Hidden In Plain Sight – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: A woman fakes her death to get away from her abusive ex-boyfriend. She moves to a small town with her young son in an attempt to disappear. Her ex-boyfriend believes she is still alive and searches for her.

Is it any good?: Hidden In Plain Sight is made-for-television nonsense and Sleeping With The Enemy lite. The acting is uneven, the script plodding and dull and the music is louder than the dialogue much of the time. Told with intermittent flashbacks, Hidden In Plain Sight is a drag of a film and a chore to watch whilst one struggles to hear the dialogue.

Spoiler territory: Katie (Victoria Barabas) is frightened, running through the woods. She is being chased by Nick (Gino Anthony Pesi). Katie is carrying an axe. Nick is close and Katie trips – of course, she does – and drops the axe. Nick gratefully picks up the axe. Katie cowers as Nick swings the axe.

A week earlier, Katie, who has changed her name to Anna, is working in a restaurant/eatery as a waitress. Her shift is about to end and she is chatting with her friend, Chloe (Jessica Meraz), who works with her. Looking forward to leaving, Anna’s joy is short-lived as a handsome stranger comes into the restaurant and sits down.

Anna approaches him, handing him a menu. The man, Lucas (Jake Allyn), tells her he recognises her from the gym. Anna, not wanting to engage in small talk, shut him down. Undeterred, Lucas asks her out because…it’s in the script. She turns him down. Surprise.

Later, Anna is out with Chloe, Chloe’s boyfriend, Leon (Jerod Meagher), Leon’s daughter, Kayla – not good enough for a credit -, and her son, Danny (Jack Fisher). They are all at the bowling alley. As Leon and the kids’ bowl, the two women ignore the Bechdel test with Chloe asking about Lucas and why Anna didn’t drop her panties for him as he was cute.

Anna points out that Danny is her priority. Chloe asks if she even wants a boyfriend as though it was the most important thing in life. What about sex? Anna tells her that perhaps she should go out with him. Chloe points out she has a boyfriend.

The next day, as Anna is preparing for work and going to drop Danny to school, she finds the boy a little melancholy. Kayla thought it strange that Danny didn’t have a father. His mother works at a restaurant, so he is not homeschooled. Had he not noticed that most of the other kids at school had fathers? Anyhoo, dopey Danny laments about this to his mother.

Anna tells him that his father is in the military and that he is on a secret mission which is why he never calls. Why she didn’t just tell him he was dead was anybody’s guess but she goes with the ‘secret agent’ story. She tells dimwitted Danny that she has a complex relationship with his father. He asks her if she misses him. She tells him no but she misses the life she had before she met him. That life was also pre-dummy Danny, so how to lowkey destroy your child psychologically.

Eight years earlier, pre-Anna is Katie and working in at an art gallery. She is still serving but has a bad fringe, a nice dress and better make-up. She puts one glass of champagne on a tray and is instantly attracted by the back of a man’s head across the room. It is Nick. He is standing looking at an abstract painting. He notices her and gives her an ‘approach me’ stare. It works because she immediately makes a beeline for him with the singular flute of champagne.

Katie asks him if he likes the painting. He does. She explains that she is only an assistant but she can introduce him to the gallery owner. He tells her that he would like her opinion on the painting. She tells him about the artist’s journey and how it is inspirational. Nick doesn’t care. He’s just being smooth. He asks for her help in picking a painting.

He buys a painting, on Katie’s advice. Which she brings out to him. She asks him where he plans to hang it. He tells her that he needs help with that as well and that gentleman is how you get a lady to come back to yours.

Back in Anna land, she drops Danny the dunce at school and gives her mother, Evelyn (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) a call. Evelyn notes that she has changed her number again. Anna says she is just being careful. Evelyn asks how Danny the dolt is, Anna mentions that he asked about his father. She tells her that she told him he was in the military. Evelyn warns that he will figure out that she is lying. She obviously has never met the genius that is Danny.

Evelyn asks when she is going to meet Danny – told you she hadn’t met him – Anna says she does not know. She has sent her a package with a new photo of dung-brain Danny. Evelyn goes to the post office box to pick up the package. She is seen by Nick who follows her. When she stops at a coffee shop, Nick surprises her by paying for her coffee.

The two talk about Katie/Anna. Nick apologises for not attending her memorial. He tells her he is engaged to be married but sometimes has a fantasy that Katie/Anna was still alive and she faked her death because she was such a clever woman. These people’s notion of cleverness is very narrow. Evelyn leaves the coffee shop. Nick scowls because he is the bad guy.

