Now I'm calling it the DVD cover sweepstakes. My guess is a team of graphic designers and money-men get together to design the most generic horror DVD covers possible, in order to dupe the greatest number of viewers into taking a chance on a movie constructed after the fact, loosely relating to the cover. In this case, they cleverly picked up on the fact that the only scary image you can find online anymore is someone's face with the eyes blacked out and the mouth stretched to look all evil.
That's a real bad news set-up for horror movie watching enjoyment, but in the case of Hidden it's a (mild) good news/ bad news scenario, with the bad news continually beating the good news into a pulp. I need only look at my notes to sum up the bad news: out of 100 words, the word 'stupid' appears eight times, or about once every sentence. On a positive note, such stupidity earns modest applause. When cooking up this exploitation quickie, the writers really went for it, and their dedication to a ridiculous premise is to be admired.
Ultimately, Hidden is just a pile of horror clichés, set up with jaw-dropping stupidity, combining metaphorical Cronenbergian body-horror with the feel of an Inside Edition story about a celebrity battling booze. When a doctor figures out how to inject a chemical into a drug addict's brain, she discovers the serum causes the person's addiction to manifest as human tissue, which can then be removed surgically. Of course, nothing's ever easy or guaranteed in clinical research, with the doctor's experiments quickly becoming horribly controversial, while the results end up being a real howler.
Sadly, this hardcore B-movie premise stinks from the get-go, as director Antoine Thomas smothers everything in a glib attitude. Corny characters seem defiantly crafted from cardboard, and except for one or two brief moments, act as if they're in an episode of iCarly. These performances are way beyond winking tributes to satirical horror movies, they're so blandly competent that any edge is ground down to obsolescence. As such, we're not only disinterested in what happens to them, we're dispirited by watching it.
After the doctor set-up, featuring venomous fireflies, mind you, we go into Wes Anderson makes a horror movie territory. The fact that lead actor Sean Clement resembles Luke Wilson doesn't help matters any. Clement leads the comedy ensemble as Brian, the young man who has inherited the doctor's derelict research facilities. Yep, it's the old 'inherit the haunted house' story. But wait, isn't it about a weird drug and some evil fireflies? Sure, why not, and of course as Brian and his buddies split up to investigate the creepy hospital, bad shit tries to happen. Stupid looking demon kids begin appearing, and anything else that's supposed to be ominous is given a giant goose by the horribly clichéd soundtrack.
But I bet you're not feeling comfortable enough yet, doing this weird, new thing: watching a movie. Thomas and screenwriters Alan and Alana Smithy (hereafter to be known as the smartest 'people' in the room) have got you covered, dumping in a few more clichés. Let's see, should Brian's ex-girlfriend turn up in a new, unexpected position of authority? Yep? Should our characters find a creepy, underground dwelling full of dolls and things? I suppose so. Hey, and maybe one of the characters should suddenly turn into a bad guy at the end. It's the Mad-Libs of horror, viewers, but only you will be mad. In fact, I'm so mad I'm going to finish off this review by quoting the last of my notes verbatim: "Stupid as fuck. Slick and insulting. Facile. Little effort [made] beyond sly, clichéd hipster tropes. Incredibly stupid climax with 3 [pathetic] demon kids ... [who] seem to come from a regional theater production of Annie. Skip it.
The movie comes in a 16 X 9 (1.78:1 ratio) for your widescreen TV. It sports a CSI-look, all grey and gritty. Sadly, the washed out color palette reads like just another enervating cliché among many, and the grit seems to come from digital grain. Occasional posterizing of oft-gloomy scenes is another bummer. Look out for a good deal of lame CGI involving the venomous fireflies and demonic children, too.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio is robust to be sure. Beefy and full, the soundtrack is pushed slightly higher than dialog, but not so much so that you'll want to keep the volume control handy. Effective use of scary sound effect placement is a bonus, and dialog is distortion-free.
A Trailer is the only extra.
Hidden, a cliché-riddled horror movie with strong comedic elements, is a glib, insulting head-scratcher. Laid out with 'hipster' aplomb, it's neither scary nor funny, but rather half-hearted and instantly forgettable. While I wouldn't necessarily turn it off if it turned up on TV, it would only be for laughs, which means it's best to just Skip It.
- Kurt Dahlke
~ More of Dahlke's DVD Talk reviews here at DVD Talk I'm not just a writer, I paint colorful, modern abstracts, too! Check them out here KurtDahlke.com