Directed by: John Polson
Cast: Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Janssen, Elisabeth Shue
Plot: A retired psychiatrist (De Niro) takes his daughter (Fanning) to the countryside to help her get over the death of his wife, when mysterious things start going wrong around the new house.
Hide and Seek is the kind of movie that sounds great on paper, but it doesn’t really translate when the wheels are put into motion.
Idea number one: let’s get some star power into the movie. Therefore the lead falls to one of the most talented veteran actors Hollywood has: Robert De Niro. He plays the tired father, struggling with the loss of his wife, but at the same time, more concerned about how affected his young daughter is at the death in the family. He plays the role well, showing audiences that he can play a relatively normal character, outside of his larger than life mob bosses and criminals. However, De Niro is also the kind of actor that refuses to sacrifice character development for some of the horror movie clichés. You might think this is a good thing, but when his creepy daughter begins showing serial killer trademarks, the scares get sacrificed. Robert De Niro knows that a real psychiatrist will automatically jump to a rational conclusion for the noises in the night and he also won’t get so easily scared of his daughter acting a bit weird. His portrayal of the character is good, but it kills a lot of the fear factor of the film.
This is why child actor, Dakota Fanning, deserves star of the film because her depiction of a creepy kid is exactly the tone this movie is going for. Out of all of the child actors out there at the moment (maybe excluding Abigail Breslin), Fanning appears the most impressive. By this age, she has already built up a good filmography to her name and, despite this becoming an average horror, it really showcases her talents. The creepy kid is one of the cornerstones of the horror genre, especially in cinema, and Dakota Fanning works this angle amazingly. Pale-faced, large eyes: if you are going to be scared at all by this film, it will be her reactions to things. When she begins seeing things, chills will rush down your spine.
Idea number two: let’s make this horror movie smart. It can be a horror thriller. Just in case, no one is actually scared by our movie, then let’s throw in some mystery element here, so you are invested into the film by this need to find out how it ends. In fairness, this idea saves the film, as, yes, I enjoyed this film as I was trying to find out what was going on here. The script is fairly smart, even if the twist isn’t the most original idea out there. However, this idea that there is a rational answer to everything that is trying to scare us really kills the scary side of thing. Maybe if someone handled this film now, as back in 1999, no one really could touch the paedophile angle too much, it might work. (Note to budding horror writers: if you are worried your leads aren’t getting the audience scared, make the monster go after the kids – if done right, it makes for a terrifying watch!) Therefore, while the mystery side of Hide and Seek is mildly entertaining, it turns Hide and Seek into an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half, but you will hardly be putting your back out to get a hold of this film.
Final Verdict: Not bad, but it doesn’t commit to anything. Horror fans will be disappointed and thriller fans will find this predictable.