Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
|Featuring:||Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Janssen, Dylan Baker, Robert John Burke|
|Distributor:||20th Century Fox|
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “A father discovers his 9 year-old daughter has come up with an unexpected and terrifying way of dealing with her mother’s death through an imaginary friend. The daughter has an imaginary friend named Charlie, and her father soon realizes that Charlie isn’t make believe.”
If you are looking for the cute Dakota Fanning from “The Cat In The Hat” or the sweet little Dakota Fanning from “Man On Fire” in this film, you’re in for a disappointment. “Hide and Seek” is a dark, disturbing tale of a father pushed to the breaking point and his young ten year old daughter who is cruelly caught in the midst of his nightmare.
David Callaway (a passable portrait of an unfeeling father by Robert De Niro) has a pretty good life in New York. He has a successful psychiatric practice, a lovely wife Alison (Amy Irving) and a cuddly active daughter, Emily (Dakota Fanning giving another genuine performance). As the story opens, we are made aware that Mom and daughter are extremely close and Dad is a bit preoccupied. At first sight, this is not uncommon in our fast paced world where dads often haven’t got the time for playing games and as much interaction with the kids as most moms.
After a game of “I-thought-I-saw-Emily-in-here-where-could-she-be” between Alison and daughter there is a tender moment between Emily and her mother. “I love you more than anything,” whispers Mom to Emily and I felt they just couldn’t live without each other. This scene sets the stage for the unthinkable.
A few hours later in the early morning hours, David awakes from a dream suddenly to find Alison not in bed. The creepy walk down the dark hall to the bathroom door which is just barely askew and the echoing drip, drip, drip of the water in the tub gets you ready for the horror he finds behind the shower door. Apparently his wife, for some unknown reason has committed suicide by slitting her wrists in the tub, and to make matters more traumatic, little Emily is standing at the bathroom door seeing her mother’s lifeless body.
Katherine (“X2’s” Famke Janssen), a psychologist colleague and family friend, advises David a fresh start would be best for little Emily as it is obvious the painful death of her mother has left her so sad and traumatized that she is almost comatose. David agrees and decides to start over by moving to the small town of Woodland in upstate New York. In their new home, David sets about becoming a full time Dad. Of course, being a psychologist, he wants to try and analyze Emily back to good mental health as well.
Almost as soon as Emily arrives she becomes more and more distant, peering into the nearby woods and giving up playtime for sitting lifeless on her bed. In her distancing, David discovers Emily has a new imaginary friend named Charlie which at first seems a normal way for a traumatized child to act out and deal with grief. David tries to help Emily heal by introducing her to another little girl her own age whom he has met in the park. Yet we feel he is a little more interested in the little girl’s Aunt Elizabeth (after four years away it’s nice to see Elizabeth Shue again).
Through the course of this predictable thriller, we find Charlie is much more than imaginary and truly lives outside the mind of the brooding little Emily. Soon after the mischief begins to unfold, elevating at an alarming rate. Is Emily responsible for these violent acts? Could they somehow be related to the mysterious neighbors who lost their child last year? And what’s with the dark cave in the woods? If Charlie is real, who or what is he?
The dysfunctional next door neighbors, suspicious town police officer and the creepy real estate agent are a predictable blend for the rest of this film. Each play into the menacing twists-and-turns as formula fright films go. The ending has suspense, but the type we are all used to, and although well acted, it is a shame “Hide and Seek,” so full of top notch actors, comes to a predictable end. I will let you go and make your own conclusions. I was entertained, but felt the characterizations were stock. No one made their character their own, or gave a stand out performance.
Dakota Fanning does a lovely job in this movie out-acting the grown-ups. She genuinely seems to break, well, just like a little girl during the big showdown. Mr. De Niro comes off as the cold and unfeeling father from the very first scene. We never once believe that David has ever had a strong bond with Emily, and it adds to the sympathy we feel for Emily’s character.
This movie is too frightening for children and aptly rated R, even though there is but one vulgarity, no sex scenes or nudity to speak of. The mom’s body was lying lifeless in the bathtub and obviously naked, but nothing showed below the shoulders in that scene. There is a definite reference to marital infidelity, intense peril and violence, characters killed, grisly and explicit images, suicide, on-screen murder, child threatened, references to child’s death, atmospheric creepiness, and cruelty to animals (there is a scene where a drowned cat is pulled from a bathtub that will haunt very young children).
Parents should know that it is a very scary movie with upsetting deaths. For those who have dealt with loss, the killer, “Charlie” will be especially disturbing, since he wins Emily as a friend when she most needs someone to help her. Issues of trust and the suffering of main characters, including a child, are themes in this movie. Relationships are strained by inability of characters to handle trauma. There is social drinking, infidelity, and implied psychological abuse.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Emily did not feel like she could talk about her emotions directly and what other characters might have done to let Emily know she was not alone. I would not recommend this film to anyone with children under 15 or to believers who find this genre upsetting or against their spiritual or Biblical view.
God has sent The Comforter to guide us and hold us through times of unbelievable grief and suffering over the loss of a loved one. Children especially need to know that their loved one has gone on to live with Christ where He has prepared a place for them for eternity. Because the characters in this film did not know God and His infinite plan for them, not only in this life, but the one spent in Heaven beyond this life, there was never any consolation or hope. Instead, there was the total despair and uncontrolled anger that Satan intends for those who do not know God and His love.
This poor child was forever marred and will never be able to deal with her mother’s passing, because she does not know there is a place where her Mother will never have pain or tears again. How sad for the victims of real life circumstances like the ones depicted in “Hide and Seek.”
If we must hide, then we must also seek. I pray we always seek God in all life’s ups and downs. There is great pain in life, but also great joy to balance. Spread the reality, to all those who suffer at any level, that they can hide in Jesus’ loving arms.
In a poem by Beth Moore entitled “Hide” she writes:
You can run, little girl, to the only One who knows
To a place of fertile soil where trust can finally grow
Then you can hide, little girl, ’til every eye may see
You found, little girl, safely hid in Me.
After things pondered… the dreams of a child, the realities of an adult, one thing remains… hope.
“Hide me in the shadow of your wings… that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.”
“…Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor