Wednesday, October 26, 2016

30 Days of Nightmares #26: HIDDEN (2015)

The Story: A family of three has been living in an underground bomb shelter for 300 days… but what are they hiding from?

Expectations: This is the feature film debut of The Duffer Brothers, creators of the Netflix hit STRANGER THINGS.  Short summaries suggest that it’s a “different kind of zombie movie.” Sold.

Reaction: The biggest challenge for indie horror filmmakers these days is making a movie on a basically nonexistent budget.  Because there’s such a glut of indie horror on VOD and the filmmakers almost never make any money off of them, a lot of horror films are built around a single shooting location + two or three actors.   It’s not easy to do something new and different with such minimal resources… but it’s a challenge that strong storytellers seem to benefit from. 

I’m consistently amazed by how many young filmmakers are killing it with bare bones horror flicks.  Just take a look at films like RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR, RESOLUTION, HONEYMOON, CREEP, THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE.  Because of the trend toward minimalist horror, alternative zombie movies are getting to be almost as common as regular zombie movies.  Take a look at PONTYPOOL, DEADGIRL, THE RETURNED, DEAD WITHIN.  In fact, I've seen so many alt-zombie movies in the past few years that I was skeptical that HIDDEN would be able to surprise me. I was wrong.

The “twist” in this movie is not without precedent—longtime horror fans will be able to cite its literary origins—but the plot development is nevertheless compelling.  The most impressive thing about this film is the way it builds the characters.  As the father of a young child, I was moved by the depictions of parenting under the worst possible conditions.  As a writer, I was moved by the story's emphasis on the power of imagination to preserve our basic humanity. 

What HIDDEN reminded me of, more than any other horror film, was last year’s Oscar contender ROOM.... until the third act, when it becomes the best type of genre film: one that turns your expectations upside down, in a richly meaningful way.  Bottom line: I think we can safely declare The Duffer Brothers to be among the new generation's “masters of horror.”

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: The inevitable arrival of the film’s faux zombies (“The Breathers”) is effectively terrifying.  The family’s response is heart-wrenching.  It’s a great horror movie that can craft such a multi-faceted payoff.

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