Column: From Strange and Distant Shores: Hidden

By Orrin Grey

Hidden. Director: Pal Oie. Cast: Kristoffer Joner, Cecilie A. Mosli. Country: Norway

hiddenOn the surface, Hidden and Sauna have a lot in common. They’re both slow-burn horror films that explore themes of guilt and rely principally on atmosphere to create a pervasive sense of dread. Unfortunately, while Sauna felt like a breath of fresh air let into a stale room, Hidden seems pretty content to leave those windows shut tight.

The thing about Hidden is that it’s a perfectly workable movie most of the time. It’s shot well and the actors all do fine work, though they’re given little to do besides stare meaningfully at things. The scenery is sometimes beautiful and several of the sequences – such as an early car accident and the initial scenes of the main character exploring the spooky house – are staged very nicely. The creepiness is at times deliciously creepy. Some people will probably find a lot to like in Hidden, but for me, everything I found to praise was at least balanced out by something that felt either stale or overly cryptic or both.

The story follows Kristoffer Joner as Kai Koss, who looks a little bit like David Bowie and who is returning home years after a tragic event. His abusive mother has died (looking not a day older than she did nineteen years ago when he saw her last) and he’s inherited her decrepit old house, which may hold more than just his bad memories. It’s not exactly a new setup, but there’s a lot of potential in it and when Hidden comes closest to succeeding, for my money, is when it focuses on the causes of Kai’s lingering guilt.

Hidden was released as part of the After Dark Horrorfest, which typically produces a notoriously mixed bag of films. While Hidden probably isn’t anywhere near the bottom of that barrel, it’s not likely to be the cream of the crop either.

Whenever it opts for the jump-scare route, it usually provokes eye-rolls rather than frisson and when a couple of brutal deaths show up in the last reels, they feel mostly out of place in a film so concerned with psychology and quiet fear. It’s a movie that intends to get into your head, to make you second-guess what’s going on, but it doesn’t do a very good job of it. It paces out its facts too slowly and too cryptically before delivering a “twist” ending that’s played out as a big reveal, but is really just what you’ve long since inferred.

Where Sauna is the kind of movie that makes you think about it afterward, Hidden is the kind of movie you could think about afterward, but probably won’t.

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