Tuesday, February 2, 2010

After Dark Horror Fest 4: Hidden (Skjult)

We started our third day of the Horror Fest with the Norwegian flick, Hidden. One of my idiosyncratic movie genre labels is "Usher" (after Poe's tale "The Fall of the House of Usher", not the hippity-hoppity guy). In an "Usher" movie, it is clear that the main character(s) is(are) doomed from the opening scene from events that have occurred in the past. Whatever struggles seem to grant any kind of light or hope of escape are merely teases; there is, in fact, no plot movement whatsoever because the plot happened before scene 1.

In the very first ADHF, their big movie was The Abandoned, which epitomizes the genre, down to the main character fighting with her family in the ancestral manse. Blair Witch has a little of that feel. Jacob's Ladder sort of fits, too, and 1408 has much of the feel, but the key emotion is an overwhelming despair. A sort of nihilism.

I generally hate those kinds of movies. I actually skipped the last three movies of ADHF 1 because I couldn't take any more after The Abandoned. They feel like cheats to me, like a denial of free will.

So, when the main character of Skjult comes home to the house he's inherited from his recently deceased evil mom, I despaired. But then he had two big cans of gas, and I was happy. But then the local sheriff (a girl who kind of likes him) stops him, and I despaired again.

That's sort of how these movies work. You think there's an out but there's not.

Another thing these movies like to do is present you with all these riddles. And then not resolve them in any comprehensible way. Honestly, it makes me pass out, and I had a hard time staying awake for the film, which was subtitled.

I should point out that The Boy rather liked it, except for the last two seconds, which he decided to pretend did not occur.

Basically, the movie opens at night with a young boy taking a pee by the side of the road as his parents wait in the car. Out in the (gorgeously shot) forest, a hand emerges from the ground, then a whole boy, half-naked, of a similar age as the micturating one. Half-naked boy runs in wild escape, out into the road, when a truck swerves to miss him and runs into the car containing the other boy's parents. (Bet he wishes he'd gone at the rest stop like they asked him to then!)

Nineteen years later, our hero K.K. returns to make sure his mom is really dead. It's somewhat confusing but, it turns out K.K. is half-naked wild boy. Beyond that, things get a little murky. K.K. apparently spent some time in foster homes. Pee Boy, on the other hand, fleeing the accident, died the night of the car crash when he plunged over the side of a cliff, into a (gorgeously shot) waterfall.

Or did he?

Basically, K.K. is haunted by the notion that Pee Boy—er, Peter, is the character's name—didn't actually die, but was instead captured by his mother and subsequently abused, just as she abused K.K.

The other problem with this sort of movie is that the main character (and what he experiences) is unreliable and/or the director bends reality to cheat however is needed to keep things bleak. (Blair Witch's walking in circles thing for example.) So, it's very hard to tell whether a character is crazy or just more aware.

We never do learn why everyone hates K.K. We don't know if the girl at the hotel is real, or even if the hotel itself is real. And if it is, why is the room number significant, or is it not that the number itself is significant, but just our cue that he's not really in said hotel?

Meh. These movies are filled with stuff like that. But while it can make you try to puzzle out the plot, it doesn't make the process palatable.

But again, I'm not your go-to guy for reviews of stuff like this since, as I point out, I don't like this whole genre. The Boy was unfazed and thought it original and fresh (except for the last two seconds). So. There you are.


  1. What happens in the last two seconds? I don't mind spoilers.

  2. ***********************************
    ********SPOILER ALERT**************

    The basic tension of the story is that the protagonist escaped his abusive mother because (through an accident caused by the protagonist) another boy was orphaned, and took his place.

    But the official story is that the boy died going over the falls. The protagonist is considered crazy, and dangerous, because bodies start turning up, so he determines to find this (now grown up) boy.

    In the climactic scene, he catches up with the "boy" at the falls, grown up and deformed by his abusive mother, and the boy dives over the falls. (Which are so steep and deadly as to make a body basically vanish.)

    This was kind of an unexpected turn. We believe the protagonist is nuts. A lot of things aren't making sense; there's a real question of whether certain things are real at all.

    So, to have this sudden, concrete demonstration of "the boy" in his orange hoody, deformed but alive and real, was really refreshing. The protagonist may still be crazy--and everyone may think he's a killer, since they'll never find the body--but we know otherwise.

    And then in the last two seconds, as they're carting the guy off to the mental institution, there's a little flash of a figure hunched over in the asylum--in the orange hoody.

    So, it was all in his head. *yawn* It's the UN-twist.

    Pissed us both off.

    ****END SPOILER ALERT**************


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