4.03.2005

Hide and Seek

Amidst the flurry of horror films competing for this winter’s top thriller arises “Hide and Seek”, a well-developed story with intelligent twists. Based on some of the darkest human emotions caused by death, this psychological thriller’s fear factor is one of satisfaction.

After his wife’s suicide, David Callaway takes his little girl Emily away to a secluded forest in upstate New York to start a new life. In a house where neighbors are scarce and a thick entwined forest acts as a wall from the world, death and fear are inevitable. Upon arrival, Emily is distraught and recluse. She’s unable to develop relationships with other young girls due to her morbid nature. Her father, on the other hand, seems to have no trouble in replacing Emily’s newly deceased mother. As expected, Emily expresses resentment towards her father and his new girlfriend, Elizabeth (played by Elisabeth Shue).

Emily begins to speak of a friend she calls Charlie. She claims Charlie speaks about her father’s motive in his relationship with Elizabeth. Charlie also plays a part in evil mischievous acts perceiving to be performed by Emily. David uses his background as a psychologist to attempt to cure his daughter of her imaginary friend and come to a realization of her emotional problems. David also seeks advice from Katherine, a fellow psychologist who personally knows Emily.

At first, Charlie is the only friend Emily wants to play with, but Elizabeth’s murder changes her mind. Her fear of Charlie convinces David that he’s a real person and not a figment of her imagination. The question is, “who is Charlie?” It could be the neighbor, Steve who recently lost his daughter to an ailment or the previous owner who has old keys to the house. Whoever Charlie is, he’s a threat because he has access to the house and has earned Emily’s trust. Chances are you won’t guess right away and by then it will be too late.

Robert De Niro is cast as David Callaway and Dakota Fanning as Emily Callaway. Dakota Fanning is proving herself to be a multi-dimensional actress playing roles in movies like “Uptown Girls” (2003) and “I Am Sam” (2001). In this film, she trades in her innocent baby blonde tresses for gothic black strands, taking on a dark character unlike her other roles. De Niro is an old pro at creepy characters and dark films.

What makes this film different from the other horror films this season is its dependence on the intelligence of the audience and its finely tuned script by first time writer Ari Schlossberg and well-crafted directing by Australian John Polson. The ending is a bit of a crash landing, which could have been avoided by creating more momentum in the bulk of the story. However, without any cheap thrills or over-saturated computer graphic imaging, this film achieves thrill and excitement.

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