"We're still at war, Plissken. We need him alive."

"I don't give a fuck about your war... or your president."

The Hidden

Many of you have been trying to tell me this for years, and it has finally gotten through to me: THE HIDDEN is incredible. It’s kind of a sci-fi/horror/action hybrid, and it hits hard on all counts. Makes sense that it’s director Jack Sholder’s bridge between the horror of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE and the action of RENEGADES, but I’d argue it’s more cinematic than either of those. It opens with a thrilling, Friedkin-esque car chase after a buttoned-up looking guy in wire rimmed glasses (Chris Mulkey, FIRST BLOOD, BROKEN ARROW, BARE KNUCKLES, THE PURGE, THE STANDOFF AT SPARROW CREEK) shoots up a bank. He stays very calm, sometimes mildly amused as he tears through L.A. in a Ferrari, occasionally running over people (including a guy in a wheelchair), blaring a heavy metal tape, sometimes bopping his head a little. Police absolutely riddle him with bullets and destroy his car at a road block – he steps out and laughs before getting blown up. Even that doesn’t kill him.

It does put him in the hospital, where a doctor is offended by how the detectives talk about this seriously injured patient. It probly makes more sense to him after Detective Willis (Ed O’Ross, LETHAL WEAPON, FULL METAL JACKET, ACTION JACKSON, RED HEAT) spews a monologue about all the murders, injuries and robberies the guy is responsible for, ending with, “Six of the ones he killed he carved up with a butcher knife. Two of them were kids. He did all that in two weeks. If anybody deserves to go that way it sure to hell was him.”

The reason this guy went on such an inhuman rampage is, of course, that he’s not human. I mean, he was, but his body was taken over by a space parasite. Like SHOCKER, THE FIRST POWER and JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY, it’s an evil force that jumps from body to body as it goes around fucking shit up. But it’s a way more disgusting process than in any of those, because a few times we get to see the spider-legged space-squid-slug-penis thing transfer from mouth to mouth.

I hate when people make proclamations like “practical effects are always better than digital” because, while I generally prefer the old school, any technology can and has been used for great things. There are no rules to art and it’s foolish to not be open to whatever technique or combination of techniques is best for the particular occasion. I believe that. But then I see a scene like this and holy shit, do I miss getting those kinds of thrills in new movies – seeing bizarre creatures with flesh and musculature and knowing somebody built them out of rubber and motors and paint and made them move and seem alive. Hats off to the great Kevin Yagher and his team, including Howard Berger and Robert Kurtzman. Yagher’s big break was ELM STREET 2, then he carried over into 3 and this was his first big one after that. So he’s totally showing off.

This also fits in with the extra-terrestrial cop movies like THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET, CRITTERS, I COME IN PEACE and their time traveling cousin THE TERMINATOR. The space slug thing is an alien criminal and it doesn’t take us long to suspect something is up with “Lloyd Gallagher, FBI, Seattle” (Kyle McLachlan, THE FLINTSTONES), who shows up at police headquarters, teams with best of the best Detective Beck (Michael Nouri, FLASHDANCE, CAPTAIN AMERICA) and always seems to know too much about the “criminals” rampaging through the city. It’s super uncomfortable when Beck brings him home for dinner and he acts strange and can’t convincingly answer any questions about his supposed life story.

This movie in general, but especially William Boyett (BLOODY BIRTHDAY, THE ROCKETEER) as the second body we see the slug in, really know how to make a normal guy come across as a weird alien. He behaves in ways that don’t fit in with polite society or match his physical appearance. He’s this older guy in a suit but he walks into a cool record store, starts stuffing his pockets with tapes, steals a boombox, brings it into a diner blasting the heavy metal again, eating sloppily, not understanding and/or caring that he’s bothering everybody. He’s this thing that doesn’t belong here, doesn’t have compassion for humans, doesn’t have to live by their physical rules, and is totally anonymous because he doesn’t even have to stick with one body, so he just does not give a fuck at all. Wants to cause as much mayhem as he can manage. Enjoys it. He’s just playing Grand Theft Auto.

And I love the oddness of the character – he’s this slug, but Ferraris are appealing to him, loud rock music seems to soothe him, and there’s a joke that when he hears a happy song (“I believe in happiness when I’m goin through the pain…”) he gets angry and wrecks the stereo. These probly aren’t things he has on his planet, but he discovered them here and becomes a fan. Wants to indulge. When in Rome. He just seems to be having a great time.

