Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Hide and Seek

MPAA Rating: R for frightening sequences and violence

Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
CONTRIBUTOR

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Thriller
Length:
1 hr. 45 min.
Year of Release:
2005
USA Release:
January 28, 2005 (wide)
Featuring: Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Janssen, Dylan Baker, Robert John Burke
Director: John Polson
Producer: Barry Josephson
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Copyright, 20th Century Fox
Copyright, 20th Century Fox
Copyright, 20th Century Fox
Copyright, 20th Century Fox
Relevant Issues
Copyright, 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.”

Review

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.”

Psalm 17:8, Phillipians 3:8,9

“…Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Matthew 6:33

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Minor

Viewer Comments
Neutral—There is certainly no strong Christian message in this film, and there are some disturbing images, but my husband and I really did not think that it deserved the bad ratings that it got (from a secular stand-point, that is). There was one swear word toward the end, and absolutely no sex scenes or sexual connotations whatsoever; and it was my belief that the suspenseful parts did keep the movie interesting!

A young girl moves with her father to the country after the death of her mother, and seems to “cope” with her loss by coming up with an imaginary “friend” by the name of Charlie. Eventually, it is discovered by the father that Charlie is by no means make-believe. The film does a very good job of making one wonder just who this Charlie is (I thought that some sort of terrible monster or demon would be revealed), but when Charlie’s identity is finally disclosed, I thought it was quite surprising indeed!

I found nothing wrong with the acting, and I thought the plot and story-line was very well done. I did not think that this movie was “embarrassing” to Robert De Niro’s career in any way.

However, due to a few disturbing images and scenes of death, I don’t recommend that any young children see the film, and many Christians may not find it appropriate at all. A dead cat is discovered in the bathtub; the young girl witnesses the dead body of her mother in a blood-filled bath-tub after an apparent suicide; another woman is seen being thrown out of a window, and then later her body is seen in the bathtub as well, and we can very briefly see a knife plunged in her chest (the movie was so well-done otherwise that I really didn’t think this part was necesary at all… for me, it ruined an otherwise perfectly good “horror” movie). A police officer is bludgeoned at the end of the film and is later seen, bloody but alive, in the basement of the house.

At the end of the film, the little girl witnesses something very tragic and frightening, albeit necessary, that she should have never had to endure. Then, right before the credits, when the viewer thinks everything is “okay” again… it isn’t! I thought the ending was very clever and thought-provoking. But being a Christian mother with a daughter of my own, it was disturbing to me, seeing a child go through that much mental suffering throughout the course of this film. It is my belief that Satan can use all kinds of ploys to toy mentally with the emotions of suffering children. This movie is an example of what many children who have lost a parent can go through (in this movie’s case, to a terrible extreme), but rather than be sat across from secular psychologists who don’t understand the nature of spiritual warfare, these children should be taught that Jesus loves them, and can heal all wounds!
My Ratings: Very Offensive/2½
—Marie Ratliff, age 23
Neutral—Hide and Seek plays itself out as a suspense type thriller in telling the story of a New York city pyschologist (DeNiro),who after the tragic death of his wife relocates to upstate New York with his daughter(Fanning)to begin their healing process and somehow get on with their lives in the small community in which they settle. While he seems to adapt well to the new surroundings, she does not, with tragic and terrifying results.

Dakota Fanning’s paste white face and dark black contrasting hair will be enough to scare most younger viewers.It’s often times expressionless, without emotion, and just plain creepy to look at most of the time. I know I’ll be checking in my closet and under my bed before I go to sleep tonight.

The funny thing is a lot of the other characters in the story make comments to DeNiro how cute and adorable she is. I just don’t see it, unless your talking about fitting in with the Addams Family or the Munsters.

The film gets the needed “R” rating for traumatic scenes of death portrayed, and an overall tenseness that envelopes the whole film. Subject matter dealing with suicide, as well as a scene showing an animal death is involved. What was quite nice for a change is there was hardly any cursing for virtually the entire presentation. A little might have showed up towards the climax, but it was really so minor, I can’t even remember what was even said. For mature teens and adults I’d say this is an acceptable thriller to check out.

Dakota Fanning’s performance alone is worth the price of admission in my book.

