Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Hide and Seek, the American Remake

For a property development heir like Noah Blackwell, squatters are about the scariest thing he could imagine, except for maybe his estranged and disturbed brother Jacob, who happens to be both. Blackwell also starts to suspect his brother might also be a murderer. Regardless, the violent and dirty squatters he encounters are sufficiently sinister to alarm any parent in Joel David Moore’s Hide and Seek, a new remake of Huh Jung’s infinitely superior Korean film of the same title, which releases Friday in theaters and on-demand.

Blackwell still carries a lot of guilt over what went down between him and his brother. The family legal advisor Collin Carmichael encourages him to move on, while inadvertently guilt-tripping him worse. Looking for some kind of closure, Blackwell seeks Jacob at his last known address, a lawless slum building slated to be converted into a property that wouldn’t require a tetanus shot after visiting. Moore’s adapted screenplay suggests this is a bad thing, because it is “gentrification.” It also happens to be the same building where the woman of the prologue was killed by a faceless assailant in a motorcycle helmet.

Soon, Blackwell is chasing after the mystery cyclist, believing the unknown figure is his brother. However, the killer is much more effective following Blackwell. So much so, the well-heeled Noah starts noticing the same crude markings notating the occupants of the apartments in his tony building that were also scrawled around the doors of Jacob’s squat tenement.

The Korean
Hide and Seek is not exactly Miss Grandpa, but Moore’s film represents its second international remake, following a Chinese version in 2016. In this case, it completely fails to match the suspense and intensity of the original, despite remaining surprisingly faithful to Huh’s narrative.

Yet, perhaps its most conspicuous shortcoming is its bland cast, starting with the vacant-looking Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who is a poor substitute lead for the reserved but intense Son Hyun-joo. Also, Jeon Mi-sun really elevated the role of the privileged wife into a fiercely protective mama bear much more than Jacinda Barrett can. Sure, it is cool to see Joe Pantoliano turn up as Carmichael, but Moore probably had him for two or three days, at the most. However, Sue Jean Kim is definitely a stand out as Soo Mi, a resident of the grimy squat building, who also has a daughter to fiercely protect.

Regardless, there is truly no need for this film when the original was so good—and it remains widely available on streaming services, including Tubi and Film Movement Plus. Whereas Huh’s film was creepy and intense, in ways that facilitated the suspension of disbelief, the remake looks and feels bogus and lifeless. Not recommended, Moore’s
Hide and Seek opens Friday (11/19) in New York at the Cinema Village.