Hideaway (1995)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Cast: Jeremy Sisto, Alicia Silverstone, Jeff Goldblum, Rae Dawn Chong, Christine Lahti, Alfred Molina
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scene, Making-of Featurette, Talent Files

Unlike Stephen King, best-selling horror-supsense novelist Dean R. Koontz hasn’t been very fortunate when it comes to film adaptations of his books. The movies have either been total trash such as "Phantoms" (Koontz’s best novel) and the abyssmal "Watchers" (Koontz second-best novel) or stories that didn’t translate well to the screen, such as "Whispers". Ironically, the best Dean Koontz "movie" was the TV mini-series "Intensity". Somewhere in the middle of all of this lies "Hideaway". This 1995 film is better than most of the other Koontz adaptations, but runs into some trouble as it tries to bring the novel to the screen. "Hideaway" has recently premiered on DVD through Columbia TriStar Home Video.

"Hideaway" opens by introducing us to the Harrison family. There’s Hatch (Jeff Goldblum) and Lindsey (Christine Lahti), the parents, and Regina (Alicia Silverstone), their teenage daughter. While traveling from their summer home, the Harrisons are in an auto accident and Hatch is killed. Miraculously, Hatch is revived by Dr. Nybern, a leader in the resuscitation field. However, all is not well. Hatch has returned to the land of the living with a strange new power. He is psychically linked with a serial killer. As the murderer stalks his young, female victims, Hatch watches helplessly through the killer’s eyes. To make matters worse, the killer learns of his link with Hatch and sets his sights on Regina. Neither Lindsey nor the police believe Hatch’s incredible story, so he decides that he must stop the killer on his own. Hatch has seen the killer’s lair in his visions and knows that he must stalk the killer there before Regina is injured. But, is Hatch prepared for the secrets, which will be revealed once he confronts the killer?

"Hideaway" is very loosely adapted on Koontz’s best-selling novel. To give you an example of what I mean by "very loosely", the character of Regina, portrayed by the healthy Alicia Silverstone in the film, is a 10-year old girl with a disabled leg in the novel. Now that’s an adaptation! However, screenwriters Neal Jimenez ("River’s Edge") and Andrew Kevin Walker (here doing a pre"Se7en" script) have done a fairly good job of bringing the novel to the screen. They’ve captured the central story of Hatch’s battle against first, the visions and then the murderer. The novel did contain a great deal of internal dialogue from the killer, so here, he seems quite distant and vague. And some of the script doesn’t gel. At one point in the film, spiritualist Rose (Rae Dawn Chong) gives Hatch some cryptic advice and we’re never quite sure what she meant. Kudos must go to the screenwriters and director Brett Leonard ("The Lawnmower Man") for attempting to take the unfilmable ending straight from the novel. It’s just as confusing on screen as it is in the book, but it sure is pretty.

Speaking of pretty, director Leonard obviously learned a great deal about computer effects from "The Lawnmower Man" as they are used quite well in "Hideaway". Once Hatch is dead, Leonard uses these effects to offer a unique and unnerving view of the "other side". As noted, these effects are also used to enhance the finale. Also, Hatch’s vision involve some morphing effects that were novel at the time. Despite the holes in the script, Leonard always keeps things moving along at a nice pace and the film never gets boring.

Jeff Goldblum has been accused of being wooden at times, but he’s very animated here as the distraught Hatch. In fact, Goldblum is acting his ass off in many of the scenes in the last third of the film. The always delightful Christine Lahti is very good as the supportive, yet apprehensive Lindsey. Jeremy Sisto ("Clueless", "Jesus") has the right look for the serial killer, but comes across as a bit aloof. Alicia Silverstone doesn’t ruin the film… that’s all that I have to say about that.

Considering that most film fans would consider "Hideaway" a mediocre catalog title, Columbia TriStar Home Video has done a nice job with this DVD. The film is presented in an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> and is <$PS,letterboxed> at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This transfer looks very good, as the image is very sharp and clear. There is only a slight amount of graininess visible and this is mostly during the daytime shots. The image is nicely framed and there is no obvious information loss. Much of the action takes place at night and these scenes look very good, as the true blacks offer an additional depth to the picture. Only the occasional defect in the source print is evident. Also, the image features no artifacting blemishes or compression problems.

The audio on "Hideaway" is full of surprises. The <$DD,Dolby Digital> <$5.1,5.1 mix> offers some fantastic surround sound with an excellent sound field. Note the surround sound during the car crash in Chapter 3. As the car spins around on screen, the sound of the screeching tires moves around the room, passing clearly through the rear speakers. Very nice. Also, the dialogue is clear and is never overpowered by the sound effects or music. Speaking of music, one of the reasons that I wanted to view this DVD was remembering the pulsating Industrial soundtrack from my theatrical viewing. The music on the DVD is strangely mixed. During the club scene in Chapter 11, the music is rather muffled and distant sounding, instead of being an integral part of the scene. In addition, some of the music seems to have been changed for this video release.

The "Hideaway" DVD brings us an <$commentary,audio commentary> from director Brett Leonard. This is a fun and engaging commentary, as the energetic Leonard speaks throughout the film. He does a good job of balancing his talk, focusing on the story, the actors, the special effects, and the "making-of" anecdotes. This commentary is both informative and engrossing. Another impressive special feature is the alternate ending. As opposed to being a different finale to "Hideaway", this is actually an epilogue that ties up some loose ends from the film. I rather liked it and can’t help but wonder why it was cut.

The DVD also brings us a short "making-of" featurette for the film. This five minute segment offers sound-bites from the principal actors and director Leonard, but with many shorts of this ilk, is made up primarily with scenes from the film. Finally, there are talent files, which offers brief bios and filmographies. Strangely, there’s no trailer on the DVD.

While the movie "Hideaway" can’t live up to its source novel, it’s still a pretty solid thriller. The film is well-acted, and director Brett Leonard gives the film a great look and feel. The DVD of "Hideaway" brings us a nice transfer of the film which offers superior surround sound. "Hideaway" may not be "The Silence of the Lambs", but you could do much worse in the serial killer genre. Now, if only someone would do a good adaptation of Koontz’s "Midnight" or "Strangers".