Pål Øie, who wrote and directed his first film, Villmark in 2003, now returns with a psychologically elaborate and thematically more ambitious horror film. The setting is still largely the wilderness and Øie borrows eagerly from both classic and more recent films in the genre, such as The Shining and Naboer, as he has Kristoffer Joner dash around creaky old mansions, dense forests and overlookesque hotels searching for the truth in a tangle of palpable reality, treacherous past and haunting fantasy. The story is explosive at its best, and when Øie combines his great psychological insight with enticing, suspense-minded direction, Skjult is bordering on greatness. When Øie allows to free himself from genre conventions and really explore the dark matter he weaves, Skjult is as relevant and vibrant as psychological thrillers come.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers seem to feel obliged to meet genre conventions which more often than not weaken the film. The intention might have been to create a more diverse and all-including film (incorporating more ambiguous and fantastical elements), or to attract the attention of the younger generation of movie-goers more easily. Either way, elements such as mirror tricks or banal seat-jumpers come off as too simple for a film of otherwise high standards.
Still, Skjult remains interesting throughout and holds up until the end. Kristoffer Joner's devoted performance in the lead (one he is getting well-trained at) and Anders Danielsen Lie's explosive single scene help retain the logic among Øie's many suggestions. And Øie shows he has matured as a director since his debut film - this time appearing more confident stylistically and more crafty visually. The craftmanship in Skjult is also brilliant, from Guri Giæver's alluring scenography to Sjur Aarthun's delicate photography.