Things really get going in Hide and Seek starts off with Sung-soo learns that his estranged brother Sung-chul has gone missing. This sends Sung-soo into memories about his past oft-concealed from those he loves and sends him in search of answers and a deepening mystery. When visiting the apartment complex his brother last lived to look over his effects and trying to get answers he spots odd symbols and meets a terrified neighbor Joo-hee. From there on out the film truly intensifies from its eerie start to its shocking finale.
Hide and Seek does an expert job at misdirecting its audience cleverly in ways that work (i.e. are not cheats) given the context and the rules of the world built. What also works greatly in this film’s favor is that the whodunit aspect which is implicit in the mystery set-up early on takes a backseat to the atmosphere of quiet terror that builds slowly. For surely enough there is an oddity looming throughout and and as the film progresses it moves up ever-slowly overtaking the tonality of the film as Sung-soo gets ever-closer to the truth.
Hide and Seek does have the bones of a classical thriller with many of the elements and tropes built in. There are confined segments there is a modernized rendition of Rear Window aspects with looking about ones apartment complex suspiciously. What makes it stand out are the cultural and auteurist adornments that make it different than the run-of-the-mill. Furthermore, its effectiveness is amplified by the fact that it does retain a certain amount of credibility throughout.
Perhaps the greatest testament to the effectiveness of Hide and Seek is that it does a few things in its climax and denouement that are old hat but very effective here. It’s climactic confrontation is rather protracted and has quite a few stages, but never becomes tiresome. This has a lot to do with how the characters are built and portrayed. Secondly, the last few jolts and twists are not by any means unique but are very well-earned due to execution and timing. Hide and Seek is not a front-loaded or fast-moving piece of bombastic horror but rather gets under your skin in a rather usurpatory way. A highly effective fill well worth seeking out.
This credibility is buoyed by the fact that the characters are allowed in this film room to have sufficient arcs. The film clocking in at 107 minutes allows for a few things: firstly, it allows large and small mysteries alike to build. Second, as we are being misdirected we believe we understand the characters but as revelations and clarifications are made things come into focus and characters show themselves and how they’ve changed.