101 Min | Horror – Mystery | February 2005
IMDB Rating: 5.9
Director: John Polson
Starring: Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Janssen
Hide and Seek Review: All’s not well at the home of the Callaways. David (Robert De Niro) and Alison (Amy Irving) have obvious tension in their relationship. When it leads to suicide shortly after Hide and Seek begins, David, a psychologist, packs up his young daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning) and heads from New York City to bucolic upstate New York to try to start over. Unfortunately, the suicide was just the start of their problems. It seems that something evil may have followed them into the woods. Hide and Seek is not your typical thriller. For much of its length, it is a much quieter, slower-paced drama, resting almost entirely on meaty, complex performances from two actors, one of whom Fanning was only 10 years old while making the film! It also is veers back and forth from thriller to horror territory (which have a notoriously gray border anyway) depending partially on one’s interpretation of the film. The ending is marked by a clever twist that most viewers may not see coming, and which will pleasantly broach more questions than it answers long after you have seen the film.
Those facts might turn some potential viewers off, but anyone able to slow down and appreciate fine acting housed in a dense, creepy environment will be rewarded. Newcomer screenwriter Ari Schlossberg has said that he grew up in the city, so just the idea of the woods, as well as children in general, frighten him. Those may be unusual sentiments, but director John Polson has translated them with remarkable ease into Hide and Seek. The country setting feels eerie from the moment David and Emily arrive, and Fanning’s outstanding performance has her gradually changing from a cute kid to a scary little pseudo-Goth monster more slyly than native New Yorker slipping into the subway car before you to grab the last seat. Of course De Niro is good, too, but that goes without saying. Hide and Seek gives both performers a chance to show their range, but the biggest surprise is perhaps that Fanning can match De Niro step for step. The rest of the cast doesn’t slouch, either, but they’re not the focus. Their role is more to provide the necessary little nudges to justify our stars’ next dazzling feats.
It is worth noting before watching that little of what you see playing out on the screen may be actually happening, and there may be something more sinister at work that is never fully stated in Hide and Seek. Schlossberg has said that among his many influences for this script were The Shining (1980), and in fact, that masterpiece is directly referenced a few times. Those are big shoes to try to fill. While the style and content of Hide and Seek are very different than The Shining, Hide and Seek is even more understated, that’s also a slower-paced film that finds much of its effectiveness from its thick atmosphere and commendable performances, and fans of Kubrick’s great horror film should find enough to enjoy here as well.