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First Look Review - HIDE IN THE LIGHT

HIDE IN THE LIGHT review
A group of urban explorers unearth supernatural terror when they break into a derelict orphanage.







Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: Mikey McGregor

Starring: Alexis Sterling, Eric Roberts, David Kaye, Jesse James, Mercy Malick

HIDE IN THE LIGHT poster

Beginning with a flashback scene set in Saint Petersberg orphanage in 1966, staff admit young Amanda Peterson (Kylie Rae Condon), a wheelchair-bound orphan wearing a sack on her head. Meanwhile a barely discernable Eric Roberts as father Wes discusses ‘the police search’ and whether there will be any ‘luck’.

The poor nun saddled with the task of putting Amanda to bed is aware that Amanda is very sensitive to light, hence her face covering; but according to little Amanda (who isn’t quite as innocent as they had thought – naturally!), it’s her ‘friend’ who is afraid of the light. “He doesn’t like it” she says almost sadly. A few shots of creaky dark corridors and then it's the present day where we are spending time at a barbecue with ‘urban explorers’ who are about to investigate the Saint Petersberg orphanage, which was abandoned in the late '60s and has not been set foot in since.

At the barbecue they discuss the need to split into two groups to cover the entire grounds, that there is security, and that it’s been abandoned for a long time – helpful exposition for the audience! Though at times it’s hard to hear exactly what they are saying as the accompanying ‘mood’ music – oh-so-Tarantino surf rock – overwhelms the entire scene.

Katie, the main character played by Alexis Sterling, is put out when her brother Todd (Jesse James) takes the opportunity to propose to his six-month girlfriend Becca.

The 10 (!) of them pose for a photograph and you just know it’s gonna be one of those 'last time we were all together' photos.


HIDE IN THE LIGHT

Later, after breaking into the orphanage, they organise themselves with their walkie-talkies, torches and recording equipment. It seems this is more of a guerrilla outfit rather than your professional investigation scenario; though it is never actually explained to the audience what their purpose or ultimate goal is in going inside the orphanage. One of the more loved up characters even talks about how it is similar to one of those ghost hunters shows (which is originally what I thought they were, but I guess not) and he then switches gears and starts speaking in one of the most appalling Australian accents I’ve ever heard in an attempt to impersonate The Crocodile Hunter himself - a rather feeble stab at humour that only serves to draw attention to the confusion inherent in the plot. His girlfriend is the stereotypical little woman in this movie, as she is treated in the traditional “your cooking sucks,” but “you’re pretty hot baby” sort of way.

There are far too many characters for any sort of characterisation to stick and only one or two stand out. Katie is as bland as bland can be but apparently has some sort of torrid ‘are we friends or are we more’ situation going with one of the guys. Her brother has some impact and is allowed to develop throughout the film as more than just ‘the one who proposed to his girlfriend.’ There are also two guys who act like buffoons and are the comic relief, but are also possibly in a secret relationship, though that’s never really fully established either.

One of them, Tiffany, gets trapped in a room with a little girl who turns out to be our old friend Amanda Peterson, who it seems has been haunting the orphanage. Tiffany’s escalating panic seems out of context with what’s happening but after her hysterical walkie talkie SOS they split into two groups; one goes to help her while the remaining people read about '60s Amanda from a report they conveniently found.

The rescuers appear just a little too late and Tiffany seemingly jumps into the shadows and disappears into a monster grunt, and it's actually quite humorous, though I’m assuming is meant to appear chilling.


HIDE IN THE LIGHT

Luckily they find a diary and practically the first entry they read explains how the malevolence exists in the dark and so light is the best defence - handy!

A beardy friend gets dragged into the darkness straight after predictably saying, “See guys nothing to be scared of!”

Someone else loses fingers in a convincing scene and hey, at least now I have a new way of discerning characters.

Someone else dies shortly after someone says, “we should be safe here”; it’s almost as if these people like setting themselves up for death.

Katie finds a cassette tape labelled ‘Exorcism 6.6.66’ and of course it’s Amanda’s exorcism.

It seems they are being pursued by both Amanda’s ghost and the demon that used to live in her – her ‘friend’ from the ‘60s who was also not a fan of light.

The motion sensor camera scene is an effectively creepy idea but I don’t understand why the light from the flash isn't enough to keep the demon away, and I don’t really understand the point of it when they stand there and watch it the whole time.

When the characters turn on Katie, it’s not really clear why they’re blaming her; they went there willingly and seemed to think it was fun until people started dying.

The ending, when it comes, is melodramatic and a little silly.


HIDE IN THE LIGHT

Writer/director Michael McGregor needs to learn that sometimes less is more; less characters but well defined ones, less villains but more effective ones, and you don’t need to show ‘The little girl’ in order for her to be creepy - in fact it’s scarier to not really see her at all (especially when she’s played by such a cheery looking child).

The cinematography and use of the singular set are well done; the most effective scene plays out in almost complete darkness for a few minutes before borrowing liberally from Rec - but at least it works.

Casting is also an issue with the main group as the women all seem to have the same haircut and wear basic clothes. With little to differentiate each one, in the dark it’s easy to see them as generic. The men are mainly discernable by facial hair. It was easy to see a character die and realise I hadn’t even caught their name.

As a lead character, Katie comes across as passive aggressive, sulky and entitled - not exactly a winning combination. However her brother Todd is the most resonant character, with actor Jesse James displaying an enviable ease onscreen.

Featuring elements of Lights OutRec and Session 9, but failing to live up to their quality, Hide in the Light is ultimately as flat and unsatisfying as its finale.





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