Hidden (2015) / Horror-Sci Fi

MPAA Rated: R for some violence/terror
Running Time: 84 min.

Cast: Alexander Skarsgard, Andrea Riseborough, Emily Alyn Lind
Director: The Duffer Brothers (Matt and Ross)
Screenplay: The Duffer Brothers

Review published September 22, 2015

Alexander Skarsgard (The Giver, The East) and Andrea Riseborough (Birdman, Oblivion) play married couple Ray and Claire, who we first meet living in a Kingsville, North Carolina subterranean bomb shelter with their precocious seven-year-old daughter Zoe (Lind, J. Edgar) for the good part of a year.  The environs outside of their shelter is a literal disaster zone, with no one in sight save the occasional animal, but that's probably for the best, as they are trying very desperately to avoid the entities they've dubbed, "The Breathers", who are likely to snuff this family out if they are ever discovered.  With dwindling rations, they know they can't stay hidden forever, as they are fast approaching a critical point where they may have to risk facing their terrifying pursuers to survive.

Filmed in 2012 but shelved for two years (some who were anticipating its release were beginning to think that the title was its status), this sci-fi/horror hybrid by twin sibling writer/directors Matt and Ross Duffer (Vessel, Road to Moloch) isn't bad at all, but is probably a difficult one for its studio, Warner Bros., to market.  Thus, it has emerged as a film that has gone straight to streaming and DVD, despite talented, recognizable actors and good-looking, low-budget production values.

As you might imagine from the premise, this is a movie built on reveals, some which come in the form of flashbacks to their lives prior to the shelter, some come later in the film, as they find they have to defend their lifestyle and their secluded haven in a world that might have all gone to ash for all they know.  In many ways, you may be reminded of the works of M. Night Shyamalan, especially The Sixth Sense or The Village, or perhaps Alejandro Amenabar's The Others -- all movies that judiciously keep you in the dark as to just what's going on so that they can misdirect you the entire way before finally getting to the big reveal toward the end.

There are some storytelling problems, particularly when you learn that this family has spent over 300 days in utter seclusion and boredom.  For instance, when it comes time for a meal, Claire has to look on the shelf of canned goods that she must have, quite literally, viewed at least 1,000 times before to call out what they have available.  In fact, most things they do feel like they may have only done them a handful of times, instead of several times a day, every day, for nearly a year.

Your enjoyment of Hidden may be directly tied in with how you feel about its surprise ending, and whether it was worthwhile to spend about 75 fairly slow-moving minutes to get there.  For me, I'll say that I enjoyed the twists and turns in the narrative to keep us intrigued, but do feel that the story does feel like a half-hour "Twilight Zone" episode stretched out to feature film length, and it does pretty much put all of its eggs into the reveal basket in order to justify its worth.  Its more of a psychological drama than one meant to sate visceral horror or sci-fi fans, but for a compactly presented, nicely acted, straight-to-video diversion, Hidden merits digging around for.

Qwipster's rating:

2015 Vince Leo