Video On Demand and other services reveal a wealth of film choices
If there’s anything to be said for the current state of film in the world, it’s that choice is finally beginning to reign supreme. At the multiplexes, often the same old films play—tired, obvious comedies, lackluster action films, uninspired children’s movies, and now, the occasional superhero extravaganza.
There are remakes, some worth seeing, others easily dismissed, a biopic here and there, but some weeks there is simply not much worth leaving the house for.
Chattanooga is lucky in the recent opening of the Cine-Rama, where quality films are now being shown on a regular basis in a venue located just downtown. Last week’s Train to Busan promised thrilling South Korea drama, a fresh take on the overexposed zombie genre for horror fans.
But then sometimes, life gets in the way of the best laid plans. This is where choice matters. Amazon Prime, Netflix, and YouTube offer a wide variety of choice for those that just can’t make it. Within the video-on-demand library rests an unknown treasure trove of films for those of us that want quality entertainment without the social interaction required in leaving the house.
One of these treasures is a film by the Duffer Brothers, of Stranger Things fame, called Hidden. Released to little acclaim in 2015, Hidden an exquisite and clever film that pleases anyone who is a fan of post-apocalyptic horror. If you can’t get out, Hidden is a great film about staying in.
Zoe (Emily Allen Lynd) has lived underground in a bunker for 300 days with her mother Claire (Andrea Riseborough) and father Ray (Alexander Skarsgard). The film hints at the catastrophe that forced them there, something about a virus, and about creatures that roam the world above known as breathers. Zoe fears them and dreams of a life that she lost so many days ago, but whenever she mentions her displeasure she is reminded of their rules: 1.) Never be loud. 2.) Never lose control. 3.) Never open the door. 4.) Never talk about the breathers. Much of this, it seems, is for their own safety.
As with Stranger Things, the Duffer Brothers know how to create striking visuals. None are as terrifying as the chains that hang from the hatch door. There must be something terrible above to require such a stalwart defense.
Much of the film follows their day to day routine. Ray spends most of his days sleeping as he stands guard at night. When he is awake, he playfully maintains his daughter’s sanity through homemade board games and imaginary trips. Claire teaches Zoe math and forces her to eat beans, acting as the stern disciplinarian to keep her wary of the dangers that lurk on the surface. But when a rat begins to steal food from their pantry, circumstances force them to visit the surface, inviting the beings they fear to threaten their existence.
Hidden plays the post-apocalyptic tune well, not straying much outside the norm until the very end, where it strikes a satisfying dissonant chord. It’s a tone that other films in the genre have thoroughly failed at, making Hidden all the more satisfying and complex.
Had the Duffer Brothers not so fully committed to the story and to the ending they built towards, they might have let the cat out of the bag too early, ruining the effect and thus crippling the movie. Instead, the Duffer Brothers trusted the audience to be enthralled enough by the well-acted and scripted, though somewhat boilerplate, bomb shelter drama to get them to the cleverly crafted denouement.
This isn’t to say there is some out-of-nowhere, M. Night Shyamalan twist at the end. Shyamalan films have sometimes relied so much on the twist that it forgot to tell an evocative story. Hidden does not.
VOD services are full of films like Hidden. Those that rely on major film releases for their entertainment are missing out on truly exceptional experiences. Like in the past, these films must be searched out, found via word of mouth or online forums.
Chattanooga is lucky in that we have an entire group dedicated to finding films like Hidden and showing them to audiences. They can’t show everything, however. It’s a big world out there. You never know when something great will pop up.