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Hide and Seek

A Game Best Not Played…

First time screenwriter Ari Schlossberg clearly took in too many viewings of M. Night Shymalan's The Sixth Sense while writing Hide and Seek. While Schlossberg and director John Polson manage to put together a handful of genuinely disconcerting moments, what's more disconcerting is how quickly Hide and Seek devolves into something completely implausible.

The movie starts out in idyllic fashion. Emily (Dakota Fanning) plays with her mother (Amy Irving) in the park as family patriarch David Callaway (Robert DeNiro) looks on lovingly. Cue the foreboding music and impending sense of doom. Such familial bliss is bound to be abbreviated. A scant few minutes later, David's clearly troubled wife ends up in a bathtub with her wrists slit.

The resultant trauma renders Emily near catatonic. In an effort to assist Emily in her grieving process, David (who is a shrink) determines that taking his young daughter out to an isolated cabin in the middle of nowhere is appropriate therapy.

Of course, far from letting the healing begin, this move focuses instead on the appearance of Emily's disturbing imaginary friend, 'Charlie'. Charlie wreaks havoc, clearly deriving pleasure in upsetting David. Schlossberg throws a number of red herrings at the audience throughout the film leaving one wondering who or what Charlie really is. However when the curtain is finally pulled back, an already poorly assembled film comes tumbling down like a house of cards.

Robert DeNiro exhibits a vaguely plausible amount of sensitivity in portraying a therapist who simultaneously seems completely daft and out of touch. Emily is clearly very disturbed and while David recognizes she's getting worse by the day, his slowness to take action makes him seem insensitive, if not incompetent.

Dakota Fanning is perhaps the one bright spot in this film. She plays Emily with frightening malevolence. While clearly she is carrying the baggage of witnessing her mother's suicide, it seems she carries something evil inside of her as well. Emily is a child that would unnerve Damien (the bad seed from The Omen).

Hide and Seek fails to do much more than unnerve a handful of times and doesn't offer any real scares. I suppose in this way the film is very similar to the children's game after which it is named. You'd probably be better entertained by playing 90-minutes of Hide and Seek rather than watching the film.

Rating: 1 star out of 5