A life spent perpetually hunted by monsters, forced to live in a dark, subterranean place, that's the lot of two young parents and their little daughter in 2015's Hidden
. This claustrophobic, post-apocalyptic film is an effectively suspenseful story of people trapped by an implacable, unrelenting, and unseen force.
Through flashbacks scattered through the film, we see a past of bright suburban homes where Ray (Alexander Skarsgard), Claire (Andrea Riseborough), and their prepubescent daughter Zoe (Emily Ayn Lind) led ideal lives. But we meet them in an underground shelter where they've lived for a year.
Flashbacks show quarantine signs and helicopters, people being evacuated from the town en masse and, in the present, Claire repeatedly has to remind Zoe not to talk about the "Breathers", the things that would hunt them and hurt them if they knew where they were hidden.
The film wisely keeps our perspective inside the shelter with the family most of the time, drawing tension from ominous contemplations of the heavy hatch leading to the outside world, reinforced by chains but which seems vulnerable to the superior strength of the beings outside. A rat somehow finds its way in and threatens their food supplies and Zoe has bad dreams.
With her sooty old doll she reminded me quite a bit of Newt from Aliens
but Emily Ayn Lind gives a much better performance as the little girl in Hidden
. It's truly one of the best child performances I've seen in years, her face communicating so much to the audience of tension and she manages to go places emotionally I was surprised to see in someone so young.
A lot of the dread is also established by the techniques the parents use to comfort their daughter. Her father's practice of describing places while she closes her eyes to calm her down and her mother's strict rules about what can be talked about along with her pragmatism, much colder than her husband, all give us an ambiguous but effective sense of the terrible thing that remains on their minds at all times.
There's a twist in the film's ending I was able to predict about halfway through. It's an interesting twist but it feels almost unrelated to the other 80% of the movie which is much more an exercise in well crafted suspense.