Judge Clark Douglas is going to count to ten.
Our review of Hide and Seek (2005), published July 18th, 2005, is also available.
The killer is watching you.
"This is my house!"
Facts of the Case
Seong-soo (Hyeon-ju Son, Liar) is a successful businessman who lives in relative comfort. He has a loving wife (Mi-seon Jeon, Mother) and two adorable children, but remains troubled by memories of his relationship with his estranged, emotionally damaged brother. One day, he receives a report that his brother has gone missing, so he goes to his sibling's apartment to investigate. To his horror, Seong-soo slowly but surely discovers that his brother (or someone pretending to be his brother) may be stalking, assaulting and even murdering people. To make matters worse, Seong-soo's own family may be the next victims.
Hide and Seek is a relatively low-budget South Korean thriller which wasn't expected to make much of an impact, but audiences latched onto it and it quickly became one of the country's biggest box office hits in 2013. It's not quite up to the level of the very best South Korean thrillers of the past few years (Oldboy, I Saw the Devil, etc.), but it's a slick, gripping little story which offers a few surprising twists and some genuinely unsettling moments. It's the sort of film which is almost certain to receive an inferior American remake starring Ethan Hawke.
The film opens with an extraordinarily unsettling sequence. A young woman is coming home from work, and she encounters a mysterious, silent figure wearing a motorcycle helmet. He follows the woman up to her apartment. She quickly enters and locks the door. After doing some quick investigating, she discovers that the mysterious figure has been stalking her and is spying on her. Alas, by the time she's figured all of this out, the motorcycle stalker has found a way into her apartment and is preparing to beat her to death. While the sequence is admirably restrained in terms of onscreen bloodshed (particularly in contrast to some of the aforementioned South Korean thrillers), it still leaves an eerie chill over the remainder of the film. Cleverly, director Jung Huh presents a series of memorable shots during this sequence and then diabolically re-stages those same shots in a different context later in the film.
The movie steadily builds in intensity as it proceeds, delivering the requisite chases and murders every so often, but never losing its tension. Surprisingly, the killer's true identity is revealed just a little past the halfway mark, giving the closing stretch of the film plenty of time to do some compelling in-depth characterization and make the ultimate villain more than a faceless, bloodthirsty murderer. As many thrillers do, this one does start requiring viewers to suspend their disbelief to ever-increasing degrees as it proceeds, but if you can get onboard with the flick's near-operatic tone, you'll be hooked. Add in persuasive performances, elegant cinematography, an enjoyably moody score and well-choreographed action sequences and you've got a genre film which does everything it sets out to do with aplomb.
Hide and Seek has received a perfectly satisfactory standard-def transfer, though the film offers enough compelling visuals to make one wish that they were watching a hi-def version (as far as I can tell, such a release hasn't been made available in the US). Detail is strong, depth is impressive and the low-key color palette is consistently absorbing. There's little bleeding of any sort. The Dolby 5.1 surround track is sturdy, too, offering a strong balance between the piano-driven score, dialogue and sound design. Supplements include a making-of featurette and a trailer.
A (mostly) smart thriller boasting strong direction and several tension-filled set pieces, Hide and Seek is worth finding.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: RAM Releasing
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