It's a funny thing, but the afterlife in Brett Leonard's Hideaway looks exactly the same as cyberspace did in his previous film, The Lawnmower Man (1992).
The same rapidly cascading tunnels; the same souped-up, computer-enhanced colours; the same drama of "spirit beings" slamming up against mysteriously barred gateways to the Infinite.
Also continued from Lawnmower Man is a basic dramatic premise: the supernatural clash of two men, both of whom have tasted an experience known to few mere mortals. Both family man Hatch (Jeff Goldblum) and crazed serial killer Vassago (Jeremy Sisto) have faced death and then returned to the world of the living – beneficiaries of a special "resuscitation" process practiced by a shifty Dr Jonas (Alfred Molina).
Hideaway is one of the many movies nowadays designed to unspool in theatres only briefly en route to its true and fitting destination: the video shop. Videophiles will perhaps enjoy the labour of sussing out all the different films which this one pillages, combines and lightly transforms.
It has the familiar kinetic style – strobe lighting cut to blaring heavy metal music – of The Crow (1994). It exploits, in a completely lurid and pointless way, the serial killer sensationalism of Natural Born Killers (1994). It drags in the hoariest cliché of the modern thriller: the spooky symbiosis of good and bad guys, rarely reinvigorated since William Friedkin perfected it in Cruising (1980). For a while, it even flags a Gothic father-daughter theme straight out of Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992).
And, most ridiculously of all, Leonard once again shows his fondness for a last-minute introduction of flamboyant, Good vs. Evil, Christian symbolism – a trick which obviously impressed him in David Cronenberg's brilliant and much-copied Scanners (1981). What the distinguished, innovative writer Neal Jimenez (River's Edge, 1986) added to this abysmal mish-mash is anyone's guess.
I am not damning Hideaway purely for being schlock – i.e., for having cardboard characters, an unsubtly expressionistic style and a less than realistic plot. I am damning it for being poor schlock.
However, this film did afford me one very valuable lesson in cultural theory. From now on, whenever someone asks me what postmodernism is, I will simply reply: Jeff Goldblum.
His acting style is – to put it politely – goofy to the nth degree. It is apparently impossible for Goldblum to behave straight in any dramatic frame – even one as cartoonish as this mystery-horror-thriller.
With his bizarre performance-art gestures, twinkling eyes, barely submerged smirk and curve-ball ad lib lines, Goldblum gives every indication that he has already passed over into a cryptic, ironic dimension where no one can ever follow.
© Adrian Martin August 1995