Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hide and Seek (2005)

Mental health is a tough thing to tackle in movies. Some of them get it right, some of them do it poorly, and others seem to not realize that they're about as sensitive at tackling the subject as an actor using blackface to talk about Rosa Parks. Guess which one this movie is!

Director: John Polson
Starring: Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning

Co-written with Colin and Michelle.

Holy fuck this movie is bad. I saw this like, ten years ago now, and hated it then too, and I think I may even hate it more now. This was one of several absolute duds Robert de Niro did in the mid 2000s, and it's just painful. I guess it begins pretty innocuously with a mother saying goodnight to her daughter Emily, played by Dakota Fanning. I'm sure nothing bad is gonna happen to the mom when she says she loves her daughter.

But of course it does, because any movie that throws in non sequitur lines like that always has bad shit happen to the characters. In this case, she gets, erm, how should I put it? Ah yes - “Dexter Season 4'd.”

Clearly this was all the result of a deranged and oddly specific killer who always kills married women in bathtubs. There's no other option.

Why do all of these limp-dick thriller flicks have characters taking baths in such nice tubs anyway? I wish I had one with the candles around it and shit. If it was a slasher movie, though, it'd be a girl in her 20s in the shower. That's actually the barometer of how you tell what genre of horror you're watching. If a slightly older woman takes a bath, you're watching a psychological thriller. If a hot chick takes a shower with the camera angled down, it's a slasher. Just the rules, guys.

You can tell what type of shitty movie you're watching from how women bathe in it, which is pretty creepy and weird when you think about it.

We then fast forward through the funeral because fuck that, who cares? No, now it's time for them to do what they do in every shitty ass horror movie – go up to some kind of mountain retreat in a small podunk town to “heal.” It works for a Stephen King novel because he can at least write good characters. In this movie, it's just more nice house porn – ooh, look at all these nice furniture items! Those must have cost a lot of money at Ikea!

I wish I had that desk. That's the nicest thing I can say about the entire movie.

Robert de Niro plays the grieving father, David. Well, grieving, as in just kind of bored and annoyed looking throughout all of this. He's terrible in this; about as exciting as watching a sea algae try to emote. What happened to him? Did all the charisma and power get sucked out of him with a vacuum cleaner?

Oh, and I guess the story, if you even care, is that little Emily keeps on apparently doing weird things in the house like writing on the walls of the bathtub in blood, and blaming it on an imaginary friend named Charlie. I guess this is normal for de Niro's character, as he never thinks to send her to therapy in this.

Yup, you read right – he doesn't take her to therapy. Even through all the weird, traumatizing shit that happens in this, he just sticks to his guns and keeps her out there alone in that big house. No talking to anyone, no therapy, nothing. Jack shit. The funniest part is that HE HIMSELF is supposed to be a therapist in this movie! That's his character's occupation! And you're telling me he doesn't think it's a good idea to have her talk to someone about her mother's death and get through it healthily? Bull fucking shit.

"The way she's sitting motionless in a cliche way staring out a window like this is some kind of Lifetime movie about a mental patient really makes me think she is psychologically okay."

But no, I guess hanging out in an empty house and letting your daughter just run around outside doing nothing is good too. There's a scene early on where David is walking with the two guys showing him the house, for like a minute or two around the corner of it, and they lose Emily. She's standing around in the same spot, but the fact that David took his eyes off her for that long should have been a warning sign that he's as good a parent as Casey Anthony was, really.

"Hey, where's your daughter, David?"
"What daughter? I'm just walking along here, without a care in the world! Ha ha ha!"
"You're a disgrace to the very concept of parenting, you slime!"

There are a bunch of weird-ass scenes where David has dreams of a masquerade ball, like an Eyes Wide Shut party I guess, except with all the sexual energy of a juvenile detention center. Then he wakes up and it's 2:06 a.m. exactly. It comes off like the let his seven year old child watch Jacob's Ladder and then contribute to the script.

Instead of orgies and weird masks, they just got a bunch of gold balloons from the dollar store. I mean c'mon guys, not even a variety of colors for us to look at? Pffffftttttttt.
"Ah yes, 2:06, my favorite time ever..."

The rest of the movie's first two acts are taken up by a seemingly never-ending parade of red herrings that march through like lemmings on their way off a cliff. Hey, you never know! Any of them could be the killer! It's good writing, really!

There's the two neighbors, with the wife who acts really nice and neighborly and the husband who is the kind of guy who sits next to little girls he doesn't know in a creepy manner and remarks about how beautiful they are:

Apparently they had a child who died, so Emily reminds them of their own child. But it's still not really that interesting or well done of a plot...

Then there's Elizabeth Shue, who plays a woman named Elizabeth – what a stretch that must have been for her.

"Yup, I'm in this movie! Really!"

She has a daughter who she brings over to play with Emily. Emily, being a true friend, does this to the daughter's doll, while talking in a really creepy voice about how bad things will happen.

That's never mentioned again, by the way – the daughter doesn't show up again, but Shue never mentions it to David and David never talks to Emily about it. It's cool though. Disfiguring dolls and talking creepily about how bad things happen is just the normal way little girls deal with tragedy.

There's also Creepy Bearded Man, who shows up at 2 a.m. just to give David the keys to some of the other rooms in the house, because he's apparently leaving for Canada with his wife. No explanation is ever given for why, and we never see him again. It's just an incredibly random, out of nowhere scene.

