If it wasn’t for the cast of top-notch actors, Hide and Seek would be a video store blockbuster at best. Despite Robert DeNiro’s usual ‘New Yawk’ accent and pitched eyebrow antics, the film plays around with too many suspicious characters and plot twists.
After viewing the traumatic scene of her father, Manhattan psychiatrist David Callaway (Robert De Niro) clutching her lifeless mother in a bathtub full of blood, young Emily (Dakota Fanning) suffers severe emotional damage. She turns from a cheerful 9-year-old into an ascetic child who sits alone staring into space.
Psychiatrist Katherine (Famke Janssen), a former student and friend of Callaway suggests a change of scenery would be best for his now reclusive red-eyed daughter. Ah, what a better place to heal than in the rural confines of upstate New York. Unfortunately, a town with a population of 2,206 proves to be just as creepy and suspicious as the cave in the dark woods surrounding their home. Callaway meets the neighbors, who recently lost a daughter and seem a bit too friendly, the sheriff who always seems to be around and the realtor who stops by at 3 a.m. to drop off a set of keys.
Emily, now several shades paler, smashes her favorite doll for a new imaginary friend named Charlie. Callaway doesn’t seem to mind his daughter’s new friend, until Emily fingers Charlie as the culprit behind recreating his wife’s death scene in the bathroom. With his daughter growing increasingly distant and disturbed by the day, Callaway decides a new, real life friend would be best. He meets a local divorcee (Elizabeth Shue) who brings a niece for Emily to play with. Emily shows her warm hospitality by smashing the face of her new friend’s doll, sending the niece running out the door.
Emily continues to insist Charlie is a real person who doesn’t like daddy as more weird things occur around the house. Callaway himself begins to lose it, chasing the mysterious Charlie around an empty house wielding a kitchen knife, re-enacting himself the scene of the crazed and bewildered father from The Shining.
Throughout the film, moments of terror turn into the typical “what is he thinking” scene, so familiar in clichéd horror movies. You’d never expect this from a De Niro flick and it almost hurts to see him in such poor of a script. Its unforeseen ending comes out of nowhere and catches moviegoers unbelievably off-guard.
The only thing worth mentioning in this movie-going experience was the previews. It’s scary to think HBO or even Lifetime would pick up this insult of a horror film. Once this film hits the shelves it’s sure to be lost, so please don’t go looking for it, unless you too want the Dakota-Fanning face.
Kurt West can be reached at Kurt259@hotmail.com.