A few days ago I reviewed the After Dark 4 horror flick Lake Mungo, and I said it was the ort of low-key, slow-burn Australian horror film you might come across at a film festival. I meant that as a compliment. This time around I'll be reviewing the Norwegian import Hidden (aka Skjult) and I'll be using the same sentence in a decidedly different way: Hidden is like a potentially cool horror-thriller title that you circle in the festival program guide, but when you sit down to watch it (hopefully not at midnight) you find a cold, quiet, well-shot, and essentially generic tale of one guy and and an inherited house he doesn't want.
Yep, already you can tell where Hidden is headed. And, for the most part, you're exactly right.
Kai Koss (the excellent Kristoffer Joner) has inherited his childhood home, and get this: he hates the place because that's where his horrible witch of a mother used to commit unspeakable acts of violence and madness. Unspeakable they may be, but we get all sorts of fractured clues by way of dream sequences, flashbacks, and stylish but loud editing techniques that seem to exist solely to wake the viewer up every twelve minutes. All sorts of mild mysteries and creepy noises accompany poor Kai as he travels through his unpleasant nostalgia -- but then his nightmares threaten to become all too real. Wake me when any of this sounds like something new.
The irony found in Hidden is this: the slower and more deliberately-paced stuff (like the old puzzles that Kai is putting together) are slightly more interesting than the more conventional ingredients that pop up in the film's second half. By the time the flick starts pulling its few story threads together ... the results aren't all that scintillating. The pace picks up the the third act, and that'll please most horror fans who've stuck around that long, but Hidden is coolest at its quieter moments, and the infusion of some late and predictable components sell the psychological angle short.
Dry and fairly predictable for the most part, but impressively shot, impressively restrained, and surprisingly well-acted, Hidden is a mixed bag: it starts out as an arty type of haunted character study, takes to a little while wandering around, and then picks up the pace with a few twists you'll probably see coming. Still, with offerings like Hidden, Manhunt, Cold Prey, and its sequel, it sure looks like Norway is planning to make a little noise on the global horror circuit. So far, so good.
After Dark Horrorfest is in theaters January 29nd–February 5th and on DVD March 23rd, titles include: ZMD:Zombies of Mass Destruction, The Final, The Graves, Hidden, Dread, Lake Mungo, Kill Theory and The Reeds.