"Hide and Seek" is not a terrible film. In fact, it's not even a bad film. It's a good film. A pretty good film at times. Ultimately fairly entertaining, if not overly ridden with cliché after cliché, a predictable twist and a lackluster ending.
Yes, so goes the January thriller, though, compared to most winter horror movies, it's the cream of the crop. Last year there was "Secret Window," and now we have "Hide and Seek." Last year we had Johnny Depp, and now we have Robert De Niro doing another one of his avoid-Oscar-nominations-at-all-costs roles. Throw in Dakota Fanning as the female version of Haley Joel Osmet and we've got ourselves a creepy story about a little girl who creates a violent imaginary friend named Charlie, who may or may not be so imaginary. De Niro, of course, plays her psychologist father who tries constantly to snap his disturbed daughter out of shock - and to get her to blink once and a while - after his wife commits suicide.
Directed by John Polson, the man who brought us the teen version of "Fatal Attraction" (a.k.a. "Swimfan"), "Hide and Seek" is a fun little film that features pretty decent direction that offers some creepy and ALMOST scary parts. The movie relies very little on jump moments (a.k.a. cheap scares) and instead moves at a methodical pace toward the inevitable twist. The pace may be too slow for some people expecting to get scared out of their wits, but it was just right for me, allowing the audience to soak in the characters before things get too out of control. Yes, the screenplay isn't anything special and most of the plot developments are fairly standard, but "Hide and Seek" works on a rudimentary level.
Of course, the twist is fairly easy to predict if you're watching for it. Not unlike a movie that came out last year, "Hide and Seek" does a much better job of hiding its twist up until a certain part. When it reaches that certain part, however (if you haven't guessed it by the time one of the unfortunate supporting characters flies out an upstairs window, shame on you), everything becomes crystal clear and the final act becomes an unnecessarily long epilogue. As with so many movies, the twist in "Hide and Seek" reveals itself way too early and thus turns the final act of the film into nothing more than an awkward slasher film. It isn't bad, but it isn't good, either, and ultimately takes a way from the entirety of the film.
"Hide and Seek" has a lot of potential and the first two acts successfully uses much of that potential. Sadly, it builds up several small and intriguing subplots that could have been used to make a much more effective third act, but instead goes the standard, predictable route. The ending isn't terrible but only ordinary, a disappointing finish to an otherwise decent film.
As for the performances, both De Niro and Fanning are good, but we've seen better out of both of them. Fanning was especially good in "Man on Fire," but at times seems to be trying a little too hard to play the creepy girl here. De Niro, of course, has apparently long passed the prime of his career, though many of us are hoping that he realizes what has happened to him and fires his agent. De Niro is pretty good for the first two-thirds of the movie, but I had trouble buying all of his character near the end.
"Hide and Seek" is an effective little thriller that would've worked a lot better had it built upon its subplots rather than take the easy way out. Decent performances and a creepy story make for an enjoyable but cliché outing. If you don't mind cliché stories, and many people don't, this one's worth seeing.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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