Emily Calloway (Dakota Fanning) had a happy home life with her parents in New York City, and as they had had her late in life they doted over her, especially her mother (Amy Irving) who would tuck her in every bedtime and play games of hide and seek with her daughter to amuse her. She always let Emily know she loved her more than anything else in the world, which made what happened one fateful night all the more distressing. Father David (Robert De Niro) awoke just after two in the morning sensing something was wrong, and went into the bathroom to check on his wife - then found her dead.
If you're wondering what a cross between Rosemary's Baby and The Shining would be like, then apparently so was the director of this, John Polson, who arranged the title sequence so that it featured both the singsong music of the former and the aerial shots of the car through the countryside of the latter, just to keep the audience guessing about what it was precisely they had let themselves in for. The whole thing was so centred around its misdirection that even having an inkling that there was going to be a big twist, a major revelation, at a crucial moment was likely to set your mind racing on what it could possibly be.
Therefore those who claimed to have guessed the ending before it arrived may well have been telling the truth, but it wasn't too painful to watch even if you were ahead of the characters. Indeed, it was pretty professionally made, and if you were wondering which among De Niro's creepy kid movies this was, then the other, demonic one was The Godsend - this was more of a slasher effort, though you're never quite sure how until the final act when all hell broke loose. Not that the beginning was meant to be any the less traumatic for both David and Emily, as he finds her mother with her wrists slit in the bath and she witnesses the disturbing scene, resulting in understandable withdrawal.
But Emily does have one friend who she finds when her father takes her to live in the country, giving up his day job as a psychologist to look after his daughter full time. Alas, he's an imaginary friend, and the subject of those should really be fertile ground for horror movies, as many in real life had or have them, and all sorts of strangeness can arise when children believe they can see someone nobody else can. This appears to be the route that Hide and Seek is taking, and in a way you wouldn't be wrong to assume it, except you may also suspect that the "friend", who the girl names Charlie, could be more real than any of the other characters cared to admit - but is he some kind of ghost?
Polson worked from the script by Ari Schlossberg, who himself went on to create the cult slasher whodunnit TV series Harper's Island, and made great play of how unsettling the little Dakota Fanning could be when she made her face blank and stony, with her piercing blue stare used to full effect. In fact, she's so insistent without saying as much that Emily was seriously messed up that some found her hard to take seriously, and at times she does come across as every bad seed cliché rolled into one. Then again, just about every adult character except for two or three were cast for their unnerving qualities, from the weird next door neighbours to the Sheriff (Dylan Baker) who gives David a parking ticket mere days after welcoming him to the area. Once De Niro is encouraged to go places in his performance that are either atypical or all too typical you may give up on the film, but as an amusing, generic shocker yarn you could do worse. Music by John Ottman.