Hide and Seek
December 4, 2005
Remember when Robert De Niro used to make good movies? Now, he seems content to star in formulaic comedies and cliched thrillers like this “gem.” Hide and Seek (2005) marks a new low for the veteran thespian. You know your career is in trouble when a little girl who stars opposite you quotes one of your films back to you. This is only one of things wrong with this movie.
David (De Niro) and his wife (Irving) are in an unhappy, dysfunctional marriage. So, she kills herself, which, naturally, traumatizes her daughter, Emily (Fanning), of whom she was very close to. David decides to drop out of big city life and move Emily out into the country in upper state New York. Don’t these people know that this is a bad idea just waiting to happen? Haven’t they seen The Last House on the Left (1972), The Hills Have Eyes (1977) or The Shining (1980)?
During the day, Emily explores the surrounding woods and comes across a foreboding looking cave. David learns that she also has a new imaginary friend named Charlie. Strange things start to happen and Emily blames it on her new friend. The film trots out all kinds of red herrings. Is it the local sheriff? Is it the man who sold David the house? Is Emily herself possessed by someone or something?
Dakota Fanning is excellent, demonstrating an impressive range at such an early age. She conveys a truly haunted presence of a little girl who has seen too much. Her gaunt, pale look resembles an Edward Gorey drawing come to life. Fanning steals the scenes she has with De Niro, who has the less showy role and seems to be going on auto-pilot, here. She maintains a creepy, unsettling presence throughout the movie, playing a truly disturbed character.
Right from the opening credits, this film wears its influences on its sleeve as the theme music that plays is shamelessly lifted from Rosemary’s Baby (1968). But perhaps the film that this one is most indebted to is The Shining. There is the child who has a spooky, imaginary friend; there is the protagonist haunted by his past (complete with amber-tinted flashbacks); a large house out in the middle of nowhere; and perhaps most damning, an opening credits sequence that is shot nearly identically to the one in Kubrick’s film.
Another problem with this movie is the impact of the death of David’s wife’s is not felt because the filmmakers don’t take the time to establish her or the family dynamic so, we don’t identify with Emily’s feelings of loss. The look and feel of Hide and Seek is reminiscent of De Niro’s last horror film, Godsend (2004). It’s as if they decided to just leave the sets the same and make another movie.
Ultimately, Hide and Seek is basically a retelling of What Lies Beneath (2000) mixed with liberal sprinklings from The Shining. Admittedly, it does contain some genuine if not predictable jolts and disturbing scenes but the story is too much of a pastiche, a retread of other movies to be any good.
There is an audio commentary by director John Polson, editor Jeffrey Ford and screenwriter Ari Schlossberg. According to Polson and Schlossberg, there were very little major changes to the script (and yet the DVD presents four alternate endings). Ford describes the movie as a “twisted fairy tale.” They talk about the editorial choices made for various scenes with Polson talking often about the pacing of the movie and his fear that it would be too slow or boring.
There are four “Alternate Endings” with optional commentary by Polson, Ford and Schlossberg. One tweaks the theatrical ending only slightly while one was considered too dark which is a shame because its creepiness is effective.
Also included are 14 deleted scenes with optional commentary. Most are little bits of business that are fine in their own right but don’t add much to the movie and were rightly cut. Polson, Ford and Schlossberg talk about why this footage was cut. Included, is a nice dinner scene between Shue and De Niro’s character but it betrayed the logic of the movie.
“The Making of Hide and Seek” is your typical electronic press kit. It’s well made and features the cast and crew gushing about working with Fanning, praising her acting abilities. De Niro is strangely absent from this featurette.
“Previs Sequences” allows one to watch three scenes in storyboard form versus the final version and how they differ in some cases.