By MICHAEL GINGOLD
As RUE MORGUE’s day on the set of HIDE AND SEEK (see the first part of our report here) continues, the situation before the cameras goes from spooky to stabby. One of the movie’s main characters–since this is part of the final act, we won’t give away who, and it’s not necessarily the one pictured above–has discovered something unnerving behind a hole in an apartment wall. As they peer into the darkness beyond it, someone behind the wall jabs a sharpened metal pipe through it, spearing them and drawing blood. Even as it’s being captured in a series of brief shots by writer/director Joel David Moore and his team, it’s still kinda painful to watch on the video monitor.
This is one of the more overt moments of violence in HIDE AND SEEK (now in select theaters and on VOD/digital platforms from Saban Films), which is first and foremost concerned with psychological disturbance. A remake of the hit 2013 South Korean film of the same name, written and directed by Huh Jung, it focuses on Noah Blackwell (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), part of a family of highly successful real estate developers who has a recently deceased father and a missing, estranged brother named Jacob. When Noah has to track Jacob down, his quest leads him to a far less well-off part of New York City, and results in the opening of some old psychic wounds.
“Noah was sort of the perfect kid, but he always knew that he was playing that role for his father,” Rhys Meyers says during a more recent phone interview. “You know, when you have two kids in a family, and one goes the wrong way while the other one always does everything right, just to make sure they curry favor–that’s Noah’s character, whether he feels that way or not. But he holds a lot of guilt, because he’s lived in this gilded cage in comparison to his brother. So from my point of view, it was like, how could I tune all this Irish Catholic guilt I have into playing this role?”
Though unfamiliar with Huh’s HIDE AND SEEK when he first got involved with the redux, Rhys Meyers subsequently gave it a look, and notes, “The Korean film did not have much dialogue; it was very much about the atmosphere more than anything else. The American version has more dialogue in it. The Korean film is a very unconventional but terrifying film, so we wanted to keep the fear, but we also knew that we had to add some layers for the American audience. I think we still keep the essence of the original, though.”
One key difference between the HIDE AND SEEKs is the multiculturalism of the casting in the new film, reflecting the NYC setting. When Noah ventures away from the expensive apartment where he and his wife Samantha (Jacinda Barrett) and their kids live, above the high-priced hotel his family owns, he winds up in a decaying Queens tenement where the residents–including African-American landlord Frankie (Mustafa Shakir) and single mother Soo-mi (Sue Jean Kim) have created their own community in the absence of any outside support. Having many different faces on screen was key to Moore in conceiving his take on the material.
“This was a part of the storytelling that I was a little sensitive about,” he acknowledges. “I recognize who I am, but I also recognize that I have a platform to tell stories on, and I want to tell them about a lot of different cultures, a lot of different races. So while HIDE AND SEEK is centered on a white family, when we go into the boroughs, there are a lot of diverse faces in the crowd. I wanted to explore a multicultural urban setting and the people who live there, like the old Russian woman whom one of the characters is helping out. She’s been through wars and all these things, and she’s been put in this place that has become her home, and now she’s getting booted out. Where’s she’s going to go? What other place can she go to after this?
“These are the little pieces of story that come up along the way,” he continues. “Living in New York myself, I had heard these stories, I’d been to these neighborhoods. I lived in Brooklyn, I lived in DUMBO, and they both have become very gentrified over the last 10 years or so. And I’ve heard a lot, good and bad, about how it changed the lives of the people who had lived there with their families for a very long time. So part of the film is about a charming little area that didn’t get the government or state support that it needed, and now somebody just comes and sweeps it away and says, ‘Fuck you, whoever lives here, you can just be on your own.’ ”
Indeed, New York City real estate has become so sought-after that the HIDE AND SEEK team couldn’t find a place to shoot the Queens apartment in the five boroughs. Instead, those interiors were constructed within a mansion in Yonkers, NY, just north of the city. “The shoot in Yonkers was a lot of fun,” Rhys Meyers says. “I was trying to figure out who came up with the name ‘Yonkers’!” Some of the exterior shoots took the actor to odd corners of NYC, and he adds, “You know, when you’re an actor, you work in some of the greatest cities in the world, but you end up shooting in the weirdest parts of them. I’ve been to some of the most magnificent cities, but doing my scenes in a car park behind a supermarket. It’s a commonality when you make films.”
The Yonkers part of the HIDE AND SEEK filming also required Rhys Meyers to get into some rough-and-tumble, as some of the Queens building’s residents don’t take kindly to Noah’s visit. “I actually don’t like doing all that physical stuff,” he says, “but it’s necessary when you’re making a film like this, so I just kind of roll with it. I do dread those days when I see them on the call sheet, because I know I’m going to end up, at the end of the day, with bruises everywhere. Because it’s usually me getting the shit kicked out of me somehow!”