing did just that.

Suspense is also an important part of any horror movie, and Polson sure knows how to work it into his film. As a viewer, you always got the sense that everything was not right with any of the characters, from David to Emily to the neighbors. Even the real estate agent, played by David Chandler, appeared a bit creepy -- and he only got a few lines! Polson's pacing constantly made you wonder what evil act is this character going to commit?

Acting-wise, I am simply speechless when it comes to Dakota Fanning. She can make an expressionless face look so creepy! Every time the camera settled on her pale and hollowed countenance, you'd wonder, what is she thinking? Why is she behaving this way? And, when she does crack a slight smile, you'd wish she wouldn't do that. You can't help but feel for her because of what she's suffering through. De Niro was good, as was Jensen and Amy Irving. But, undoubtably, the star that carried this film was Fanning's creepy portrayal of Emily Carraway.

When the plot does pick up and the action starts to tumble, it is intense, mysterious, nerve-wracking and even excrutiating to watch, all at the same time. As a huge horror film fan who longs for more films that rely on atmosphere and characterization rather than action and gore, I strongly recommend this film.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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