My smile is stuck!
You know what I have realised during this run of horror films? Whilst I already knew that creating a decent horror film is difficult enough as it is, it seems just shocking that people would make films designed to scare people in such a poor fashion, almost to the point that they’re more like a comedy than resembling anything scary.
The horror films I have watched so far during October have either been great, or horrendously bad, with the majority falling well into the latter of those categories, and it is quite depressing in many ways.
Don’t worry though, this run of reviews coming up to an annual event certainly won’t be repeated again and I certainly have no intention of doing a run of romantic comedies when it’s leading up to Valentine’s Day, or Christmas films leading up to the yuletide holiday.
Anyway, onto Hidden. I first saw a trailer for this a few months ago and it looked interesting, if almost with a sense of “haven’t I see this before”…..I hope I’m wrong.
Following on from an outbreak and a virus, Ray (Skarsgård), Claire (Riseborough) and Zoe (Emily) have taken refuge in an underground shelter at a local elementary school. One morning they realise that they have been underground for 301 days and it is taking an especially hard toll on Zoe, who is struggling to cope with life without friends and the claustrophobic environment that she can’t escape.
Zoe opens a can of peaches to discover it empty and a lot of the cans of food have been bitten into and the contents are gone. After several hours, they realise that it was a rat all along, but Ray’s attempts to kill it result in a fire starting when a lamp collapses onto a table. The smoke from the subsequent fire goes up a vent and the family fears that this will alert “breathers” to their location.
Whilst looking around to see if any “breathers” can be seen, the family notices that a lot of what was covering their shelter from the naked eye has moved, Ray and Claire climb to the surface to re-establish the cover, but Zoe notices figures moving around in the nearby woods. She successfully manages to get her parents back in the shelter before they are spotted, but it doesn’t stop a “breather” discovering their hatch. Ray and Claire barely manage to keep it out, and it isn’t long until more turn up.
A typical infection apocalypse romp?
There are films that focus on an apocalypse caused by an infection that fall into the category of trying too hard to show chaos and action that they lose arguably the most important element in horror movies, the ability to instill a sense of tension and fear. For the last year I have reviewed plenty of films that have certainly fallen into that category, but Hidden is not only not one of those films, but it is one of the best horror films I have watched in years.
Whilst Hidden starts in a rather slow and uninteresting manner, it soon turns up the volume and you’re thrust into a world of tense situations, chases and desperate attempts by the family to keep the “breathers” out. There is a 25 minute spell about half way through the film that is amongst the tensest experiences that I’ve had whilst watching a film in recent years and it is largely helped that you don’t see that much of the “breathers”, even after you first see one when you’re already well into the film.
The pacing is excellent throughout and this allows for good character development. You get a genuine sense of connection within the family and the interesting dynamics as Ray is far more supportive of his daughter’s difficulties, whereas Claire is very much in the “no-nonsense” approach to parenting. In many ways both of these are needed, especially in a scene where a “breather” is nearby and Zoe is crying. Claire demands that she be quiet, whereas Ray consoles her and eventually calms her down.
Visually the film is great and all the environments outside are wonderfully designed to make you feel tenser during the scenes in which the family are trying to escape. The lighting works well and even more interesting is how the film approaches the scenes set before when you meet the characters. The world that the characters inhabit then is warm and vibrant, whereas everything else is bleak and somewhat hopefully.
Now, I have to finish with the twist. Normally I wouldn’t talk about the twist as I wouldn’t want someone to risk seeing it by mistake, but I have to mention it on this occasion because of how clever it is. Now, I’m obviously not going to spoil it for anyone on purpose, so below is the spoiler and I will be talking about it for the rest of the review until the summary section.
So the twist is that it turns out that the family aren’t hiding from those that are infected…..they are the ones who are infected. The “breathers” as they coin them are soldiers that are trying to stop the infection spreading further.
For me this is a great twist as you constantly believe that you’re following a family that is hiding from infected people, but it’s not the case at all and I love that. When it does it’s “Saw moment” right at the end, you realise that the clues were there all along, and interesting I did look at Ray during one of the scenes and thought to myself “he looks a bit odd there”, but like all great twists, it’s definitely one that you don’t see coming, and it’s ridiculously clever.
They achieve the twist via several methods, including not really letting you see the breathers, and up until this point the only thing you see is them either from a great distance, or just yellow eyes that are lit up. It’s not until they have trapped that Claire and Zoe that you notice that they’re acting like normal humans.
One of the best horror films I’ve seen in years and that is saying something.
This is one of the easiest approval stamps that I am ever likely to give on this site and it is well earned. Hidden is genuinely tense and heart-thumping after a rather slow start, and you genuinely feel like that breathers are threats. They’re not there just for the sake of having antagonists, they are there is create a terrifying atmosphere and they do just that.
Watch this film, you will not regret it. It is 83 minutes of your time that you will used very well and in this run of horror reviews, this is comfortably the best film I have seen that I didn’t know about prior.