Hidden Review – a claustrophobic horror full of psychological terror

5/5

This was another find that I discovered while researching good horror movies. Hidden is not original in its setting, however I found the story quite interesting and the ending pretty much blew me away. Horror can sometimes be tiresomely predictable, but I can definitely say the ending was not at all.

Hidden is set in Kingsville, North Carolina, where we follow Ray (Alexander Skarsgård), Claire (Andrea Riseborough) and their young daughter, Zoe (Emily Alyn Lind). They have been living in an underground shelter for almost a year, hiding from a threat they refer to as the “Breathers”. Though their lives are no longer what they were, the parents try to do everything they can to make Zoe’s life as normal as possible. However, they must stay as quiet as possible or risk detection.

There are several questions that presented to us at the beginning of Hidden. What drove them underground? Who are these mysterious “Breathers”? Thankfully, the Duffer brothers do an excellent job of slowly answering these questions, resulting in an ending that is shocking to say the least. But that ending would mean nothing, if they hadn’t carefully introduced these characters, giving us an emotional connection to them. Blending a loving family playing games, teaching their child and so on against the harshness of the dank, dark shelter was a brilliant juxtaposition of their fate. There was no need for flashy visuals or terrifying flashbacks, all the horror and hope is completely contained in these little moments.

Though much credit can be given to the Duffer brothers, it is the acting by Skarsgård, RIseborough and Lind that really ties Hidden together. Skarsgård, playing the father, Ray, is the hopeless enthusiast that has a weak spot for his daughter, often taking her side on disagreements. Riseborough, the mother Claire, is more cautious of the two, always worrying about their supplies and the ever lurking threat above. Often wanting to put practicalities above everyone else to ensure they are safe, but reminded to actually live by her husband. But I will say that Lind is probably the most impressive of the lot. It is always hard to find a child actor that can do their job so well. But thankfully Lind is an exception, through her, we experience her anxiety and fear as well as her longing for a normal childhood. 

As with most horror movies, things don’t stay quiet for long in Hidden. Due to unfortunate circumstances that leave them in dire straits, they have to venture outside to ensure their survival. They really dial up the terror in these scenes to the max. First with the lingering shot on the hatch that has been secured with numerous chains, and the ominous footsteps that reverberate throughout their makeshift home. Then we have a potentially terrifying moment for Zoe, who experiences the fear of losing sight of her parents. Lind does a great job at showing the escalating terror that Zoe would be feeling at the grisly potential that she might be left completely alone in the world. 

Having this young child at the centre of Hidden was perfect as they were able to show the contrast between the pure rawness of Zoe’s fear and emotions, and the quiet resolve of the parents. You could argue that this family in its own way, represents the different sides of fear manifested. On one hand, we have fear at its rawest emotion relying on pure instinct, and on the other, the quiet stillness of contained realization of horror. 

But it is not only the rich characters that draw us into this claustrophobic atmosphere, but little hints peppering throughout that tantalize us. Hidden makes the journey just as interesting as the ending. Through flashbacks to the preceding events, we get the juxtaposition between their life now and their former existence, compounding the mystery further, but also adding to the foreboding atmosphere.

All this tightly wrapped up tension is finally exploded by the exceptional finale, where the family’s meagre existence is thrown into peril. The conclusion answers all the questions you had at the beginning, but also manages to add a final twist that plays on the preconceptions you had built up, throwing them out the window. Hidden is a testament to the Duffer brothers’ writing that we can now see shown in their more popular works such as Stranger Things.

Hidden is a slow burn that is dripping with atmospheric tension throughout, that pays off with a thrilling climax. 

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