For the graphically easily offended and younger viewers, I’d probably stay clear of this. Overall, I’d give it a Neutral rating for the story itself. While entertaining, it’s definitely not the best thriller I ever saw, but manages to be okay. (Dakota carries this film just over the two star mark but she can’t quite get it to three)…
My Ratings: Average/2½
—Tom Becker, age 36

Comments from young people
Positive—I saw the film Hide and Seek, with my sister who is 18. And see thought is was scarier then the Exorcist. I on the other hand thought it was really well done with some jumpy parts. Dakota Fannnig is amazing in the film. She pulls off every little detail of her character. The movie is some what violent. Like when two different bodies are found dead in the bathtub with extreme amounts of blood and cuts on them. There isn’t a lot of swearing in the film. I believe the F**K word is used twice in the entire film, and there is about 7 other strong swear words. The movie is supposed to be a thriller/horror, but on my opinion it didn’t scar me even a little bit. The film does have an extremely large twist at the end, that my make you think that’s stupid or just plain wrong and disturbing. I would say this movie is a movie for teens and adults who like a few scares. Just because Dakota Fanning is in it, and she’s a so called children’s actor, doesn’t mean you should let your children see this film. Dakota Fanning plays a very disturbed young girl and is not very nice. I thought the movie was good, but was extremely unrealistic.
My Ratings: Better than Average/4½
—Aaron Schuett, age 16
Neutral—This is a good mystery with lots of twists and turns and some jump out at you surprises. The performances are excellent. Especially Dakota Fanning in her fourth starring role. There isn’t any sexual content but some viewers may not be impressed by Elisabeth Shue’s clothing and there is an unnecasary scene at the beginning where David Calloway discovers his dead wife in the bathtub, but, as said before, no nudity is shown in that scene. There is one profanity at the climax, which is “You sick f____” but that’s it. I don’t need to list the violence because anyone who considers going to this movie knows that there is some violence but I will say there is quite a bit of it during the climax. I found that the revelation of who “Charlie” truly is was a little bit similar to other movies.Other viewers may find it disturbing, and others might find it a little corny. Overall, this is a good film of the twisty thriller genre and, also, has a good lesson about Satan, the ultimate evil who is always playing mind games with us.
My Ratings: Offensive/3
—William, age 14
Positive—This movie was very entertaining. It was very scary, but unlike most scary movies today, it was not demonic at all. When I first saw the preview I would immediatly turn it off because of the thought that it was demonic. Weeks after it came out, my friend told me it was great, and it wasn’t demonic at all. Trusting my friend, I watched the movie with him. He was right. I was very suprised. Most movies appearing to be scary are demonic and extremely dangerous to view. This time (and others like Scream and House of Wax) it ended up being o.k. But most times you will get an eyeful of a movie like the Exorcist or Childs Play. …
My Ratings: Average / 5
—JD Langton, age 15
Positive—I watched this movie because I am a big Dakota Fanning fan, but I also thought the story sounded interesting. The movie is about a father who discovers that his daughter has created an imaginary friend named Charlie to cope with the death of her mother, but soon realizes that Charlie isn’t make-believe at all. There is a surprising plot twist at the end. I thought this was a very suspenseful and interesting movie. The actors were all great, especially Dakota Fanning (this was definitely one of her best performances). There is no sexual content, and no profanity except for one F-word towards the end. There is some violence, but it’s not very graphic or gory. I do not recommend this movie for children under 13 or to anyone who doesn’t like scary movies. But this is a great horror film for teens and adults who like this genre.
My Ratings: Average / 4½
—Hannah, age 15
Positive—A great movie! A good scary movie with not too many bad words. A little violence, yet is still excellent! It’s not for little kids at all. I don’t see why so many people find this movie offensive. If you want a good scare, go rent this movie!!
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—TJ, age 13
Movie Critics
…I found the third act to be a disappointment… contrived… abandons the truth and depth of its earlier scenes…
—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
…the final revelation is laughably absurd…
—Chuck Wilson, L.A. Weekly
…an audience’s worst nightmare: a suspense thriller without much of either…
—E! Online
…De Niro hits a new low… It’s embarrassing to watch. The last third of the movie aims for scary; instead, it’s unintentionally funny…
—Christy Lemire, Associated Press
…Thriller turns into a gore fest…
—John Monaghan, Detroit Free Press
…trashy thriller… it might be fun to see what he [Paulson] can do with a decent script…
—John Monaghan, Detroit Free Press