At work, Leon comes to see Chloe. Anna gets a call from her mother. Evelyn chats a lot of bollocks about missing her and wanting to drive down to see her. She casually mentions she ran into Nick. She thinks he has changed. The fact that her daughter felt the need to fake her death and change her identity and use burner phones completely forgotten.

Anna, not quite as dumb as her mother and child, wants to know what he said. Evelyn tells her that he is engaged to be married and seems changed. Anna does not buy it. She is sure that Nick must have followed her. She tells her that is why she never gave her her address – she knows her mother is as stupid as her son – it was also why she drove to the adjacent town to post her packages.

Anna remembers back when she was Katie, she was out to dinner with Nick. He always paid for the dinner with large bills, something she found amusing – I suppose different people get their giggles in different ways. She tells him she is not used to the high life. She asks him what he does for a living. He tells her he gives loans to people who get rejected by banks. A loan shark? No, it’s connected to real estate.

That’s good enough for bad fringe Katie. Nick changes the subject. He has got her a gift. He gives her a pair of diamond earrings. Katie is overwhelmed by the gift. It is too expensive. She gives them back to him. How rude! Katie feels the gift would make her somewhat obligated to him. She is only in her mid-twenties – hahahahahaha – and still wants to figure her life out.

Back at Nick’s place, they make love and Katie falls asleep. Nick is in the bathroom when a masked man (Rocky Abou-Sakher) comes and attacks Katie in the bed. He wants money. She screams for Nick. He comes and tackles the intruder, overwhelming him and strangling him with the cord of a hairdryer. Katie wants to call the police. Nick tells her not to.

Katie wants to know why she cannot call the police. Nick tells her he does not want to go back to prison. He tells her to get dressed and leave. He warns her not to tell anybody about what happened.

Nick shows up at Evelyn’s house. He sees a picture of Danny on Evelyn’s fridge. She tries to tell him that it is her godson. Nick is not a moron and does not believe her. The boy reminds him of himself as a boy. He asks Evelyn where his son is. She feigns ignorance even though she has already told him the boy’s name and age. Nick, proving what a cad he is, grabs her arm, looming over her.

Evelyn folds like a cheap deckchair vindicating her daughter’s decision not to trust her with her address and gives up the fact that she is somewhere up north. Nick takes the envelope with the photos.

At the restaurant, Lucas has returned, not at all deterred by his first encounter with Anna, to ask her out. Chloe, who is team Lucas even though she barely knows the man, volunteers to babysit the chosen child Danny, so as Lucas can go out Anna. A happy Anna leaves work to go and pick up Danny, the best kid ever, from school. She gets a call from her mother. She was right, Nick was following her.

She tells Anna that he took the envelope so knows the general area she lives in. Remembering another conversation when she was Katie, she had been confronted by Nick after ghosting him after the intruder incident. She does not want to see him anymore. He lied to her – he didn’t but okay – is he a gangster? She tells him they should not see one another anymore. Nick does not accept that.

Katie, who before her name change and fringe removal showed all the intelligence of a mop, threatens to go to the police. Nick tells her that he will destroy her life if she does and shows her a picture of her mother to prove it.

Back in the present, the wise one Danny has just got into the car. Anna asks him if he thinks he would like to move again. He immediately throws a strop. He won at dodgeball for the first time in his eight years on the planet and now she wants to move?! No. Back at home, Chloe turns up just after they get in.

Anna does not want to go out anymore and tells Chloe about her bad relationship with Nick. Chloe persuades her to go on the date with Lucas because – and he really should be paying her some sort of a commission – he is a good guy. She goes on the date. The date goes well even though Anna is evasive about lightbulb Danny’s father.

Do-it-all Danny is telling Chloe that he wants to meet his father. She tells him she never met hers until she was a teenager. A man is sneaking around outside the house. Chloe sends Danny do-good to his room and goes and investigates, kitchen knife at the ready. It turns out to be Leon. He had come to see her because she had not been returning his calls. He apologises for his flirtatiousness.

Later, Anna returns home. She and Chloe discuss how Anna will have to tell the later focused intellect that is Danny about what is going on. Chloe leaves and Anna goes to look in on her sleeping son. She remembers her distress at learning that she was pregnant. She disclosed her unwanted pregnancy news to Grace (Cherion Drakes), who worked at the gallery with her. She did not know what she was going to do to keep the news from Nick.