One of the best stretches is after he’s pissing everybody off in the diner and sees a Ferrari drive by. He just gets up and runs after it (I bet the waitress was more relieved that he left than pissed that he didn’t pay), finds a Ferrari dealership where a salesman and customer (snorting coke together out of a toy Ferrari) and security guard mistake him for just a weirdo. He’s worse. He leaves with the car he wants.

Eventually he gets into the body of a stripper (Claudia Christian, NEVER ON TUESDAY, MANIAC COP 2) and knows how to act vaguely seductive to a street harasser and then fuck him to death to steal his car. Christian, too, is good at moving and looking at things like she’s new to this place and this body.

When it gets around to the explaining of the supposed FBI agent’s actual backstory it’s pretty vague. He’s not human, but does that mean he’s a slug too? I’m not sure. But like any action hero he’s after the guy who killed his partner and his family. All the cop movie stuff, the action (stunt coordinator: Don Pike [THE DELTA FORCE, HALLOWEEN 5]) and the way it’s shot (d.p.: Jacques Haitkin [A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 1-2, CHERRY 2000, CAGE, MANIAC COP 3, SCANNER COP, FIST OF THE NORTH STAR, BLOODSPORT II]) are all gritty and legit enough to ground this lightly explained absurdity. They even helped me accept this casual, ludicrous introduction of what I had a pretty strong hunch would end up being an important weapon:

Some familiar faces show up. Queen of New Line Cinema bit parts Lin Shaye, for example, and ELM STREET 2’s Clu Gulager. Both Danny Trejo (ANACONDA) and Bransombe Richmond (Renegade, THE SCORPION KING) play guys who say one line and then get shot.

The script is by Jim Kouf, whose earlier movies include THE BOOGENS and WACKO, but his hit STAKEOUT came out the same year. He went on to even more success with RUSH HOUR and NATIONAL TREASURE and created that TV show Grimm. Weirdly he hid behind the pseudonym “Bob Hunt” for by far the coolest thing on his resume. But he also used that for THE BOOGENS, so maybe it’s his Richard Stark. Do I need to see THE BOOGENS, now? Or do we just need more Bob Hunt movies?

1987, man. Quite a year. Thank you for your service.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 13th, 2020 at 11:02 am and is filed under Action, Horror, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

21 Responses to “The Hidden”

  1. One of my favorites of the great alien cop genre. Just a fun ride from beginning to end (and what a different ending for such a flick).

    Don’t be tempted by part 2, though, despite the presence of Kate “Rapid Fire” Hodge and Raphael “Carnasaur” Sbarge. Its garbage.

  2. Jesus, I just realized it’s been 20 years since I watched this. What the hell else was I doing? Nothing important probably. Gonna need to fix that real soon.

    THE BOOGENS is actually okay for what it is. If you like movies about glop monsters in a small town, you could do a lot worse. It’s probably one of the two or three best mining-related horror movies the early 80s had to offer.

  3. For the first part of this review, I definitely thought this was THE WRAITH, but it sounds like that’s a very different take on the mysterious-figure-from-the-heavens-blows-up-in-a-car-crash idea.

  4. For the first part of this review, I definitely thought this was THE WRAITH, but it sounds like that’s a very different take on the mysterious-figure-from-the-heavens-blows-up-in-a-car-crash idea.

  5. Ah, THE WRAITH. I must have seen the second half of that movie 15 times on The Movie Channel back in the day, but I never knew what it was called or even what it was about, really, until I was in my thirties. I just thought of it as “That movie where Charlie Sheen is a Knight Rider or something.”

  6. I feel like I need to see The Wraith again. I saw it a bunch on HBO back in the day, but I don’t retain much. Like I know he was a vengeful spirit, but he was in a different form than he was when he was killed, so nobody knew it was him?

    Also was it a dystopian wasteland? Or just Arizona punks?

    I also feel like I’m mixing memories of it with Solarbabies.

  7. Everything you said is 100% accurate to the experience of watching THE WRAITH.

  8. I love this movie. I rewatched it a couple of years back, and I keep picking up on small things in the movie. MacLachlan gives an incredible performance. There’s a scene where Nouri’s character asks him why he’s so hot to find the suspect, and MacLachlan responds, “He killed my partner.” At first, you think he means “partner” as in “coworker” like Nouri does, but his softer delivery of the line also gives the impression that he could mean “life partner.” Like maybe he wasn’t a space cop before coming to Earth, and this is more personal than professional.

