The new, heavily-advertised horror movie 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) from J.J. Abrams is marketed with the tag line “Monsters come in many forms.”
But that is not, strictly-speaking, true.
Or more accurately these rules have a meaning beyond a surface reading, beyond our (limited) knowledge of the situation. One of the great virtues of Hidden is the way that we come to parse these rules in a new and different way by movie’s end.
Ray’s admonition that “we are not animals,” plays in two ways too, and speaks to the spark of greatness in all human beings, even ones in this family’s dire situation.
And this parallel or double-meaning is not coincidence. Rather, it’s a result of careful planning and good writing. Consider, for example, Ray’s words to his wife, in the film’s first act, about their situation. “Try changing your point of view,” he says. “The shelter can be a prison or a home. This is our life now and we have to live it the best we can.”
Again, we register that advice in a certain way, because of our individual perceptual sets, the invisible luggage or selective exposure that defines us as people and which we carry around day-to-day. As Hidden reaches its third act -- and its humdinger of a twist -- the scales will fall from your eyes. Your point of view, as Ray suggests, will be altered rather dramatically.
Hidden is thus a clever (and scary) horror film because it asks audiences to be smart, to consider the central situation in at least two different lights. One light is about family, and the bonds of family. For instance, Claire and Ray have made a pact that they live by: their daughter always comes first.
And then, in the second light the film asks the audience to consider another context, and one that contradicts powerfully the first.
I don’t want to say more, but the film is about the monsters that threaten the family, and simultaneously, the “outsiders” that society often deems monsters.
Right now, in the national dialogue we have candidates with very loud megaphones telling us that immigrants are monsters (murderers, rapists and drug dealers), and that all Muslims are monsters too (terrorists). These remarks encourage fear and more importantly, stereotyping. We fail to see the people stereotyped as “monsters” as individuals. We see them as a menacing horde, not as people.
In a very powerful sense, this is exactly the concept that Hidden concerns (though the film was shot in 2012).
Hidden is no mere polemic, however. It is an affecting story about the bonds of family. Claire is capable and tough…perhaps too tough, especially with her daughter.
And Ray is a dreamer, a gentle man who care-takes his daughter’s emotions. He is named perfectly, the only ray of sunshine in his daughter’s life.
Both parents most summon atypical characteristics to stay true to their pact. Ray must fight hard (and indeed viciously), a trait that Claire demonstrates when she uses a wrench to dispatch the rat. And Claire must summon the hope -- so characteristic of her husband -- to endure the family’s survival and assure that Zoey remains intact spiritually as well as physically.
The film’s action scenes, though small, garner real terror and add to the film’s leitmotif. The action set-pieces involve, respectively, a rat and two deer. These interlopers are as important for what they “aren’t” as what they are, and reiterate the idea that “monsters” take different shapes.
To say any more about these facets of the movie would be to ruin much of Hidden’s visceral impact, and I wouldn’t want to do that to you.
Finally, If you aren’t sure if you want to see a low-budget horror movie with just three characters hiding in one primary location (especially when 10 Cloverfield Lane is playing in theaters and offers a big-name option…), then I will leave you with Ray’s good advice:
“Try changing your point of view.”