I'm guessing he committed some heinous crime and is now fleeing the country to escape the law. That's what I'm going with and it does make the film slightly more entertaining. Slightly.

But yeah, a large majority of the film is just David and Emily playing off one another so poorly I'm surprised the crew wasn't falling asleep filming it. And the psychology is just bad, really bad. There really is just a shitload of excuses made for her behavior in this – the writing on the bathroom wall continues appearing, Emily keeps blaming Charlie, and David just keeps shrugging it off. At one point a dead cat is found in the bathtub, with all signs pointing towards Emily as the one who did it.

Just another normal part of the grieving process.

But does that faze David at all? Nope! Not in the least. I mean, it does at least get him on the phone with his hot therapist friend played by Famke Janssen. But even after she comes out in person and tells him that Emily needs professional help, he still doesn't do it. He says he'll wait two more weeks and see if she gets better. Two weeks?! I guess you really want to see how many more animals she can kill, huh?

And I guess these drawings don't signify a child in need of therapy either:

"Wow, my daughter really can't draw!"

For those of you watching this who think 'Jesus, how long till someone dies and he still doesn't take her to therapy?', well, Elizabeth comes over later. She finds out David isn't home and yet hangs out with Emily and chats like they're old friends over a cup of tea. For those of you who aren't paying attention – this is a grown woman just chatting it up with a nine year old girl. What the hell kind of person acts like that? No normal adult would do this! “Hey, I'll just come over and hang out with your nine year old daughter! Maybe play some hide and seek or something!” “Sure, man, any time!”

And yeah, that is what happens – Elizabeth agrees to play hide and seek with Emily and “Charlie” the imaginary friend. Because the writers of this movie are about as attentive to realistic human behavior as a space alien seeing Earth for the first time. Fortunately, an unseen killer leaps out of the closet and shoves Elizabeth out the window, killing her instantly.

David wakes up from his almost surely alcohol fueled sleep and finds the police at the door, asking about Elizabeth's disappearance as they found her car nearby. He tells them he hasn't seen her, then finds her dead body upstairs in the bathroom. You'd think this would finally be the point where he gets the police involved, but no, we're building up to a TWIST at the end! So, you know, nothing has to make sense.

David mostly just shouts like a geriatric person lost at Walmart. He puts on a yellow rainslicker to go outside and goes and buries the body. Then he goes inside and finds a bunch of boxes, unopened, full of stuff he thought he'd been using this whole time. This...somehow leads him to the revelation that he killed his wife because she cheated on him at that party he kept dreaming about all movie long:

Maybe she cheated on you because you're the kind of weirdo who gets a split personality when she cheats on you.

Wow. That's fucking amazing psychology you're using there, movie! His wife cheated on he killed her and several other people! Makes sense to me when you didn't bother to give him any other character or explore his disease at all. Hell, why bother? If you have a split personality, you probably killed people already and don't know it. Too bad for you, sucker. Guess you're fucked.

So, of course, like every other shitty ass movie like this, he then goes on a killing spree. He kills the sheriff, because in every horror and thriller movie without a brain, the cops have no purpose but to get axed off in the climax because they apparently aren't good at their jobs. Oh, and there's also a dumb scene where he plays hide and seek with Emily while hunting for her. Actually it's not even hide and seek - he's shouting about Marco Polo half the time. That's right; he can't even get the right stupid kids' game to shout about coinciding with the movie's title.

"Here's...Jimmy? I dunno. I'm old and bad at this."

If you think it's sad that a great actor like de Niro has been reduced to shouting "Marco Polo" while trying to kill a little girl - and failing, even at that - well, you're right. It is sad. I don't have a joke here. I just think that's really fucking sad.

Anyway, he gets stuck in a random Pan's Labyrinth-esque cave on the property (just go with it; the movie is almost over at this point), and gets shot down by the lady therapist, who showed up somewhere in between the ridiculousness of the last few scenes.

Fast forward to some time in the future, and Emily now lives with the therapist, and goes to school. But she drew a picture of her with two heads, so ooh, that must mean she has multiple personalities now or whatever. Because I guess multiple personalities are kind of like a hereditary thing – if you have them, your kids probably will too and it will be like a growing genetic tree-chart of serial-killing multiple personalities. Hooray for nonsense!

And she's still a terrible artist!

My favorite part is how she apparently still didn't get any therapy or counseling! Both her parents are dead? Fuck it, just send her back to school. She's living with a therapist now after all. So she'll be fine.

This whole thing is full of bad characters, dumb mid-2000s thriller cliches like bad jump scares and pointless red herrings, and of course the absolute pits of awfulness, the psychology behind the 'twist.' No, dumb mid-2000s thrillers – having multiple personalities doesn't make you a fucking serial killer. That was literally never a good twist. It's shit – it's the kind of thing a moron would write because he wants to get cheap shock-tactic scares from middle schoolers. It is garbage, sewer slime, just trash all around. It is about as scary as a Sunday School Bible reading session.

I mean, when has anyone in real life ever not realized they were a killer for that long? Sure, sometimes you get deluded psychopaths or whatever, but most of the movies that pull this shitty twist are just too pussy to actually make the main character aware of what he's doing. Make de Niro know he's a killer and just trying to hide it from the cops. Why not? Because you're afraid it'll be controversial? I mean, I can't see any other reason...surely you can't actually think you're being smart in what you did with this movie.

Surely not. Heh heh heh...

...that would be ridiculous.

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