Sense obscured in 'Hideaway'

March 04, 1995|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

"Hideaway" is a stupendously overactive horror thriller that only begins to work because of a stupendously underactive performance by Jeff Goldblum.

Has there every been a stranger movie presence than Goldblum? Huge, olive-skinned and almost eerily still, yet at the same time weirdly intense, he always rivets attention with his odd line readings, his endlessly draped body and his deadpan-screwball sense of humor. He seems not amused but bemused, usually a subversive delight who deflates rather than amplifies the meaning of the movie. He's the best thing in this one; in fact, he's the only thing, as the movie manages to totally waste the talents and distinguished reputations of Christine Lahti and Alfred Molina.

The film is built around one of those horror-novel conceits that make very little sense in the light of day. The original author here is Dean Koontz (though he's furiously disowned the movie) rather than Stephen King, so the first thing you notice is: It's not set in Maine. You don't have to listen to any rustics say "It's up the road a bit, ehhheaa?" Believe me, this is progress.

The conceit is that not only can souls touch in the land beyond death, one can hitchhike back to the bigtime on another. During a period of clinical death, in a cyberspace netherworld that looks like outtakes from a Japanese animated remake of "2001," Goldblum's squiggling animated ectoplasm somehow connects with the same from a deranged teen-age boy who has murdered his mother and sister and then committed suicide. Or something.

(It turns out the boy was not dead at the time of the contact, only autistic, which makes a hash out of the premise, but never mind.)

Somehow, restored to life, Goldblum has some neural connection with the kid, who has turned into a serial murderer of young women in grunge capital Seattle, Wash. In his dreams, and later in a waking state, Goldblum becomes a voyeur to the killings, which drives him nearly nuts.

At the same time, he understands that the boy is eventually meaning to zero in on his 14-year-old daughter, who, to makes things even worse, is his surviving child following the recent death of his still-younger daughter.

Lahti is wasted. She runs around shrieking "Oh Hatch!" and it took me a while to figure out that it wasn't a "cute" substitute for a swear word but in fact Goldblum's character's name.

Goldblum, when he's not counteracting with his trademark languor the artificial hysteria that accounts for nearly all of Brett Leonard's directorial style, becomes something like a detective of his own mind, tracking down the boy to a rousing climax that makes no sense whatsoever and seems to belong to another movie.

I didn't believe a second of it; but throughout, the movie grips and Goldblum pleases.

'Hideaway'

Starring Jeff Goldblum, Christine Lahti and Alfred Molina

Directed by Brett Leonard

Released by TriStar

Rated R

**

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