Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: John Polson
Stars: Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Janssen, Dylan Baker, Elisabeth Shue, Melissa Leo, Robert John Baker, Amy Irving.
Australian actor turned director John Polson is certainly carving out a niche for himself in Hollywood as a proficient director of B-grade Hitchcock-like thrillers. First there was the suspense of the teen Fatal Attraction like Swimfan, and now there’s the slasher thrills of the supernatural-themed Hide And Seek, both of which have been huge successes in the States.
Hide And Seek is a routine offering that benefits from the presence of a solid cast including Robert De Niro, even though he seems to be less cautious in his choice of material these days, and the usually excellent Dakota Fanning (I Am Sam, etc). De Niro brings a haunted quality to his performance as New York psychologist David Callaway, who is still grieving over the recent suicide of his wife. To try and pick up the pieces of his shattered life and to help his young daughter Emily (Fanning) cope with the tragedy, Callaway moves to a small picturesque town upstate.
Before long though things turn ugly and bloody. There are sinister warnings painted in blood on the shower curtain, and Emily seems to have found herself an invisible friend in Charlie, who exudes a distinct air of menace. Despite his training and background, David seems unable to get a handle on what is happening and is unable to prevent Charlie from threatening to tear his shattered family even further apart.
Polson, who only replaced original director Albert Hughes after he walked off the set citing the usual “creative differences,” effectively builds up a spooky atmosphere and an air of uneasiness, before the film falls apart with an overwrought climax that almost drowns in a succession of cliches. However, there are a couple of moments of genuine shock that will jolt you out of your seat – but it is too little, too late. The film itself is full of red herrings, lots of inconsistencies, unexpected twists, and unanswered questions that don’t stand up to close scrutiny.
Hide And Seek is certainly better than the dire Godsend, the previous De Niro-spooky-child-in peril film; not that that is much of a recommendation in itself!