Hidden -- Film Review

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Festival de Cannes -- Market
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CANNES -- This is the kind of production that must have looked great on paper and excelled in discussion. In practice, however, it's way too complicated, especially for a horror film. Billed as the "scariest Norwegian movie ever," which seems like a gag line to even we cineastes of Norwegian heritage, "Hidden" is both too predictable and too confusing to truly frighten.

In this market offering, filmmaker Pal Oie has forged a smart compilation of generic horror elements, blending the elemental scare fare: the deep dark woods, haunted mansion and doppelganger personality. While smart, the hodge-podge of parts gets a bit much since Oie never really puts us in the shoes of a protagonist. Thoughout, one is often riveted more by the breathtaking Norwegian woods and waterfalls, instead of crawling under our seats.

Narratively, Kristoffer Jones stars as Kai Koss, a brooding young man who has returned to his rural home on account of his mother's death. Koss is aloof, enigmatic and downright scary to the locals: He disappeared nearly 20 years ago when, as a child, he witnessed a shocking, fiery car accident. That inferno and his truncated memory of the event which included another young boy, traumatized him. He took off and left.

Since then, Koss has succeeded in the outer world, but his physical return to the site of his dementia, coupled with memories of his cruel, sadistic mother, thrusts him into a fervor and, worse, he fears he is being stalked by a maniacal killer.

Although the narrative itself never completely jells, filmmaker Oie truly excels at cinematic grammar: the compositions, the rhythms and the tone are perfectly pitched for horror. His foreplay technique with the audience is savvy -- false frights, off-screen dangers, weird minor characters, loose maniac.

Admittedly, we're lured into dangerous terrain but the unfolding plot is so cryptic that we don't know who to fear. Ultimately, the frights are numbing and expected, and the tension never really mounts; the climax is literally but not emotionally a cliffhanger.
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