HIDE AND SEEK movie poster | ©2021 Paramount Pictures

HIDE AND SEEK movie poster | ©2021 Saban Films

Rating: R
Stars: Jonathan Rhys Myers, Jacinda Barrett, Sue Jean Kim, Mustafa Shakir, Quinn McColgan, Eli Golden, Avril Wei, Joe Pantoliano, Alejandra Rivera Flaviá, Josh Alscher
Writer: Joel David Moore, based on the film HIDE AND SEEK written by Huh Jung
Director: Joel David Moore
Distributor: Saban Films
Release Date: November 19, 2021

HIDE AND SEEK, directed and written by Joel David Moore, is a remake of the 2013 South Korean thriller of the same title, directed and written by Huh Jung. Moore does a good job of creating tension and menacing atmosphere, even though the plot takes a couple of wait-a-minute turns towards the end.

At the start, we meet Gina (Alejandra Rivera Flaviá), who has an apartment in a once-deluxe, now condemned building in Queens. She is worried about an abusive ex. Gina is stalked, then attacked, by a shadowy assailant.

Then we’re in the two-story, top-floor Manhattan condo of Noah Blackwell (Jonathan Rhys Myers) and his family. Wife Samantha (Jacinda Barrett) is a lawyer, daughter Hannah (Quinn McGolgan) is a teen and son Max (Eli Golden) is in grade school. They seem pretty happy, although Noah is still coping with the death of his father.

It seems that the elder Blackwell was a construction magnate. Noah has inherited his father’s business, as well as some of the bad publicity coming from gentrification that has disrupted working-class and poor communities.

Noah also has guilt about losing touch with his troubled brother, Jacob (Josh Alscher), who was cut out of Dad’s will. When Jacob is reported missing from his last known address, Noah goes to investigate. It turns out that Jacob lived across the hall from the likewise missing Gina.

We are mostly with Noah in states of lesser or greater paranoia. There are shadowy figures, weird artwork, and things that may be clues or simply clutter. Noah is established as having actual OCD about neatness, so his disorientation around messiness is intriguing. Indeed, the filmmakers could have played with this a bit more.

Moore definitely makes the most of confined spaces and ominous corners. We’re continually kept off-balance, not because HIDE AND SEEK is incoherent, but because we really don’t know who or what to fear.

Rhys Myers conveys repression, kindness and stress all bundled together, while Barrett provides strong support. McGolgan has presence as the admirably alert Hannah.

HIDE AND SEEK starts to come apart around the edges toward the finale. The ending makes sense, but it requires, to paraphrase the legal saying, the acceptance of facts not immediately in evidence. There are also things so incongruous that we at first suppose they’re hints, but turn out to be evident missteps: in an environment where everybody is walking in and out of apartments and taking things, how is Gina’s laptop still right where she left it?

HIDE AND SEEK has flaws, but for those seeking a mystery that delivers moments of real dread, this delivers.

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