If you’ve never seen The Road, there’s a scene in which Viggo Mortensen and his son stumble across an abandoned fallout shelter and earn a brief reprieve from the horrors of the world. That feels like the genesis of Hidden, a straight-to-DVD film from Matt and Ross Duffer that toes the line between being a thriller and a horror film.
Something bad has happened, forcing Ray (Alexander Skarsgard), Claire (Andrea Riseborough) and their daughter Zoe (Emily Alyn Lind) to take refuge in a fallout shelter. What’s happening on the surface is left vague — hinted at only by talk of “breathers” that are looking for them — as are the events that led to them being there. What we do know is that they’ve been down there for more than 300 days now, and they’re wondering if they’re the last ones left.
Much of the film focuses on their struggles as equipment breaks down and food supplies start to run out. Emotional and mental anguish are every bit as threatening as those more tangible issues, however, and watching the parents try to keep their daughter’s spirits up (and their own) is another significant part of the plot.
While they’ve managed to stay hidden for nearly a year, their situation deteriorates rapidly after an accident compromises their safety, which makes for a fairly intense final act.
Both Skarsgard (True Blood) and Riseborough (Oblivion) are good in their roles with the husband trying to maintain a positive outlook as his wife becomes more and more worried. They each have their moments of failure and triumph, and it creates a believable relationship between the two based on their seemingly hopeless circumstances.
There’s a good bit of tension building going on in Hidden. The claustrophobic setting, the vague threat and the slowly rationed flashbacks keep you wondering what kind of danger is lurking on the surface. And when the movie starts answering those questions they’re refreshingly unexpected, which should be good for at least a few surprising moments.
When 99 per cent of a movie features three people, and one of the three is super annoying it’s a serious issue. Such is the case with Zoe, who is massively overexposed as the centrepiece of the film. While the performance left plenty to be desired, the character is the bigger issue. There’s too much inconsistency in her behaviour, and her inability to remain quiet during key moments seemed at odds with the setup that they’ve been down there for almost a year.
Although we appreciated the tense moments, too much of the film’s roughly 80-minute run time is spent building to an encounter and not enough is spent on the encounter itself. We know enough about the family — their insecurities, relationship to one another and so on — well before the movie pulls the trigger on moving the plot forward, and it makes things too unbalanced.
There’s nothing remarkable about Hidden. It has its moments, but they’re padded out with too much of the story focusing on Zoe. Still, if you enjoy a more emotionally driven horror/thriller it could be worth your time to watch.