EmptyROME -- The kitsch value is high in "The Hideout," the fourth English-language, U.S.-set film by Pupi Avati, a director with over 30 features to his name. More suspense than horror film (which is what it's being marketed as), unless its campiness inspires audiences, this is the kind of straight-to-video fare meant to entertain late-late night television viewers.
During a snowstorm in 1957, in an isolated boarding house outside of Davenport, Iowa, young novice Lyuba (Marin Jo Finerty) begs her friend Egle (Chiara Tortorella) to "do whatever it takes" to keep the doctor arriving in the morning from checking on the state of her virginity. The swelling violins during their teary conversation are foreboding.
In 2007, an Italian woman (Laura Morante) is released from a psychiatric hospital after 15 years of treatment for the voices she began hearing following her husband's suicide. In what must be the world's friendliest mental institution, she's thrown a goodbye party complete with a bug-eyed patient crooning a lullaby.
She (Morante's character is never named) immediately heads to Davenport to fulfill a lifelong dream of opening up an Italian restaurant. There, a real estate agent (Burt Young) finds her the ideal location "in a neighborhood where all the young and rich go to spend their money." This is an abandoned four-story mansion named Snakes Hall, hidden in the middle of the woods.
In the best schlock tradition, the emotionally vulnerable woman just re-entering society ignores her intuition and moves in. Soon, She starts to hear a hair-raising voice calling out a name from her past and discovers she's living in an old boarding house in which multiple gruesome murders took place over 50 years ago.
She stays on, deciding to investigate a case that certain townspeople don't want reopened, "if she knows what's good for her." These include Father Amy (an entirely wasted Treat Williams), who claims to fear for her safety, and millionaire Las Shields (Peter Soderberg, whose dastardliness can be ascertained from a sinisterly quivering lip), Lyuba's lover from half a century ago.
Violin music punctuates every nominally dramatic scene. Late night searches in the house for the ghoulish owner of the voice cut anti-climactically to the next day. And the only person who believes Morante is an elderly woman (Tushingham) writing a book on the crime, who has been dying to enter the house for decades -- never mind that it was never boarded up.
Had Avati given in fully to the campy urges underlying the story he could have had a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the B-level psychological thrillers of the 1970s. Instead, the plot twists meant to confuse us as to whether or not She is experiencing something real or being haunted by her demons are simply implausible and illogical.
DueA Film/RAI Cinema
Director: Pupi Avati
Producer: Antonio Avati
Directors of photography: Pasquale Rachini, Cesare Bastelli
Production designer: Giuliano Pannuti
Music: Riz Ortolani
Costume designer: Bettina Bimbi
Editor: Amedeo Salfa
She: Laura Morante
Muller: Burt Young
Paula Hardyn: Rita Tushingham
Father Amy: Treat William
Lyuba (old): Angela Pagano
Lyuba: Marin Jo Finerty
Egle: Chiara Tortorella
Ella Murray: Yvonne Brulatour Scio
Running time -- 102 minutes
No MPAA rating