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The shadows all deepen,
While silhouettes creep in,
And light gives its nightly allowance to dark.
Most men surely worry
Of menaces blurry,
Of dangers and strangers too hazy to mark.

But when the sun’s gleaming
Is more home to screaming,
The shadows will rapidly lose their unease.
If dark once forbidden
Keeps us safe and hidden,
The risks of the light are our new enemies.

MPAA rating: R (could maybe be PG-13)

I have no idea what possessed me to watch an R-rated horror thriller sight unseen, without the complete knowledge of what to expect that I usually obtain before venturing into the genre. I hadn’t really read many reviews of this under-the-radar film from last year, but this is one instance where I’m glad that I didn’t.

Hidden is not just one of the best horror films I’ve seen of late, but really two films in one: first, a post-apocalyptic drama about a family locked within an underground bunker, and second, a heart-thumping “they’re-out-there” thriller with a shrewdly concealed twist. While my VC felt the setup was a bit too long, it was the family part that won me over. Alexander Skarsgård as Ray plays one of the most endearing father figures I can recall, encouraging his young daughter Zoe (Emily Alyn Lind of Won’t Back Down) with good humor, tender comfort, and imaginary trips to the world before whatever disaster hit. Rounding out the trio, Andrea Riseborough is the anxious mother, intent on enforcing her four Mom rules: 1. Don’t be loud; 2. Never lose control; 3. Never open the door; and 4. Never talk about the Breathers, who lurk outside in search of the family.

Despite the R rating, Hidden is fairly subdued for a horror, with hardly any language and the violence brief and often off-screen. Like The Conjuring, I tend to think the R is for its general intensity, though it’s nowhere near as chilling as that film. I think most horror connoisseurs will find it rather tame, but it’s an ideal nail-biter for wimps like me who prefer tension over gore. There were moments where my hand instinctively covered my mouth (especially when I noticed a spider dangling not far from my face at one point. I hate when that happens!). My VC felt that certain motivations didn’t entirely make sense to her, but I liked how everything was from the family’s point of view.

I don’t want to spoil Hidden. It’s best seen with no expectations. Perhaps the best way I can describe it is like a Twilight Zone episode directed by M. Night Shyamalan on one of his good days. The twist and the overall tension might be main selling points, but the marvelous acting by all three stars, especially Lind, is its greatest strength. The best horror films make you care about the characters before throwing them into alarming circumstances, and Hidden does it exceptionally well.

Best line: (Ray, encouraging Zoe on their 301st day in the bunker) “301. Now we shouldn’t have been around for any one of those days, but when we needed it, we found this shelter, and it’s given us food, a home, a life. And for all we know we could be the only ones left, the only ones still alive. So every one of those marks is really a miracle.”
(Zoe) “A miracle?”
(Ray) “That’s right, a miracle. This food is going to allow you to live another day, and that means another hash can be drawn, right?”
(Zoe) “Yeah, I guess so.”
(Ray) “So you see, those nasty, cold, mushy beans on your plate, they’re really their own kind of miracle too.”

Rank: List-Worthy

© 2016 S. G. Liput
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