‘Hide and Seek’

Director: John Polson
With: Dakota Fanning, Robert De Niro
Runtime: 101 min

By my own admission I deal badly with horror movies. I exhibit all the signs of a coward; quavering voice, trembling limbs, unrestrained perspiration and a weak bladder! I even got jumpy during Jurassic Park! So I was hardly eager to see ‘Hide and Seek’, a psychological thriller which sounded like it would leave me quaking behind my seat, especially as my ‘friends’ had conspired to let me go alone! I didn’t want to be frightened by Hide and Seek, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Hide and Seek is the story of a New York shrink, Dr. David Galloway (De Niro) and his young daughter Emily (Fanning). After discovering his wife in a bath of her own blood David decides to relocate upstate in order to escape the trauma. Predictably, he chooses to move to a big, spooky house in a virtually deserted town, surrounded by dark, twisted woodland and with only a group of misfit neighbours for company. The town’s eeriness further damages Emily’s mood; at least until she meets “Charlie”, an unseen friend with a pervasive, demonic influence. Immediately horrific events unfold, as Emily’s behaviour spirals out of control. David is convinced that Charlie is a figment of Emily’s imagination, but is unable to relate to her; their relationship rapidly deteriorates and the onset of madness seems inevitable. A murder accelerates this process, and it appears that a confrontation with Charlie can no longer be avoided.

The problem with Hide and Seek is that it is the same set up as every banal ‘horror’ movie since time immemorial: I can only wonder at the ineptitude of director John Polson and writer Ari Schlossberg for failing to create any semblance of originality in the plot or screenplay. It wastes De Niro, who remains stuck in his current rut of appaling movie choices (Shark Tale anyone?) and is totally outclassed and outperformed by the magnificently chilling Dakota Fanning.

Fanning is extraordinarily eerie, with a cold, transparent voice, cunningly used by composer John Ottman in the film’s eerie and understated soundtrack. She is in the same mould as other child actors like Haley Joel Osment, but hopefully will not fade from our screens as quickly. She is the one truly scary thing in this pitiful film and is the only one for whom I can muster any praise.

Hide and Seek contains all the traditional elements of a suspense-thriller, but neglects either of the two key parts; suspense and thrills. The ‘twist’ is predictable and expects atrocious naivete from its audience, and the plot leaves many gaping holes which make it as confusing and frustrating as it is boring. Hide from this film, don’t seek.