On an ordinary night, Dr. David Callaway wakes up to find his wife dead in the bathtub, both wrists slashed with a razor blade. Standing in the doorway behind him is his nine-year-old daughter Emily.
In an attempt to limit the damages of the emotional shock his daughter has undergone, Callaway leaves New York for a quiet suburb. As he tries to pick up the pieces of his life, his daughter develops a darker attitude towards their new situation. Along with her shift of attitude comes an imaginary friend, Charlie. However, while Callaway sees this new friend as a way of bringing Emily out of her torpor, Charlie drags her into its abysses. As his grip tightens on Emily, she becomes downright deranged.
Soon enough, the Callaway’s existence is shaken by violent incidents around the house, all of which seem to try to uncover memories from the past. Once questioned about them, Emily blames Charlie. The audience is then brought to question who – or what – is Charlie. Is he real? Is he just the fruit of Emily’s imagination? As the movie progresses, the average viewer will easily cut through the thin layers of deception.
In spite of success the film encountered upon its release, Hide and Seek is somewhat disappointing. Paulson spends the first hour creating an eerie atmosphere, but throws it all away with a finale that’s been over-done in the last few years. The climax falls flat and, quite frankly, disappoints.
However talented, the cast helplessly tries to save a weak plot. As always, Fanning shows a great deal of talent. She gives a brilliant performance, quite reminiscent of The Exorcist’s Linda Blair. De Niro lacks charisma in his portrayal of a mourning shrink, whereas the ever-undercast Famke Janssen delivers a solid performance, and Elisabeth Sue shows more depth cleavage-wise than talent-wise.
Although not reinventing the genre, Hide and Seek is nothing short of entertaining. It provides the usual thrills, but does not leave the lasting impression it was aiming for.