Film Review: 'Hidden in Plain Sight'
Victoria Barabas is in hiding from a psychotic criminal ex in this tension-packed thriller with a stellar lead.
Katie (Victoria Barabas) is a small-town waitress with a big secret to hide—starting with the fact that she's living under a false name. Originally an art gallery employee in the city, Katie began a relationship with Nick (Gino Anthony Pesi), a patron who Katie met at an art show. Handsome, charming, and wealthy, Katie was taken by Nick, and their first month of dating was bliss. But after being attacked by a burglar in Nick's apartment and learning the true nature of Nick's profession, Katie makes clear to Nick that she wants nothing to do with him.
But after seeing that Nick doesn't plan on letting her go, as well as learning that she's pregnant with his child, Katie flees after getting a new identity, and faking her own death in order to rid herself of Nick for good. But despite her precautions to stay under the radar, Nick becomes aware that Katie is still alive, and is intent on finding her. But with her son Danny (Jack Fisher) not wanting to move again, and having finally found love again in the compassionate Lucas (Jake Allyn), Katie is left with a choice: flee again, or finally take back the life that Nick stole from her.
Fresh off of reviewing Shattered Memories, it's interesting to see Victoria Barabas go from playing a snarky side character to being the main lead in another MarVista film making its debut on Netflix. Barabas carries over her acting magnitude from that film to Hidden in Plain Sight, making Katie the perfect mix of fierce and sympathetic. Barabas is at her best in the scenes focusing on Katie's toxic relationship with Nick, as Barabas plays Katie's fear of Nick just as palpably as her satisfying scene of refusing to fall for Nick's attempts at manipulating her back into his arms. At the same time, however, Katie makes clear that she won't allow Nick to hurt Danny or destroy her when he re-enters her life, with Katie's fiery determination to finally put a stop to her ex reaching its peak by the film's intense conclusion.
Joining Barabas in bringing a strength to their characters are Gino Anthony Pesi and Jake Allyn, playing two vastly different men in Katie's life. In Pesi's hands, Nick becomes an instantly frightening and intense villain, making Katie's fear of him more than understandable. Pesi plays well off of Barabas and Jack Fisher in their scenes together, with one particularly chilling scene Nick shares with Katie and Danny (later only with the latter) having Pesi establish Nick as a violent and borderline psychotic man incapable of love—but rather, one only capable of using control and threats to get what he wants.
Meanwhile, Jake Allyn is instantly charming as Lucas, who meets Katie through her waitressing job, and eventually becomes her new love interest. In addition to Lucas serving as a sweet-natured and understanding parallel to the controlling and violent Nick, Allyn and Barabas share such a strong chemistry that you can understand the justifiably reserved Katie letting her guard down for him. Lucas also becomes an ally for Katie by the film's third act, becoming as proactive a character as Katie.
Jack Fisher brings a lot of emotion to Danny as he finds himself caught up in Nick's heartless schemes, and plays him as surprisingly aware for a child character, and Eve Sigall brings a fierce edge to significant side character, Maggie. Both end up playing large roles in the climax preceding the conclusion, with both injecting excellently-made drama into the proceedings. Deborah Van Valkenburgh and Jessica Meraz are both also strong in their respective roles as Katie's mother Evelyn and Katie's co-worker/best friend Chloe, though both characters suffer qualities that somewhat diminish their likability. Evelyn uncharacteristically underestimates Nick, despite her daughter's warnings, and is more or less responsible for him locating Katie, while Chloe's pressuring Katie to date Lucas, even after she confesses to her struggles with Nick, come off as insensitive.
Chloe's subplot with her boyfriend Leon (played by Jerod Meagher) is also entirely inconsequential to the story aside from a cheap fake-out scare, and a plot hole emerges in the fact that we never learn how exactly Nick managed to track Katie down after it's outright stated he's only able to learn the general area of where she is. But aside from these blunders, Hidden in Plain Sight makes for a thrilling drama with a strong cast (particularly in its lead heroine), excellently-paced suspense, and a third act that keeps the audience on the edge of its seat waiting to see what happens next. Anyone in need of a Lifetime-esque thrill ride with a little depth to keep you hooked along the way should look no further than this thriller.
Score: 9 out of 10 hair dryer murders.