De Niro. He scares the jesus out of me more than Walken and Lugosi combined into one jesus-scaring zombie hybrid. On the surface, he's this cuddly bear of an old man. Underneath that surface, once you peel back his wrinkly skin, you'll find a den of malevolent, potential negative energy. He practically seethes throughout the entire film with anxious fear for his motherless child. It's the kind of fear that spreads through the audience like ebola through a crowded ward of hapless convulsives.
That aside, it's not De Niro that's the scariest in this film. It's the little girl. Or rather, the little girl under the influence of her imaginary friend. She has the 'vacant stare' dialled. And it gets progressively worse throughout the entire film. Dakota Fanning gets more sullen and weird as time progresses until it is realised that "imaginary" and "friend" are completely dependant upon frames of reference.
All goes well, in terms of production, until the end. Everything is spelled out so obviously, when the entire buildup was so subtle. Hardly fair to blame the makers - viewers of the Hollywood Excretia are dumber than a beat-box contest and would struggle to comprehend anything other than a fence paling with 'The Answer' written on it, and delivered in repetitive blows.
Those shameful 15 mintues are a shameful end to what could have been a little better. All performances were rather good, however, and it's a safe bet that the rest of the cinema had the willies for the whole ride.
Reviewed on Sunday, 27 February 2005