Hideaway: Experiment in Terror, Starring Jeff Goldblum and Christine Lahti

Jeff Goldblum and Christine Lahti star in TriStar Pictures’ Hideaway, a psychological thriller, directed by Brett Leonard, the helmer behind The Lawnmower Man.

The new horror film is based on Dean R. Koontz’ best-selling novel, adapted to the screen by Andrew Kevin Walker and Neal Jimenez.

The story begins as Hatch Harrison (Goldblum), his wife Lindsey (Lahti), and their 15-year-old daughter, Regina (Alicia Silverstone), are driving home after a sad, rather strained family weekend at their mountain cabin. A younger daughter had died a year ago, and their continuing, unspoken grief threatens to emotionally isolate the surviving family members from one others.

Suddenly, an oncoming truck slams into the Harrisons’ car. Regina manages to escape from the car just moments before it plunges down a cliff, but her parents are trapped inside when it lands in an icy river. In spite of Lindsey’s heroic struggle to keep the unconscious Hatch above water, he is declared dead when rescuers finally get him to a hospital.

This hospital, however, has a highly advanced resuscitation unit headed by Dr. Jonas Nyebern (Alfred Molina), who’s miraculously able to save Hatch. Strangely enough, Hatch’s near-fatal experience has left him with a newfound peace, possibly owing to a wonderful healing vision he experienced. While the doctors fought to save his life, Hatch dreamed he saw his dead daughter’s spirit–and she was happy.

Other terrible visions, however, begin to brutalize Hatch. Soon he begins to see horrible murders that he seems to be committing himself. Lindsey tries to remain supportive, but her husband’s seemingly irrational behavior makes her fear for the safety of Regina and herself.

What Hatch gradually comes to realize–and Lindsey cannot believe–is that he has returned from death with a psychic link to a psychotic killer named Vassago (Jeremy Sisto), who also died and was brought back to life. Hatch can actually see and feel what the killer sees and feels. More chillingly still, Vassago can see through Hatch’s eyes, and what Vassago sees are new victims: Mother Lindsey and daughter Regina.

“What intrigued me about Hideaway, both the novel and the script adaptation,” says director Leonard, “was that it dealt with the concept of what happens when we die.” He explains: “One man with a very bad soul returns from death and brings back something dark. And a good man brings back something very light, and they battle between light and dark. To me, tt was a very interesting concept.”

Leonard is perfectly suited to explore this other-worldly realm. Three years ago, he co-wrote and directed the hit movie The Lawnmower Man, which used groundbreaking digital effects to take audiences into a dazzling universe of virtual reality. In Hideaway, Leonard explores issues of good and evil, death and mortality, using an exciting combination of computer-generated imagery and live action.

Hideaway is based on a novel by Dean R. Koontz, one of the world’s most successful writers. Koontz’s best-sellers include Dragon Tears, which TriStar has under option, as well as Dark Rivers of the Heart, Midnight, The Bad Place and Cold Fire.

One of the most versatile actors of his generation, Jeff Goldblum is best-known for playing the lead in David Cronenberg’s scary picture, The Fly, and more recently, an ensemble member of the top-grossing film, Spielberg’s Jurassic Park.

“I play a kind, decent, moral man who’s struggling to get over the death of his younger daughter,” Goldblum notes. “He’s trying not to feel so unhappy and guilty about it. And then he has this wondrous experience on ‘the other side,’ and comes back thinking it was a dream. But he starts to have these two things in him at once: this forcefully good presence, and simultaneously this dark presence, riding along with him.”

“Hatch’s connection to both good and evil launches his family on a scary ride to hell and back. Significantly, that journey allows them to finally deal with their unexpressed grief over the death of their daughter,” says Lahti, the award-winning actress whose credits include Leaving Normal, The Doctor and the much- lauded Housekeeping.

“The supernatural aspect intrigued me,” Lahti notes, “the whole idea of what happens when we die. But more than that, for me, the film is about a family being reunited and ending up much stronger because of some terrible things that happen to them.” Concerning her role, Lahti says that in many films, women are “reduced to just being victims.” In this movie, however, “although there are women victims, and although I am a victim for a short period of time, I am also very active in saving the day and pretty heroic.” For Lahti, “that part of the film was really fun.”

Co-starring with Goldblum and Lahti is acclaimed British actor Alfred Molina (Prick Up Your Ears, Enchanted April), who plays the brilliant Dr. Jonas Nyebern. The doctor rescues Hatch and monitors his troubling recovery, but Nyebern is harboring a secret that puts Hatch’s entire family in jeopardy. “Nyebern is sort of the tragic figure in the film,” Molina says, “He’s a good man in the sense that his intentions are honorable, but his arrogance is his flaw, and that’s what brings about his own destruction.”

After a lengthy search, Jeremy Sisto was chosen to play Vassago, a young man who has given himself to the forces of darkness and with whom Harrison is terrifyingly linked. Sisto, who made his film debut in Grand Canyon and appears in the upcoming release, The Crew, says: “Vassago is inherently evil. He is unable to see or enjoy or appreciate the good in the world. He feels that everything is false, that everything is hypocritical.”

Appearing as Regina is Alicia Silverstone, who made an impressive screen debut in The Crush, playing a highly intelligent girl obsessed with an older man. That role earned her MTV’s Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Performance and Best Villain, and a nomination for Most Desirable Female. On MTV, Silverstone can be seen as a rebellious teenager in Aerowsmith’s music video Cryin’. She is also featured in the group’s groundbreaking cyberspace video, Amazing, and more recently in Crazy.

In Hideaway, Silverstone plays a teenager who desperately misses her dead sister and who deeply loves her father, even though she frequently finds herself at odds with him. The rising actress explains the stress the Harrison family endures: “My little sister has just died, and my parents are completely in denial of their pain. They’ve never sat me down and let me cry. So it’s hard for me, and I’m getting kind of bitter with them.”

One of the most striking elements of Hideaway is the journey beyond death to “the other side,” using computer-generated imagery created by the Sony Pictures Imageworks team working hand-in-hand with Leonard. “We’re portraying a journey from a soul’s point of view,” he explains, “It has a roller coaster ride feel to it. The audiences don’t have to understand the symbolism we’re using, they can just experience it.”

“At the same time, we’ve gone to many different ancient and multicultural sources to create these journeys beyond death. We’ve scanned in 250 different demonic symbols and masks from different cultures to portray the place Vassago goes to, and we’ve gone to visionary arts and the goddess myth to portray the place where Hatch goes.”

“It was a very challenging film to make,” Leonard says. “Because the psychic connection between Hatch and Vassago involves a blend of special visual effects and life action, it resembles a complex Chinese puzzle.” “In addition, one of the key challenges of the film was to portray the positive energy with as much power and force as the negative. Usually in a film of this genre, good is always portrayed somewhat more weakly than the evil force.”

Four months before cameras rolled on Hideaway, Oscar-winning visual effects director Tim McGovern (Total Recall, In the Line of Fire) and the Sony Pictures Imageworks team began creating the conceptual art for a series of “photo-surreal death journeys,” using breakthroughs in motion capture, performance animation, computer animation and graphics.

To facilitate the process, Jeff Goldblum was cyber-scanned, a process in which a camera moved around the actor’s head and digitized his face in a three-dimensional form that was later incorporated into the visual effects.

“We’re calling it photo-surrealism as opposed to photo-realism,” says Leonard, “because it portrays these ethereal other worlds and gives that experience to the audience. Only with these new technology can we really take people to that place.”