Grace tells her that she can get a new identity from Sergey (Bogdan Yesinski). Why Sergey would have told that he had a false identity is anyone’s guess but she tells Katie. Katie goes to see Sergey, a very gruff and taciturn Russian who seems to use watchmaking tools to forge documents. He needs her new name. Under duress, she comes up with the imaginative Anna Jones. Sergey makes the new documents.

The next day, a nervous Anna thinks she sees Nick coming into the restaurant. She picks up brainiac Danny from school after her shift. She is skittish for the rest of the day. The next day, Anna is late leaving to pick up Danny with the lightning mind. She gets to her car and finds she has a puncture. She calls the school to inform them she is running late.

Nick goes and finds he who cannot be fooled Danny waiting alone outside of the school. He tells him that he is his father. Danny the cerebellum, gets into the car. Chloe and Leon see Anna struggling to change her tyre. Leon offers to change it for her. Meanwhile, Nick, who is slicker than a snake oil salesman, bamboozles the mighty mind of Danny by buying him fast food.

Tyre changed, Anna screeches up to the school. Her son is gone. She still searches for him, banging on doors and accosting strangers as to his whereabouts. Nick takes his boy to a sketchy motel. The reception is an ornery old woman, Maggie (Eve Sigall). Nick deflects her inquiries about sharp Danny’s mother.

Anna returns home. She goes and hugs the Danny to rule them all pillow, crying. She doesn’t call the police. She gets a call from Nick. She threatens to call the police. A threat that has no effect whatsoever on Nick. Einstein Danny is allowed to speak with Anna. He doesn’t want to stay in the motel. He hasn’t got his toothbrush. Nick ends the call. He lays down the law to Danny, future Nobel Prize winner.

Anna gets a call from Lucas. Hearing she is in distress, he rushes over. They’ve been out twice. Anna tells him about her past and how she faked her death. She jumped off a bridge. Right. Lucas says that perhaps Nick just wants to get to know his son. Anna tells him that he is a dangerous criminal and was connected to a lot of murders but they could not make any of them stick.

Why that would preclude him from wanting to get to know his son I don’t know. Lucas persuades her to go to the police. She goes to report her son missing but decides against it at the last moment. She realises that her criminal record – fraud and credit card debt, plus faking her death – would probably get her in trouble. She returns home.

Danny – he actually does something intelligent – sneaks out of the motel room. He goes to Maggie at the front desk and calls his mother. Nick wakes up and realises he has gone and begins searching for him. Maggie gives Anna the address of the motel. Nick searches for Danny. Maggie does not help him but he realises that Danny was at the reception because his backpack is there.

Nick tries to threaten Maggie but she warns him she will call the police. He leaves and goes and bribes the housekeeper so as he can search the rooms. Anna and Lucas go to drive to the motel. Anna gets another call from Danny and wastes time talking to him. Nick is outside of the room Danny is hiding in. He goes into the room next door.

Anna and Lucas are racing to the motel. Danny escapes the room and hides by a vending machine. Anna arrives and they get Danny. Nick sees the car and runs after it but is stopped by Maggie pointing a shotgun at him. He disarms her easily and goes and gets his car. He goes after Anna.

Back at home, Anna tells Lucas that she is leaving. She tells Danny to get in the car but Nick arrives and blocks her car in. Anna tells Danny to go back into the house. In the house, she tells him to go to his bedroom and lock the door. She goes back outside and eyeballs Nick so that he chases her. She grabs an axe. It is the scene from the opening of the film. After she has fallen over and Nick is about to kill her with the axe because she is thought to be dead by the wider world, Lucas – yay! – dives in to save the day.

Lucas and Nick scuffle and Lucas goes to pull out a gun but Nick pushes him into a tree and he falls unconscious, dropping the gun. Nick picks up the axe to kill Lucas but Anna picks up the gun. Nick turns to face her. He tells her that she is too good a person to shoot him. She shoots him in the chest. She shoots him again on the ground to make sure he is dead.

An unspecified time later, with no consequences for the murder, Anna goes to see her mother and introduces her to her grandson and Lucas. They all go to eat. The end.

Final thoughts: Hidden in Plain Sight is rubbish. The story is lazy and poorly written, the script bollocks and the suspense non-existent. The acting is okay, especially given the material they had to work with but even by mad-for-television standards, this film is bad. Written by Jed Seidel and directed by Stacia Crawford, Hidden in Plain Sight is eighty-seven minutes of nonsense.

