Hide And Seek thinks it's The Shining for the M Night Shyamalan generation. But where Mr Twisty has his own style and a born filmmaker's instinct for tension and release, Aussie helmer John Polson (Swimfan) is happy to knock off a grotesque tapestry of telegraphed, off-the-peg shocks nicked from other people's films: cat surprise, restless door-knob, ominous music-box, coldsweat flashbacks.
For all the sudden clangs and "Boo!"- shouting, however, the nastiest shock is the sight of a distinguished actor like Robert De Niro shedding what's left of his dignity to prop up this tawdry, insulting little film. It's disheartening to think that in two decades he's gone from the peerless eloquence of Raging Bull to raving bullshit like: "I'm a psychiatrist. I've already seen too much." As watchable and dignified as 10-yearold Dakota Fanning is in comparison as De Niro's troubled kid, she can only ever be the shining jewel in the middle of a big old turd. Famke Janssen, meanwhile, is entirely redundant as a patronising pop-psychologist ("It's not unusual for a traumatised child to create imaginary friends!"), and Elisabeth Shue moves far too quickly from non-threatening divorcee friend to kinky-booted temptress with a bike-park cleavage.
It all lumbers towards a risible `surprise' ending, but not before stinking the place out with red herrings so laughable they should be introduced with a whoopee cushion. Hasn't De Niro seen any horror movies? Doesn't he know that no good can possibly come from relocating to an old house by a spooky lake, near a town with a sinister, over-friendly sheriff and an estate agent who, judging by the beard and black clothes, is clearly Satan himself?
"We cordially request that you keep the plot twists a secret," implore the screening notes. They should have said: "We cordially suggest that 101 minutes is too precious a chunk of life to waste on this unscary, cynical old slop."
Future star Dakota Fanning has fun but you certainly won't. Rotten, lazy and depressing schlock that proves De Niro will do anything for a buck.