Acting skills, plot neglected for crude visual thrills

Hide and Seek

Cast: Robert De Niro, Amy Irving, Dakota Fleming and Famke Janssen

Director: John Polson

Today's film makers who aspire to thrill audiences in the manner made memorable by the old masters should see Hitchcock's Psycho all over again and then answer one simple question: How much gore did you actually see on the screen? Granted, that was a black-and-white film, but even in the central "shower murder" sequence, the horror of that slashing knife was almost wholly in the suggestion — not in buckets of tomato ketchup.

Ketchup — or whatever substitute for blood — plays a large part in Hide and Seek, the latest vehicle for today's most famous child star, Dakota Fanning. She is too young to legally see this film — which is just as well, because director John Polson seems to work on the principle that bloodier is better.

He is wrong. It merely nauseates.

Dakota is Emily, the daughter of psychologist David Callaway (Robert De Niro) who has just lost his wife (Amy Irving) in suspicious circumstances. Against the advice of the family therapist (Famke Janssen), he decides to move the dazed-and-depressed Emily to a new rural locale. But things don't improve. The child speaks constantly of a new friend "Charlie" who seems to be a figment of her imagination. The body count swells with no explanation till the last one third of the film. To say more will spoil the surprise for those hard boiled enough to sit through this nasty little shocker.

Anand Parthasarathy

Recommended for you