Hidden (aka Skjult) is part of the “After Dark Horrorfest” (i’m going to call this ADHF, if you don’t mind) line of films – long defunct but resurrected this year as “8 Films to Die For” (previously, the tagline for ADHF). Hidden was in the lineup in the fourth year of this noble effort. Why noble? When ADHF was announced, there was really nothing like it in the U.S. It was a “horror fest” in that it featured several horror movies that were released semi-simultaneously in theaters nation-wide. Could you buy a festival pass to see all of the films at a discounted price? Not at my local theater. (well, local-ish. the only theater hosting in my area was about 20 miles away) Did the super-cheesy posters for the program (of nude women with images of snarling monsters on their bodies) and the hackneyed “Miss Horrorfest” contest turn people away from the ADHF? Probably (both pretty exploitative and out-of-place considering the range and depth of the films offered). But the idea of it was exciting – horror fans all across the country would be watching the same films on the big screen. And these were mostly films that would probably have never made it there if it weren’t for the “fest”. The program featured some duds for sure, but it gave us (horror fans) some very solid and memorable films too. I’ll write about some of my favorites sporadically. Starting with Hidden.
Kai Koss (aka: KK, played by Kristoffer Joner who you may remember from my Naboer review!) returns to his small hometown, known for its HUGE waterfall, to bury his mother and burn down his childhood home. See, he despised his mother for the abuse she subjected him to in said home. From the start, we see that KK isn’t so healthy, mentally. He sees things that aren’t there. Or are they? He could be plagued by ghosts. A local policewoman, Sara, takes a particular interest in him (clearly romantic, but KK is oblivious) and she stops him from committing the arson. KK checks into a nearby inn that is a little weird. He’s the only guest and his room “isn’t in the system”. The pretty young desk clerk is very helpful. Eerily helpful. But somehow aloof at the same time. People start going missing and the townsfolk start suspecting KK of being involved. KK insists that it’s the work of a boy who went missing (presumed dead) 19 years ago whose parents were killed. They were killed when KK, running away from home, ran into the road and caused an accident. As the townsfolk become increasingly menacing, KK scrambles to discover the truth.
Hidden is one of those After Dark Horrorfest gems that I mentioned above. It’s not a perfect movie by any means, but it is steeped in creepy imagery and dark mystery that is perfectly engaging. We witness KK’s descent into madness (a story device that I enjoy quite a bit) but at the same time, we can’t tell if what he believes is real or not. His mother was a horrible person, but did she really kidnap the missing boy and make it look like he went over the falls? We can see from KK’s scars, that his stories are not all fantasy/delusion. As his verge-of-tears confusion turns to desperation we feel for him, wanting to believe that he has broken free of his monstrous mother’s abuse and that his stories are not the result of mental breakdown. We can practically see the walls he puts up to shield himself from taking the risk of engaging with other humans. We hope that Constable (i’m assuming that’s what Norwegian cops are called) Sara can get through to him and that her trust in his fundamental goodness is merited. This damaged man at the center of the film draws us in and cements our engagement in the story. Who is right, the villagers waving metaphorical torches and pitchforks, or the man created by a monster? (Frankenstein TWIST!)
The Final Cut: Hidden is a dark mystery with a driving sense of urgency that will have viewers questioning its protagonist’s grip on reality. The creepy imagery, dream-like tone, and near-slasher narrative of the film make it one of the better After Dark Horrorfest entries.