Looking for all the world like the beloved Goth character Emily Strange, ten-year-old Dakota Fanning hides her bright blonde hair under a brunette wig, and her usually laughing blue eyes are subdued by dark circles and a haunted look for her role in Hide and Seek.
Fanning plays a character named, appropriately enough, Emily. Young Emily finds her world turned inside out after her mother commits suicide and her father (David, played by Robert De Niro) moves her from their familiar Manhattan apartment to a big, spooky house out in an isolated, woodsy area of upstate New York. While the place is lonely, Emily soon finds a companion in Charlie. Charlie likes to play games, especially hide and seek.
But who is Charlie? Is he an imaginary friend as David believes? Or is he real as Emily insists? As the unseen Charlie’s games become more and more menacing, Emily withdraws, and her once sunny personality turns dark and hostile. At first David sees Charlie as a positive way for Emily to express the grief over her mother’s death, but as a series of terrifying incidents unfold, David is led to imagine the unimaginable: that Charlie may actually be real and could have deadly intentions.
Borrowing elements from creepy classics such as Psycho, The Shining and The Amityville Horror, Hide and Seek rises above its derivative subject matter because of its stellar cast. It’s a treat to see Robert De Niro take on a hammy role in a spooky movie (he did have a small part in last year’s creepy-kid thriller Godsend . . . but his horror tour de force still remains 1987’s Angel Heart). It’s also nice to see a change of pace and a bit of a stretch for uber-talented cutie-pie Dakota Fanning. These two able actors are nicely supported by Elisabeth Shue and Famke Janssen in not too challenging, but enjoyable enough, roles.
Hide and Seek hides the goods toward the end, and it’s way too easy to figure out. The “Hollywood ending” is silly, and look for a giggle-inducing homage to Rosey Greer and Ray Milland (you schlock buffs will know what I’m referring to) in the very last scene.
The DVD has four alternate endings, which is a relief. Although they don’t change the “big finish” action climax at all, at least two of them are better than the theatrical epilogue. One of them, a particularly bleak one, is a standout. The DVD allows you to play all the endings back-to-back or to insert one into the movie as you as please.
The making-of featurette has a lot with Fanning and director John Polson. Fanning is whip-smart and entertaining as always, but one must wonder why the ten-year-old was so “honored” to work with De Niro and why it was “a dream come true.” Is she a closet Taxi Driver fan? Did she run the Raging Bull disc on her Play Skool DVD player?
The movie is far from perfect, but there is enough to recommend a look, especially for bargain night on DVD.
Hide and Seek (2005)
(Fox Home Entertainment)
Directed by John Polson
Starring Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Janssen, Elisabeth Shue, Dylan Baker
Commentary by director John Polson, screenwriter Ari Schlossberg, and editor Jeffrey Ford
Fourteen deleted/extended scenes with optional director-screenwriter-editor commentary, including four alternate endings
Rough conceptual sequences (live action intercut with storyboards)
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