It is not unwatchable but you might have to watch it with subtitles as the standard made-for-television, atmospheric music, is cranked up to eleven, making some of the dialogue difficult to hear. There are a few nice directorial touches from Crawford but not enough to save this turd. Avoid.

Surrounded – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: Paige Lewis, a video blogger, invites her sister, Lindsay, to join her adventure-seeking group on a dive near a remote rock in the ocean. Not wanting to be stopped by any authority, Paige enlists the help of a dubious pilot to take the group out. The plane they are on crashes into shark-infested waters. As a group of sharks picks them off one by one, only Lindsay is left to try and survive the ordeal.

Is it any good?: Surrounded—Also known as Frenzy—is staggeringly bad. It is the kind of awful that I will reference, in future reviews, as a benchmark for wretched, unoriginal, poorly thought out, nonsense. Graham Winter, who scrawled this crap on a milk carton I’m guessing, should never be allowed to write anything ever again. Ever. Just awful.

Spoiler territory: Having invited her sister, Lindsey (Aubrey Reynolds) to join her group sometime before, Paige Lewis (Gina Vitori), a video blogger, finds that her viewership is drawn to her sister’s relationship with one of the group, Seb (Taylor Jorgensen). Paige decides to focus the expedition, at Seb’s behest, on Lindsay.

Paige’s crew, Seb, Lindsey, Kahaia (Lanett Tachel) and Evan (Michael New) are going on another expedition off the coast of a privately owned island. The pilot, Javier (Pope Bustos) cautions Paige, telling her that the waters around the island are restricted for a reason.

Paige laughs it off, paying him extra to switch off the plane’s transponder, so as nobody can track them. Paige tells Kahaia, who, being a long-time cohort of Paige, is excited by the clandestine nature of the venture. Lindsey, hearing the transponder’s off, questions the safety of such a decision. Kahaia tells her not to worry.

Seb tries to reassure Lindsey about the upcoming dive, telling her they have been planning the expedition for months. Kahaia mentions to Evan that Lindsey is likely to be sticking around now that she is with Seb. Evan agrees. They all get on the plane.

On the plane, Paige makes a short video boasting about the group going to dive in a protected sanctuary. The plane bucks. They can see the cove they are heading to, it is about half a mile away. Javier tells them he is going to take the plane down. Evan excitedly points out that he can see sharks.

The plane bucks some more. Paige tells everyone to hold tight. One of the wings comes off of the plane, and the door goes with it. Paige is sucked out of the plane. The plane hurtles toward the water, crashing and splintering into many pieces.

Lindsey surfaces from the wreckage looking and calling out to see if anyone else has survived. She sees a shark swimming around her. She remembers Paige asking her to join the group. Her reverie is interrupted by Kahaia calling her name. She tells her she saw a shark. Seb calls out to them and comes swimming over.

There’s something in the water? Yeah, us!

 

They spot a barely alive Javier. He tells them that they need to switch on the transponder in the plane’s tail. He also tells them that the cove has supplies for them to contact the mainland. Kahaia dives to find the plane’s tail. Lindsey tries to keep Javier conscious. Kahaia gets an inflatable life raft from the plane. Javier slips into unconsciousness and disappears into the ocean.

Lindsey and Kahaia get into the raft. Lindsey looks for Seb and sees him swim towards the cove. She calls out to him. He says he is swimming to the cove to get the supplies. Lindsey jumps into the water, swimming after him. She thinks they should all stay together in the raft. Seb tells her to go back to the raft. Kahaia spots three sharks swimming towards them.

Kahaia screams at them to get out of the water. Seb gets eaten by one of the sharks. Kahaia screams at Lindsey to get back to the raft. Lindsey starts to swim back to the raft. The three sharks are coming for Lindsey. She dips below them as they attack. She comes up and gets to the raft. The sharks circle the raft, bumping it intermittently.

Kahaia tells Lindsey that she was not meant to be in the group. She was only there as clickbait. She is not an adventurer. Kahaia tells her about surviving her second tour whilst in the army. The sharks attack the raft again, knocking the women out of the vessel.

Kahaia gets eaten and Lindsey gets back into the raft. She is all alone now. Lindsey recalls how much faith Seb always showed in her. She sees a boat but is unable to get its attention. She decides she needs to dive to the plane’s wreckage. She gets a flare but has to use it to scare the sharks when they try to attack her.

