After the apparent suicide of Alison Callaway (Amy Irving), husband David (Robert De Niro) and daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning) pick up the pieces of their broken lives and escape to the serenity (we know otherwise) of upstate New York. David, a psychologist, feels the move to the countryside will help them recover. Emily is especially devastated, but the pair relocates despite the strong objections of her doctor Katherine (Famke Janssen). They move into a vast, empty mansion with secret rooms and hideouts -- three times the space they really need. The house is clearly used as a plot device more than a place of rejuvenation.
Not surprisingly, the change in surroundings doesn't help young Emily -- in fact, it damages her even more. Her dad tries to help by introducing Emily to a local girl her age. And while David and the friend's aunt (Elisabeth Shue) hit it off, Emily will have no part of her new friend. The only friend Emily desires is that of her seemingly imaginary friend named Charlie. Initially, they play innocent games of hide and seek together -- later, these same games take a horrible turn for the worse.
Hide and Seek's slick trailer provides an effective hook for this movie. After all, we would never wish harm upon that cute and lovable little Dakota Fanning. Yet, the bait here is not worth the bite. Seek mercilessly toys with its suspense for better than half the movie, leaving us severely unfulfilled and bored. Images of a teapot boiling over, a lantern blowing in the wind, and a mysterious cave in the woods are all meant to arouse a sense of fright, but they simply illustrate screenwriter Ari Schlossberg's laziness with the genre. The illiterate, no-holds-barred slashing finale is a prime example of a desperate film that's run out of gas.
If there's any a bright spot in this completely ineffective film, it's Fanning, who is so far removed from the cutesy image that's dangerously pigeonholed her young career. Here, her strung-out look and big wide-eyed gazes provide a very convincing look into the soul of a damaged girl. Unfortunately, Seek falls well short of significantly better thrillers. This by-the-numbers film may have worked years ago, but audiences are simply much smarter now.
The DVD features an unbelievale four alternate endings, so if you didn't like the original one you're bound to find one you can deal with here. Commentary track and a mountain of deleted scenes round out the disc, plus a couple of making-of featurettes.
That's not a very good hiding place, kid.
Run time: 101 mins
In Theaters: Friday 28th January 2005
Box Office USA: $51.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $122.6M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: 20th Century Fox
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 13%
Fresh: 20 Rotten: 135
IMDB: 5.9 / 10
Director: John Polson
Producer: Barry Josephson
Screenwriter: Ari Schlossberg
Starring: Robert De Niro as David Callaway, Dakota Fanning as Emily Callaway, Famke Janssen as Katherine, Elisabeth Shue as Elizabeth, Amy Irving as Alison Callaway, Dylan Baker as Sheriff Hafferty, Melissa Leo as Laura, Robert John Burke as Steven
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