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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Hide and Seek (2005)

"It's not unusual for a child to create an imaginary friend."
- Katherine (Famke Janssen)

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: July 06, 2005

Stars: Robert DeNiro, Dakota Fanning
Other Stars: Famke Janssen, Elisabeth Shue, Amy Irving, Dylan Baker
Director: John Polson

MPAA Rating: R for (frightening sequences, violence)
Run Time: 01h:40m:49s
Release Date: July 05, 2005
UPC: 024543188506
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- DB+A- B+

DVD Review

It seems like only yesterday that Robert De Niro was at the top of my favorite actor list. His classic performances in Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Cape Fear to name a few were second to none and he could seemingly do no wrong. Now, the only question I have is: what the hell is wrong with him? Over the last five years or so he has appeared in nothing but formulaic junk, with Men of Honor, Analyze That, and Godsend among the heap. It can be argued that Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers are decent, funny films, but who in their right mind would have thought to see Travis Bickle himself hamming it up in a straight-up comedy, let alone the sequel to a comedy?

Just when you thought De Niro might realize just how bleak his current career path is, and take a turn for the better, we get Hide and Seek. This is officially rock-bottom in more ways than one for the ex-Godfather. Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to talk about just how bad De Niro really is here without giving away the film's huge (albeit pathetically predictable) plot twist. Before the twist, he does a respectable job embodying a loving parent who has not only lost his wife to suicide, but now has to deal with a mentally unstable child. After the movie takes its big turn...well, you'll just have to see for yourself.

The very well-off psychologist, Dr. David Callaway (De Niro), enjoys a lavish life with his wife, Alison (Amy Irving), and their little girl, Emily (Dakota Fanning). While the married couple seems to have lost a bit of the magic from their relationship, it is a true shock when Alison turns up dead in the bathtub with her wrists slashed. When Emily sees her mother's dead body, she is mentally scarred and soon under the care of another psychologist, Katherine (Famke Janssen).

Dr. Callaway decides that it would be best for Emily if they moved to a new, secluded country home, but Katherine objects. Dr. Callaway and Emily go to the country anyway, and it is clear that there is something at their new home that has the little girl terrified and distances her from her father. Emily is seeing things in a dark cave in the woods, is making creepy drawings, and is constantly talking about her new friend, Charlie.

There really isn't a single, original idea that director John Polson (Swimfan) brings to Hide and Seek. The only things he seemingly wants to accomplish is to make the most clichéd, predictable piece of cinematic junk of the year, and to make each and every setting look as dark and dreary as possible. I'm all for overly dark, brooding films, but they have to be shot in an atmospheric manner that flows well with a solidly written screenplay.

As for the acting, this is not only an embarrassment for De Niro, but for the high-caliber supporting players as well. The "It" child actor of the moment, Dakota Fanning (War of the Worlds), is usually very solid and performs well beyond her years. Here, she is relegated to wearing black most of the time, and just keeping a straight, semi-terrified face, along with a few screams every now and then. Famke Janssen, Elisabeth Shue, and Dylan Baker aren't given much to do, and are only around to allow the audience to play the "Who Will Die Next?" game.

Apparently, Fox sent the entire package that was Hide and Seek to theaters in a strange way; they kept the final reel separate from the rest of the film. They said that this was to keep the major twist under lock and key, but, seeing as how there are four (yep, you read that right, four!) alternate endings on this DVD, it sure looks like they couldn't decide which terrible ending to use until the 11th hour. You've got to hand it to Fox's marketing executives, at least they're creative when even they realize that they have a piece-of-junk film on their hands.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: D


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The video is an anamorphic 2.40:1 widescreen presentation that is very good, yet unspectacular. Images are very sharp and distinct for the most part, but there is more grain than expected. The film has a dark, horrific tone, so the well-handled contrast and black levels are a welcome sight. While the colors are well rendered, there isn't a wide palette at use here, so we don't see much beyond grays, blacks, and a bit of green for the country settings.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanish, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The inclusion of a DTS track can sometimes mean superior audio quality, but all too often it is nearly identical to the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. That is definitely the case here, as the two are pretty much interchangeable. Still, both are excellent mixes, capturing all of the sonic nuances that enhance the jump scares, and sharp music cues that are staples in the horror genre. The dialogue never has any problems, and is always decipherable.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
14 Deleted Scenes
4 Alternate Endings
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director John Polson, editor Jeffrey Ford, screenwriter Ari Schlossberg.
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Previs Sequences: 3 sequences that were storyboarded, but not filmed.
Extras Review: A decent bunch of extras starts off with a Feature Commentary by director John Polson, editor Jeffrey Ford, and screenwriter Ari Schlossberg. This group focuses mostly on the film's production, but talks quite a bit about Robert De Niro and what he brought to the film.

Again, there are four alternate endings (none of which stray from the big twist of the film that was in theaters) to the film that can be selected in two different ways. There's an initial menu where you can choose to watch the film with one of the endings integrated into that cut, or you can watch each of these endings by choosing them from the Special Features submenu. The first of these would have resulted in a poorer climax (if that's possible) than the one that was used in the finished film, but either one of the three other clips should have been used in the final cut.

Fourteen deleted scenes are also available (approximately 19 minutes total), touching more on the De Niro character trying to make his daughter comfortable and happy in their country home, and expanding on his relationship with the Elisabeth Shue character.

The Making of Hide and Seek is a 10-minute featurette comprised mostly of on-set footage and interviews with the cast and director.

The three Previs Sequences are sequences that were storyboarded, but never actually filmed or put in the movie's final cut.

Extras Grade: B+


Final Comments

With poor horror efforts like Boogeyman seeming to be the status quo these days, it isn't much of a surprise that Hide and Seek is another instantly forgettable film. De Niro fans should do themselves a favor and stay far away from this, unless you enjoy seeing your beloved actor running his once-illustrious career right into the ground. It's hard to fault Fox Home Video's DVD, though, thanks to good audio and video presentations and a nice collection of extra features, including the aforementioned four alternate endings.


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