Terror trio 

A review of *Hide and Seek (R), White Noise (PG-13),Alone in the Dark (R)

click to enlarge Dakota Fanning in Hide and Seek, the best of the - February freak line-up.
  • Dakota Fanning in Hide and Seek, the best of the February freak line-up.

*Hide and Seek (R)
20th Century Fox

White Noise (PG-13)
Universal Pictures

Alone in the Dark (R)
Lions Gate Films

Horror films in February generally try to shock viewers out of their winter stupor by serving up some supernatural spine tingling. Among a slate of three horror flicks currently on screen, reviewed here from best to worst, only one hits the spot.

Hide and Seek is the sure bet. In a rented house in snowy and isolated upstate New York, David Callaway (Robert De Niro) hopes he can help his daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning) forget her mother's suicide. From the beginning, it's clear that both David and his daughter are running from something. The idyllic winter retreat soon becomes a madhouse when Emily begins destroying her dolls and talking to a seemingly imaginary friend named Charlie.

The strength of this film lies in its two lead actors. De Niro gives a believable portrayal of a befuddled widower and it's great to see him play something other than a smirking gangster. Fanning, who will turn 11 years old later this month, is phenomenal. Her electric eyes, expressive face and precocious bearing make her the perfect choice to play a girl who appears to be in the grip of schizophrenia.

Director John Polson does an admirable job with pacing, building the film's jolting twists and turns in a fashion similar to The Sixth Sense. If this movie has one fault, it's saving too much bang for the final scene. Nonetheless, this gripping movie is a great winter distraction.

White Noise attempts to blend our chrome-plated modern culture with the ghosts that lurk within technology. Jonathan Rivers (Michael Keaton) loses his wife in a bizarre auto accident and drowning. Unable to know the truth of his wife's death, Jonathan is contacted by a man who says he has a way to communicate with the dead.

At first he brushes the creepy man away. But as his despair grows, he seeks him out. The man introduces Jonathan to a method of tracking ghosts called electronic voice phenomenon, recording television snow and radio static and studying it for supernatural traces. Jonathan sends his son to stay with his ex-wife, stops going to work and begins spending every waking moment with his eyes glued to a snowy bank of television screens.

When his wife begins appearing on screen, giving him cryptic hints, he rushes to suggested locations and finds himself witnessing deaths.

Sufficiently scary in parts, White Noise nonetheless suffers from extremely slow pacing and a hurried finish. Watching this movie feels like being trapped in a serial killer's Walkman. But that doesn't make it a good horror film, as it lacks thrills along with its chills.

Finally, in brief, we come to Alone in the Dark. This pile of oafish crud could well be the worst movie released all year. It's not scary, not really a horror film, doesn't really have any plot, and is probably not even worth the plastic it's printed on. Washed-up star Christian Slater plays a hammy "paranormal investigator" on the trail of an ancient evil civilization. Tara Reid plays a palpably stupid blonde who, incredulously, is supposed to be an archaeologist and museum curator. When Alien-like creatures start tearing down the museum walls, a ridiculous army of black-clad government hot shots arrive to foul up any chance that this would ever be worth watching.

Hide and Seek and Alone in the Dark: Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

White Noise: Carmike 10, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

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