The Hidden, 1987.
Directed by Jack Sholder.
Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri, Clu Gulager, Chris Mulkey, Ed O’Ross, Clarence Felder, Claudia Christian and Larry Cedar.
An FBI agent and an LA detective team up to investigate a series of strange incidents in which seemingly innocent law-abiding citizens suddenly embark on violent crime sprees.
We are often perplexed when we hear stories in which seemingly law-abiding citizens, quiet individuals who don’t have so much as a parking ticket to their name, suddenly snap and inflict often shocking levels of violence and mayhem upon an unsuspecting populace. Almost as if they had been taken over by some otherworldly force. This clumsy (and totally not written at the last minute) intro brings me to today’s entry; The Hidden, a film that uses this idea as the jumping-off point for a very fun, very 1980s sci-fi action-horror hybrid.
Beginning with a bank robbery that turns into a high-speed car chase through Los Angles as our psychopathic villain barrels down the road in a stolen Ferrari, The Hidden wastes no time in delivering the goods. The sequence is well-staged and cut together, the frenetic speed of every sharp turn and near-miss making you lurch in your seat. It even has a clichéd glass windowpane smashing thrown in for good measure. All before culminating in a bullet-riddled crash that leaves our Ferrari burning and our wannabe John Dillinger full of more holes than swiss cheese. However, there is a twist to the tale. It quickly revealed that our villain is something altogether less human and far gooier. An alien parasite that has come to Earth to indulge in an intergalactic game of Grand Theft Auto, with us humans as the playable characters.
The film then essentially boils down to a long chase as our heroes hunt the alien as it rampages around Los Angeles, the slimy psycho using its body-hopping ability to stay one step ahead. The film is littered with action set pieces, including more car chases, bloody gun battles and a minor police station rampage that calls to mind a similar scene in The Terminator, albeit with a more explosive finish and an appearance from a very young Danny Trejo. The action is nothing spectacular, but it is well shot and staged with enough variety on hand to make for a fun-packed 90 or so minutes. I particularly enjoyed a stunt where the performer makes a death-defying running jump through a neon sign and off a rooftop, with the fall looking especially dangerous as they plummet head first to the ground below.
The lead performances from Kyle MacLachlan and Michael Nouri are terrific throughout, the two making for a pairing that, while essentially following the standard buddy/mismatched cop duo formula, works well as the twos contrasting temperaments bounce off of each other. MacLachlan nails the part of Gallagher, a slightly weird FBI agent who seems to know more than he leads on, the actor essentially playing the role as a more serious, straight-faced, dead-pan version of his eventual role of Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks. The real star is Michael Nouri as Beck, the classic, veteran police detective who has seen it all until now. The actor delivering a committed performance full of dry cynical humour, such as when told that his quarry is not human, Beck, almost sarcastically, reacts with ‘We’re talking spacemen?’.
The pacing is tight and moves along quickly, moving from set piece to set piece as the alien robs stores, shoots coke-snorting arms dealers and generally revels in varying degrees of bullet-riddled carnage. While the film is played straight, it is laced with a knowing sense of humour throughout, its tongue ever so slightly tickling its cheek. I mean, how seriously can you take a film where an alien parasite possesses a stripper, f**ks a man to death while laughing, before spending a good minute or so groping its own breasts. Throw in the very late 1980s soundtrack of rock/new wave music, and you have yourself an increasingly cheesy feast.
The only area where the film suffers is in the horror department. The Hidden, although labelled as such, is not really much of a horror film. The story seems ripe for horror potential, with the concept of the human body being used as a plaything for an alien psychopath for its own amusement being an honestly pretty damn unsettling one. Yet, the film doesn’t really do much with this concept, aside from a few jump scares when the alien grabs a victim to switch bodies, complete with a cheesy loud musical stinger. In short, The Hidden is an action film with horror elements sprinkled in between its barrage of gunfights and high-speed pursuits. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it sadly doesn’t allow the film to take full advantage of a premise that could have made for a potentially scary or even sillier watch. Although, I’ll give the film credit for having one particularly disgusting moment in the only on-screen body swap as the alien emerges from the mouth of a host in the form of a slimy hissing slug before slithering down the gullet of its next victim.
With a pair of solid performances from MacLachlan and Nouri, an undercurrent of knowing humour and plenty of bullet-riddled high-speed action scattered throughout, The Hidden, while barely a horror film, is still a slightly silly but hugely fun slice of late 1980s action horror. The perfect choice for those looking for to switch their brains off for 90 minutes.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★