Nathan Hill’s The Strange Game of Hyde & Seek is a riff on Robert Louis Stevenson‘s immortal work “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde”, published 130 years ago this year.
We open with a growly narrator, who will soon turn out to be Jekyll (pronounced Jeekl, rather than the traditional JekEl that most productions go with). Intercut with this is a woman on all fours being slowly pursued by a shadowy figure. This has S&M overtones rather than horror, and it’s hard to tell whether this was intentional or not.
Like Shakespearian classics brought to the modern day, there’s British accents aplenty. It’s not the first time old-style dialogue has been used in a contemporary setting, just look at Joss Whedon‘s Much Ado about Nothing or Ian McKellen‘s Richard III.
Cinematography-wise, this is a step-up from the last feature I reviewed. There’s camera movement, and more interesting visuals and staging in the 1900s mansion chosen for the story to unfold in, so a big hand for Michael Schoell‘s work. But the audio has some issues, and it’s hard to hear the actors at times. Some ADR would have improved things substantially. One scene where this is particularly evident is where Jekyll (Nicholas Wightman) is called upon by Utterson (Carter Doyle).
Wightman’s Jekyll seems at turns manic, and occasionally like he’s had one facelift too many, with face pulled back and eyes wide. It’s a performance which some might argue veers into over-acting, but on the other hand, it’s not like Bela Lugosi got called out for looking down his nose at other characters while he played Dracula.
Utterson on the other hand seems to have less eyeballing and more skepticism, and his first appearance reminds me of Peter Lorre in Casablanca; dismissive to the point of contempt.
At times though, some eyeballing might have been appropriate. There’s an oddness to some of the scenes which suggests more of a stage play than a short film. One such scene has Enfield (Andy Delves) chatting to a maid in such a way as to suggest a difference in classes, but the camera angles and positioning of the actors looks odd. Even Jeremy Brett‘s Sherlock Holmes spoke to Mrs. Hudson’s face while berating her for leaving the sugar bowl out on the table.
On the whole though, despite the ADR issues and occasional staging weirdness, Hyde and Seek is a decent entry into the horror genre, and shows a definite evolution in the skills of director and screenwriter, Nathan Hill. It’s a large step-up from prior films and some care seems to have been taken to at least make the camera work interesting and engaging. I think for some, this movie may become one of those guilty pleasures.