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Thriller that doesn't scare

Hide and Seek
Genre: Psychological thriller The director: John Polson
The cast: Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Elisabeth Shue, Famke Janssen
Storyline: Little Emily's imaginary friend Charlie is a murderous maniac and may not be imaginary after all.
Bottomline: And you thought all imaginary friends were like Calvin's Hobbes...

The music and mood of this film are misleading. The spooky strains and dim lighting have you nervously peeping through your fingers in anticipation of a really scary moment but when it comes it's more corny than terrifying.

``Hide and Seek" is about a psychologist David Callaway (Robert De Niro) and his spooky daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning). After his wife's death, they move to the country where the air is fresh and weird neighbours are in abundance. You can't have a psychologist in the film and no nuts, right? So this one is liberally sprinkled with disturbing behaviour and strange events, enough to keep David busy for the whole one hour and 41 minutes of the film.

Emily makes friends with a guy called Charlie who is never seen and therefore assumed to be imaginary. Together Emily and Charlie write spooky messages on walls, play hide and seek and bump off a few lives during the course of the movie.

Well, Charlie does most of it but Emily's there too. And instead of shipping his weird and scary daughter to the other end of the world, David, like all good shrink fathers, tries to analyse her and get to the bottom of this Charlie business.

As Emily is the daughter of a psychologist, she expresses her feelings at crucial times by drawing scary pictures.

Elisabeth Shue, whose outstanding performance in `Leaving Las Vegas' still lingers in your mind, inexplicably settles for a bit role that could easily be thrown out the window and done with.

The twist in this tale is a bit Manoj Night Shyamalan, and to credit the director, you don't guess what's going on till you're more than halfway through the film.

But the end is a bit sick. The writer, of course, probably felt he was creating a story with a delicious end... making you wonder what happens next. But it just leaves you feeling that maybe the makers of this film could do with a few sessions with David.

SUSAN MUTHALALY

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