I am really going to miss the good old days when pre-requisites for scary movies didn’t include creepy pale children, schizophrenics, and weird houses. Before that trend came about, movies like “Hide and Seek” didn’t have to take up valuable space in movie theaters.
To be fair, the film did feature some pretty decent acting talent. Robert DeNiro starred as a troubled psychiatrist who took his young daughter (Dakota Fanning) to the country outside New York after his wife’s suicide. A colleague and student of his, played by Famke Janssen, advised against the move, but the father felt that the change in environment would be best for his daughter.
Surprise, surprise — weird things start happening as soon as the father and daughter set foot in the country home. Surrounded by unsettling neighbors, eerie woods, and the creeks and moans of an old country home, the stage is set for the who-done-it that ensues. The daughter claims to have made a new friend, Charley, who DeNiro assumes is just an imaginary friend. But as the film continues, “Charley” leaves haunting messages for the father, all leading up to a wannabe heart-pounding conclusion.
The film, which is incredibly like “Secret Window,” steals so many of its twists from previous horror films that were actually worth seeing. For example, at one point the killer starts stabbing at a door with a bloody knife, and I think I actually heard someone say, “Didn’t they do that in ‘The Shining’?” The flashback technique is also used throughout the film, and some of the only shocking scenes come about when a man in a mask randomly shows up and wreaks havoc, something that is only partially explained.
Fanning’s performance as the young, traumatized girl is one of the only really admirable elements of the release. The word “morbid” just doesn’t quite describe her fascination with darkness, death, and putting live beetles over the end of a fishing hook and watching their insides come out. This, however, is eventually explained through the same series of twists and turns to bring the villain, or villains, to the end.
If the modern scary movie stereotype suits your interests, “Hide and Seek” is actually an acceptable film. If, however, you have come to expect more from a horror film than a two-hour long plot twist, seek your entertainment elsewhere.