October 3, 2017

Blu-Ray Review: THE HIDDEN

Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri, Claudia Christian, Ed O'Ross, Richard Brooks, William Boyett, Clarence Felder, Chris Mulkey, Clu Gulager, Katherine Cannon. Directed by Jack Sholder. (1987, 96 min).

For some, The Hidden needs no introduction. Overlooked during its original theatrical release, the film found a massive audience on home video, becoming a cult classic in the process. 30 years later, it definitely looks - and sounds - like a product of its time, but remains a hell of a lot of fun.

The story itself holds up remarkably well, which should please those who first came across it while cruising Blockbuster shelves on a Friday night. For newcomers, one thing that makes The Hidden unique among sci-fi/horror films - even today - is the depiction of of its alien antagonist. Sure, it's a repulsive, sluglike, multi-tentacled monster. Yeah, it hides inside humans, manipulating the host body to do its bidding. And of course, it is practically unkillable, vulnerable only when oozing from one body into the next. For decades, we've seen similar creatures in a wide variety of slimy sci-fi stories.

Kyle MacLachlin reveals the number of active members in the Dune Appreciation Society, including himself.
But this alien doesn't have the usual ominous agenda of propagating its species or taking over the world. It's simply here to rob banks, steal cars, drive fast and kill anyone who gets in the way, arguably making this the first and only movie to depict a visitor from outer space as a complete sociopath. It's a highly amusing premise, which The Hidden plays to the hilt.

Hot on the creature's tail are Detective Beck (Michael Nouri) and FBI Agent Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlin). Besides the chase, much of the fun is seeing Beck forced to deal with his Gallagher's off-putting behavior while questioning how his new partner seems to know why formerly law abiding citizens are going on homicidal rampages. It turns out Gallagher is an alien as well, here to avenge the deaths of his former partner and family.

When garden pests go unchecked.
The film is loaded with brutal, kinetic action, slowing down just long enough for brief exposition before revving back up again. But The Hidden manages to rise above this often-disreputable genre because director Jack Sholder, who'd later direct one of the most underappreciated cold war thrillers of all time (By Dawn's Early Light), infuses the mayhem with witty dialogue, humorous moments and genuinely interesting characters (something of a rarity in this genre during the 80s). It's also a highly amusing take on the old buddy-cop formula (which was at the height of its popularity back then). As Beck and Gallagher, both lead actors fill the roles nicely (MacLachlin, in particular, who's childlike demeanor provides some of the movie's funniest moments).

The Hidden remains one of the better examples of 80's era exploitation, slickly made, fast-moving and consistently entertaining. For those who fondly remember the film, it's a kick-ass nostalgia trip. For newcomers, you're in for a good time (but don't bother with the horrid sequel produced a few years later).

FEATURETTE: SFX Production Footage (narrated by director Jack Sholder)
AUDIO COMMENTARY (by Jack Sholder & Tim Hunter)

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