By SHAWN MACOMBER
Starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jacinda Barrett and Joe Pantoliano
Written and directed by Joel David Moore
Sometimes it seems as if class structures are the exception that proves the rule when it comes to Newton’s third law of motion. Which is to say, what goes up doesn’t always come down–monied interests, individuals and conglomerates seem to rise and rise and rise until they’re a dot somewhere in the cultural stratosphere, as distant and foreign to the hoi polloi as we are to them. And though the beautiful, surreal and extremely disquieting psychological horror film HIDE AND SEEK (a remake of writer/director Huh Jung’s same-titled 2013 Korean feature) begins as an affirmation of this, it quickly veers into more sinister, Lynchian territory, reminding us that sometimes what appears to be a star is not a star at all, but a meteor. And when a meteor mistakes itself for a star? Well…that fall is long, hard and full of all-consuming fire on re-entry.
Such is the case of Noah Blackwell (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who is in his own rarified orbit, living in a family-owned Manhattan penthouse hotel apartment with his wife and kids. He’s oblivious, it seems, to how privileged–or vulnerable–this existence is. You’ll likely be unsurprised to learn that in a film reviewed here, the man is about to find out. (Horror is, after all, where we dig a little deeper into the potential consequences of inequity and iniquity.) So when his legal advisor (the legend himself, Joe Pantoliano, interviewed here) tells him his estranged brother and the rightful heir to the family fortune is living in a Queens tenement, Noah is warned to keep his distance.
He, of course, does not.
And he might as well have stepped off the ledge of his penthouse balcony. Entering that tenement building, he pierces a new reality–one marked by strange, otherworldly visions as well as extremely corporeal death and disfigurement. Worse still, by opening this door and seeking out his brother, the dark ghosts and (hopefully!) metaphorical demons of their shared past are resurrected one by one, to increasingly terrifying effect.
Can Noah atone for the sins he did not even quite realize he’d committed before his perfect life and family are swallowed up whole? It’s a good question with no easy answers. What HIDE AND SEEK does extraordinarily well, however, is build a believable cinematic world in which the interior and exterior stakes are both high enough to ask the question in a real way. To his credit, writer/director Joel David Moore, perhaps best known as an actor in the AVATAR series and the TV series BONES, proves himself adept at realizing ambitious, sophisticated, vital cinematic and philosophical visions simultaneously.
Rife with great performances and unexpected twists, HIDE AND SEEK is anything but a by-the-numbers remake. Instead, it employs the spirit of Korean horror cinema to view American culture from a new perspective. In this way, it is not only an entertaining and scary film, but also an important one. Beware, though: When you cross that threshold with Noah, you, too, may have some uncomfortable truths with which to contend.