Directors/Screenplay – The Duffer Brothers, Producers – Lawrence Grey, Roy Lee & Mason Novick, Photography – Tom Townend, Music – David Julyan, Visual Effects – Zoic Studios, Special Effects Supervisor – Joel Whist, Makeup Effects – Lindala Schminken FX Inc., Production Design – Jim Bissell. Production Company – Vertigo Entertainment
Emily Alyn Lynd (Zoe), Alexander Skarsgård (Ray), Andrea Riseborough (Claire)
Young Zoe has remained hidden inside a fallout shelter, along with her parents, for over 300 days. Above ground, a viral pandemic has wiped out much of civilisation. They subsist on the supplies in the shelter and are fearful of The Breathers, creatures that roam the surface. Now their attempts to kill a rat that has been stealing supplies results in a series of accidents that threatens to expose their existence.
I became curious about Hidden after watching the recent hit tv series Stranger Things (2016– ) and seeing the names of the Duffer Brothers on the credits of each episode and wondering who they were and what else they had done. The Duffer Brothers, Matt and Ross, had made several short films together and written four episodes of the tv series Wayward Pines (2015– ). This search also led to Hidden, a film they had made a year prior to Stranger Things, and was their feature-length film debut.
Hidden should not be confused with several other films with the same name, including the highly enjoyable alien body snatcher film The Hidden (1987), the confusing New Zealand-made deathdream film Hidden (2005) or Hidden (2005), Michael Haneke’s creepy film about video surveillance. This Hidden is a fallout shelter drama. This immediately has similarities to the more high-profile 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016), which came out some months later. Both films focus on a trio of survivors locked in a shelter who are fearful of what might be up above. In both cases, it is suggested that there are some type of creatures that have taken over the surface world but details are kept to brief glimpses such that we cannot be sure exactly what is there. Both films have a number of differences, especially when it comes to the central characters – this features a family, while the other film gave us one crazed control freak and two youngish people – and especially when it comes to the big reveal about what actually is happening on the surface. In 10 Cloverfield Lane, it was an alien invasion but exactly what was going on left you scratching your head; while here the Duffer Brothers go for a twist reversal of expectations.
Hidden starts extremely well. The Duffer Brothers attain an intensely paranoid feel – the shelter is a contained area where the lighting level has been reduced to no more than lamplight. The bulk of the film involves the family creeping around in near-darkness trying to avoid detection by anything surface-side. The Duffer Brothers rack up a great deal of tension as everything starts to go wrong and the attempt to kill the rat starts a fire, leading to ash spread up through the air vent and their position then being given away by something as simple as the pullcord of Emily Alyn Lynd’s talking doll getting hooked on a nail as they are trying to make no noise.
What The Breathers are is left deliberately ambiguous. They are spoken of in terms of being monsters and the only glimpse we get off them in the first half is of shadowy creatures with glowing eyes bursting in and attacking the party where we are led to assume they are mutants or vampires of some type. Unfortunately, this brings us to the twist ending that almost entirely wrecks the film. [PLOT SPOILERS] And that is that the Breathers are actually soldiers in night camouflage gear and infra-red goggles and that the family are a group of infectees hiding inside the quarantine zone. This becomes increasingly ridiculous when we get topside and both Andrea Riseborough and Emily Alyn Lynd, who have been portrayed as nothing more than a regular people up to that point, start attacking soldiers and demonstrating super-strength and other powers. It makes the twist suddenly into something ridiculous and gimmicky. Although the appealing idea you get as the infected all head into hiding in the underground right at the end is that what we have is actually I Am Legend (2007) where the mutants are the heroes.