IN THE unsettling Hide and Seek, Robert De Niro plays bereft widower, David Callaway,the father of Emily (Dakota Fanning), his young and only child. Although you will most certainly not be taken in by the events that occur in this movie, De Niro and Fanning are somehow believable and carry this movie successfully to its end.
The story opens in New York City. David, a psychiatrist, is married to Alison (Amy Irving), a somnolent type whose obvious affection for her daughter can’t disguise her unhappiness. Not long into the film, Alison meets her end (I won’t say how) shattering the Callaway’s ideal set up, and David and Emily move to the country to begin their recovery process. Once there, things go from pretty darn bad to worse, as Emily starts behaving somewhat oddly – staring blankly into the surrounding woods and making a friendship with an invisible friend, Charlie.
It is not long before small, slightly sinister happenings suggest that all is not right in this country corner, where David and Emily’s next-door neighbours (Robert John Burke and Melissa Leo) always seem to be skulking about looking guilty. Among the story’s other, rather more friendly, characters are David’s former student (Famke Janssen) and friendly local (Elisabeth Shue) who is superbly cast as the ever-smiling, sexy neighbour.
As the series of increasingly horrific events unfold, with Emily placing the blame on Charlie, David is forced to face the possibility that there’s a more tangible, malevolent presence lurking in the dimly lit domicile.
The film is absolutely crammed with red herrings, excellently befitting the style of the movie, but serving only to make the finale all the more unbelievable.
Hide and Seek hinges on a last-minute twist and, sadly, films like Sixth Sense have taught their audience to spend their time, not taking in the plot, but desperately trying to work out this inevitable twist. However, unlike the truth behind the story of Sixth Sense, this twist is neither big nor clever.
Director John Polson (some of you may remember the ghastly and not at all scary Swim Fan) does his best to ensure the film is in-keeping with the horror-thriller hybrid genre, however, this mostly involves dim lighting and the odd shock tactic. Considering what the cast is working with, De Niro, Fanning and Shue save this film from being unwatchable, but even their talents are not enough to make it any good.