Hidden (2005)

Sex :
Violence :
Director Tim McLachlan Reviewer :
Writers Tim McLachlan
Starring Suzanne Sharp, Daniel Betty, Mike Edward, Kerry Warkia, Blue Pikington, Gavin Rutherford, Liesha Ward-Knox, Sarah Jane Wright, Wayne England, Ellie Cragg, Gerald Urquhart, Michael Morris, Luke Alexander, Kiel McNaughton, Hayley Halliday
Genre Ghost Story
Tagline If you go down the woods today …
15 second cap A robust game of hide and seek leads to ghosts, taniwhas, and the truth


"The fact that one day you will cease to exist scares the shit out of you!" - Sam

A group of Camp Counsellors are having one hell of a rugged game of hide and seek in a forest the day before their charges arrive to take advantage of the amenities of an adventure park. Gradually individual gamers become aware that something isn't right, and if a dude wandering around with an axe isn't enough indication, we also have Taniwha possession to deal with. Gradually tensions between differing people bubble up to the surface and conflicts emerge.

Is the ghost of Emily haunting the group? Is there something evil in the forest? What was with the car that was never explained? Is there something else shrouded by the almost surreal forest setting? Let's go find some answers.

Director Tim McLachlan has bitten off a rather big chunk of cinematic danger and is chewing real hard through Hidden. We're talking a large cast, there are multiple points of view, an almost surreal spiritualistic exploration of whether there is life after death - both sides of that particularly argument are given voice, and the rich location making the shot complex. A seasoned Director would be apt to turn down this project due to the difficulties, so it comes as a surprise to learn this was McLachlan's first, and to date, only feature length movie. There's almost an epic quality to things, which given the budget is a mighty fine achievement. A Hollywood studio would have thrown $40 million or so at this movie and failed to produce the lurking tension and menace that the kiwi Director achieves.

McLachlan opens his movie effectively and dramatically. The screen is pitch black with the sounds of insects and birds being heard. The Director next switches to a red filtered landscape and the camera gradually zooms in through what appears to be tree branches in what is a dramatic and ominous setup. There's almost a lull happening before kinetic action blasts onto the screen in the form of our hide and seek game getting underway. McLachlan follows up with a mixture of static and kinetic fast editing to introduce his major characters and the setting.

McLachlan achieves an epic feel to his movie on a small budget
Through the middle part of the movie McLachlan gradually introduces individual characters, highlights their differing outlooks, and starts building the tension and atmosphere via his forest settings and the interaction between the characters. The Director manages his movie to a highly professional degree with the cuts between differing groups of characters handled with a light and effective touch. It takes a while to work out who is who, but to the Director's credit you won't be overwhelmed with information and similar cardboard cut-out characters.

There are a number of ideas on the boil through the middle of the movie that add texture and depth to take the narrative in a number of directions. We have the Maori Taniwha as a possessing force, sorry missed the explanations there, which provides some monster movie tropes as one of the major characters seems to develop superhuman abilities. Equally a number of characters mention the ghost of Emily, and the otherworldly aspects permutate this outing. Before finally an impromptu séance appears to go horrible wrong. This isn't a simple journey through a thread bare plot involving sudden bursts of music and CGI shenanigans that is the norm with the dark genre; Director McLachlan is going for what has to be called high art.

While the final block of the movie is fairly devastating I'm not going to talk about it overly as that would risk giving away the twist McLachlan has coming at you. Suffice it to say the Director isn't taking prisoners when he hits the reasoning behind events. I was definitely nodding my head in approval over the wrap up that goes down here.

McLachlan has an interesting soundscape going down throughout the movie. Besides the continued sound of insects and birds highlighting the isolation and lack of other people, there's a recurrent creaking sound and running water becomes almost an aural motif. There's a reason for this, which once again I'm not going to cover due to the danger of spoilers. It's an interesting approach that works well with the subject matter, McLachlan is somehow raising the tension with his use of ambient rather than soundtrack background.

I guess the other aspect of the movie that requires comment is the extraordinarily well written script. McLachlan has created a rich tapestry that is going to take a few viewings to fully comprehend. A lot of information is delivered via the minimal dialogue used, that is no doubt going to knock out so called horror fans, Hidden requires concentration and the audience to think about what they are hearing rather than throwing neon signposts at the audience like, for example, Saw, a movie that throws up the smoke screen of intelligence to the normal guts and blood crowd.

McLachlan has his script working on the concept of fear and facing that fear, a sub plot that works like butter on hot toast. We have fear of heights, fear of death and decay, and I guess fear of being left alone. Each character faces an aspect of their character that they would perhaps prefer not to. It's an intriguing approach with very few characters coming through the movie with their reputation intact.

When I received my copy of Hidden to review, and thanks Charles for the DVD, I was expecting to either hit a psycho or demonic outing. I was not expecting a well written ghost story that used minimum effects to get the tension and atmosphere happening. McLachlan has turned in a haunting surreal movie that all true horror fans should seek out. This isn't the movie for part timers who think they dig the dark genre, Hidden will elicit support from folk who believe horror movies should first and foremost be movies. An intelligent outing that doesn't talk down to the Audience, full recommendation for those reading who like their horror serious with a requirement to become fully involved with the narrative.

For further information NZ Videos have your back covered with about everything you ever wanted to know about the movie, including some alternative reviews. As to availability of the DVD/Video/Download, good hunting you're on your own there.

ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  Got to love a ghost story that doesn't talk down to the audience.