Moving to a new town in the middle of high school is tough, but Alicia (Ana Villafañe) has it even worse: her parents were murdered, and her relocation is part of the Witness Protection program. Going by a new name, "Jo" is forced to sever all ties with acquaintances back home (including her boyfriend and 80-year-old grandmother), and even to ditch the things that made her comfortable in her old life (like painting) as part of her new persona.
Is the teen girl demographic being ignored by the thriller genre? Hiding is designed for someone about the same age as Jo, who would like to see a story where the protagonist has two handsome dudes (Jeremy Sumpter and Tyler Blackburn) pining for her, but who also would like the threat of that protagonist being brutally murdered hanging over the whole story, maybe to spice things up. Honestly, I don't think this theoretical audience member exists, yet Hiding boldly pushes on, cramming a boring, poorly-written teen drama and a simplistic thriller together into one overwhelmingly stupid package.
First, let's take Jo. Based on the fact that she sings the song over the closing credits (complete with footage of her in the studio), I'm guessing Villafañe is a singer first and an actor second, and I'm afraid it shows. She seems like a pleasant person, but when she has to exert more effort than mild amusement over one of Sumpter's pick-up techniques, she's not very good. Her facial expression oscillates between "I smelled something bad" (this is when she's sad) and totally emotionless (this is when she drifts in and out of a traumatic flashback, or can't think of something to say). The character of Jo is also vaguely obnoxious on the page: this is a case study in "emotional teenage girl written by older male screenwriter." Jo snaps at people who are nice to her, suffers extreme mood swings, all based on plot beats pre-established by every other movie with a passing resemblance to Hiding. (The movie doesn't even get into the fact that some of Jo's actions could've gotten her new family murdered too.)
Then we have Sumpter and Blackburn, as well as Kelcie Stranahan in a supporting role. Like Jo, the Brett character is a clueless jerk who showers Jo in pick-up lines and is just short of stumped when a panicked Jo tracks him down late in the movie. Sumpter's wooden performance doesn't help matters, but maybe stiffly obnoxious is an improvement over Blackburn's performance as Jesse, who might as well be a cardboard cutout for all the impression he makes. In a backwards way, Stranahan's mutated cliche of a character steamrolls both of them. Zoe is a weird mixture of bleached-blonde socialite and valedictorian who throws her GPA into Jo's face in an attempt to be catty (Jo has a sassy, Spanish-language response -- ugh), and uses incredible powers of deduction to find out more about who Jo really is. Even weirder, Brett doesn't fall for it, which makes the plot thread almost entirely useless.
And, oh yeah, the assassin on Jo's trail. Dean Armstrong plays Mr. Ostrog, a professional killer who openly reveals to random bar patrons what he does for a living, takes on memorable personas in order to extract information from people instead of just sneaking in, and doesn't have the physical strength to overpower a teenager. I did appreciate that in one scene he tells a stranger something nice for no reason whatsoever. I'd like to think the character intentionally did it just so that the waitress he's talking to will be disappointed later, but I don't think Hiding is that clever. Throw in Thomas Wright's completely forgettable directorial style and a score that turns to "In the Hall of the Mountain King" and a completely random knock-off of Tomoyasu Hotei's "Battle Without Honor or Humanity" (from Kill Bill), and you have an experience that is as confused as it is bland.
If people standing is the kind of thing that catches your eye, this is the cover artwork for you. Honestly, what caught my eye was the tagline, which I sincerely hoped was literal. I also think it's a little weird how the villain's skin is darker on the cover art than he appears in the movie. The artwork is duplicated onto a cardboard slipcover with selective glossy finish, and there is no insert inside the eco-case (the kind with holes punched in it).
The Video and Audio
Anchor Bay's 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks good. Colors appear a touch muted by design (as well as blown out in other sequences), but fine detail is strong, and I didn't notice any artifacting, although posterization is visible in at least one shot. Contrast could be stronger and the image is a little soft, but neither factor is overly distracting or unusual for DVD.
Dolby Digital 5.1 audio gets pumping a little bit in amped-up flashback sequences, but otherwise this is pretty standard stuff. Songs come in through the rears, dialogue is clear, and there are some extremely low-budget sounding environmental effects, like a stock car horn and crickets chirping at night. No captions or subtitles are included.
"Going into Hiding: Transformation of Alicia to Jo" (4:58) is a whole featurette on the differences in makeup and hairstyle between the character's Witness Protection persona, and the way she looks in all 3 minutes' worth of flashbacks in the movie. "Behind the Scenes: Chuckwagon Cafe" (2:32) checks in with Villafañe again on the day the production shot an eating contest. "Tom and Danny" (5:17) goes into the relationship between director Thomas Wright and cinematographer Danny Nowak by talking to the cast. Featurettes conclude with a "Carter's Last Will" (2:56), which may or may not be a deleted scene from the movie involving the agent assigned to relocate Jo, and the disc is rounded out by a music video (3:50) for Villafañe's song "Who Am I" (seemingly the same video that plays during the credits).
A trailer for Beautiful Wave plays before the main menu. No trailer for Hiding is included.
Even the pre-existing fans of Villafañe, Sumpter, and Blackburn who have sworn, in their youthful wisdom, that they will consume any entertainment these people create -- you know who you are -- ought to hide from Hiding, an awful thriller and an awful romance. Skip it.
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