Back in the raft, she sees Evan hanging onto a piece of flotsam. She makes her way over to him. As she tries to pull him into the raft, she realises that he is dead, his lower body eaten away by the sharks. The sharks come and take the rest of him. A distraught Lindsey contemplates committing suicide but decides against it.

She makes a paddle and heads for the cove. The sharks are still after her. They puncture the raft. Lindsey paddles furiously for the cove. She jumps off of the raft and swims for the cove, reaching it as one of the shark’s surfaces.

On the cove, there is a small cupboard where she finds some water and a flare gun. She sends up a flare. A short time later, she sees Paige. She was around the other side of the cove on a piece of debris. She cannot swim to the platform as she has damaged her leg.

Well, this isn’t ideal…

 

After a bit of effort, Lindsey manages to get Paige onto the platform. Lindsey tells her that everyone else is dead. They see a boat and the captain (Russell Geoffrey Banks) radios them, saying that they are coming to help. Lindsey tells him that there are sharks in the water. The captain tells his mate. They are shark fishermen.

The captain’s mate falls into the water when one of the sharks hits their boat. As the captain reaches out to help him, the shark bites his arm off. The sharks eat both men. Lindsey remembers Paige asking her and Seb to pretend to break up so as to increase views. Seb refused.

Back in the present, the sharks circle the platform. They decide they have to kill the sharks. They kill one shark by tying a rope to a rock. Lindsey jumps into the water as bait and as the sharks get close, Paige pulls the rock down onto the closest shark killing it.

Lindsey wants to get the harpoon gun that the captain dropped into the water. Paige gets some more rocks to try and distract the remaining sharks whilst she is in the water. The sharks are initially fooled but quickly head towards Lindsey. Paige jumps into the water, stabbing at the sharks. She gets bitten on the other leg and Lindsey pulls her out.

A distraught and dying Paige confesses to always having been jealous of the attention that Lindsey received, and even trying to seduce Seb. He turned her down and was planning to propose to Lindsey on the trip. Paige dies.

Lindsey kills a second shark by burning it up with some flammable liquid and the flare gun. The last shark takes Paige’s corpse. Lindsey jumps into the water and swims to the captain’s now abandoned boat. The engine does not work.

She straps a small blade to an oxygen tank. The shark bites the engine off of the boat. Lindsey strikes the nozzle off of the tank, shooting it into the shark and killing it. She is found by the coastguard. Some months later she records a video as a homage to her sister and the group. The end.

Surrounded is really not a good film. Scoring a paltry three-point one on IMDB, it could be argued that the score flatters it. It says more about my taste in women than the quality of the performance that I kept watching just because of Aubrey Reynolds.

Whilst Reynolds is very attractive and lithe, on this showing one could not call her a great actor. Truth be told, except for Taylor Jorgensen, the acting is pretty ropey from all in attendance. That being said, Reynolds, possibly because she has the most screen time, has the most ‘actor-y’ performance, a lot of her performance seeming more directed than character-driven.

I am contradicting myself a little as, on a repeat viewing, Gina Vitori’s Paige was quite a good character. Still, there is too much acting going on. With the addition of really poor CGI, and reusing of the same sequences, Surrounded looks cheap and amateurish. Graham Winter’s script is woeful, causing the actors mostly to talk at one another as opposed to with one another.

We are beautiful adventurers!

 

For a group that supposedly spends their lives going on dives, they are all remarkably awful swimmers. Though I suspect looking like you are swimming is quite difficult when your feet can touch the bottom.

It is, of course, Spielberg’s fault that we have suffered so many shark inspired thrillers. It is not his fault that some are so bad. He literally created a blueprint for how to make a shark film.

Directed by Jose Montesinos, Surrounded moves along briskly enough through its eighty-five-minute runtime. As I alluded to earlier, there is a lot of scene repetition, especially when it came to the sharks approaching. Some of these scenes were obviously just to fill the runtime. The runtime would have been better served with a more organic approach to the script.

The editing, by Don Money, is actually quite good in the film, with some great flourishes between the present situation and Lindsey’s memories. The music, however, is awful and overdone, as is the way with made-for-television movies. Relentlessly foreboding and too loud, it does not allow tension to ebb or build.

Surrounded is a silly film, poorly executed. It will leave you slack-jawed with how bad it is. Avoid.