Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast, Universal Monsters Cast and Land of the Creeps horror podcasts. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.
It isn’t long after 2015’s Hidden begins that we realize the Duffer Brothers (who wrote and directed the film) are setting us up for a major surprise.
For the last 301 days, Ray (Alexander Skarsgård), his wife Claire (Andrea Riseborough) and the couple’s daughter Zoe (Emily Alyn Lind), have been living in an underground bunker. Despite the tight conditions, Ray and Claire go out of their way to make things comfortable for Zoe, playing games with her and reading her stories, yet at the same time reminding the young girl to be as quiet as possible, so as not to alert “the Breathers” lurking above.
While dealing with an unwanted pest (a rat that had been digging its way into their canned goods), Ray and Claire inadvertently start a fire, then work frantically to hide all evidence of it, hoping that the Breathers took no notice of their unfortunate accident.
What happened to drive this small family underground, and who (or what) are the Breathers that are searching for them? The answers to these questions will eventually be revealed, setting up an ending that’s guaranteed to shock the hell out of you.
Yet as astonishing as the final 10 minutes of Hidden are, it’s the time we spend with its three central characters, huddled together in the claustrophobic confines of their subterranean shelter, that draws us in and captures our attention.
Ray, played so well by Alexander Skarsgård, has a special bond with his daughter, taking her side whenever a disagreement about dinner arises and playing a nightly game that reminds them all of the life they left behind. Andrea Riseborough’s Claire, on the other hand, is more grounded in the “here and now,” worrying about their food supply and coming up with a series of rules designed to keep Zoe’s mind off the Breathers (one of the main rules, in fact, is that they can no longer mention the Breathers by name).
Both Skarsgård and Riseborough are excellent in their respective roles, and Emily Alyn Lloyd proves to be one of the better child actors to come along in a while, conveying the fear, anxiety and frustration of being cut off from the world above, yet remaining hopeful that brighter days are ahead. Thanks to these three finely realized characters, Hidden keeps us watching as we wait patiently for its big reveal.
The Duffer Brothers do drop a few hints (by way of flashbacks) as to what brought the family to this desperate state, and it’s to the filmmakers’ credit that, even though we’re fully expecting a twist at the end, it still manages to surprise us once it rolls around.
Hidden may not be the most original movie, either in its storyline (1985’s Day of the Dead was set primarily in an underground shelter, as were more recent movies like The Divide and Beneath) or its execution (starting with his 1999 movie, The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan has given us one twist ending after another), but because of the extraordinary performances by its cast, we’re more than happy to go along for the ride.
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