    Of course, there’s also the whole thing about how the boorish parasitic alien is preoccupied with obtaining wealth and material goods, consumes nothing but artery-clogging foods, is attracted to strippers, and finally declares that it wants to be President.

  9. Final-fucking-LY! THIS is the review I’ve been waiting for! I’ve been in the bag for this wonderfully unique film since it came out (I even had that one-sheet up there!). I musta been seven? Seriously, the movie is a miracle. It’s amazing that it even got made, let alone pulled off with such panache.

    And the acting! Nouri is great at all the tough-guy cop stuff but he’s also subtly hilarious when expressing annoyance or confusion
    with McLachlan’s weird antics. McLachlan generates some laughs himself with his non-understanding of some societal basics. And all the actors playing the ‘bad guy’ are remarkably consistent. Man, Chris Mulkey, tho. Every time I see him I ask myself ‘Who is this bland white dude?” and am then reminded that he exists. Hell, I just re-watched BROKEN ARROW last week and I NEVER even knew his was in it!

  10. OF COURSE THE HIDDEN IS INCREDIBLE!!!! Which amoeba swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool said otherwise???

    Watched it on a battered and much borrowed VHS, watched it like 3 times before I returned it, no doubt contributing to the further degradation of the tape.

    Purchased the original DVD years ago which is thankfully still surviving a spin in my player almost every year.

    There’s been countless “Alien Entity Takes Over Human Body” flicks since, but this is my Go-To every time I crave one.

    Why did Michael Nouri not become a bigger star? Man deserves better than to be remembered merely as “Boyfriend from FLASHDANCE”.

  11. I love this movie. I think it’s a movie that everyone always feels like they’ve discovered themselves, a hidden gem, even though it’s not that obscure (well, it is, but not if you’re already into this kind of thing). And there’s something about it that’s just lovable. I don’t know what it is, but I think a lot of it has to do with Kyle McLachlan.

    Like Falconman, I really like Kyle McLachlan’s performance in this (though I always like to seem him anyway; can’t remember ever not liking his performances). It’s sensitive and delicate in a way that seems unusual both for a guy playing a space alien pretending to be an FBI agent, and for an actor that was still in his twenties and in just his third movie.

    It’s kind of like James Spader in Jack’s Back, a genuinelly good performance that’s kind of been lost to anyone who isn’t especially into these movies because it was in a little seen lower budget genre film.

  12. “Of course, there’s also the whole thing about how the boorish parasitic alien is preoccupied with obtaining wealth and material goods, consumes nothing but artery-clogging foods, is attracted to strippers, and finally declares that it wants to be President.”

    That could be the basis for a cool sequel, if we didn’t have to live in it.

  13. KayKay: Michael Nouri had the reputation of being “hard to work with”. It definitely affected his career.

    I think the key to this film is the beginning. The bank robbery and car chase are a very effective hook. All the film needs to do is be decent the rest of the way and it’s got you. And the acting and writing are much more than decent. Ironically, the opening sequence is all 2nd unit work.

    My source for both the Michael Nouri info and the opening sequence being 2nd unit work is the directors commentary on the DVD.

  14. This is a fun one! A basic, simple Terminator rip off but done with heart. So funny that Kyle McLaughlin goes from two weirdo Lynch films to this.

    Also Vern, while Kyle’s character is also an alien, he is definitely not a worm. His form is that glowy light that you see transfer…the worm in the jail scene even mentions they are different races. He refers to Kyle’s race as a “filthy people” or something like that. Which is funny considering the one saying that is a slimy worm and the other is sweet gently glowing light.

  15. Fun slam bang action movie, I put it right up there with Stone Cold and I Come In Peace; Claudia Christian isn’t in it nearly long enough.

  16. Thanks for bringing up this movie, which I had almost completely forgotten about. It was one of the most awesome sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen when I was a kid, and it was so frustrating that no one knew about it, nor was I able to get a copy of it anywhere, not even illegitimately. This was during the VHS, non-Internet era, so you can imagine. And yeah, I’m that old.

  17. Holy shit this was new to me too! But now it’s a movie I’ve seen!

  18. Sholder has said in several places that Nouri was difficult. Apparently, Nouri thought the direction was making him look bad. Ironically, it’s his best performance in his best film. But it’s easy to sympathize with him when you see how good MacLachlan is with the “fun” part. It takes a big man to play the straight man.

    I think the comparison to I COME IN PEACE/DARK ANGEL is fair, but while that delivers exactly what I want from a Dolph vs. alien movie, THE HIDDEN goes above and beyond all reasonable expectations based on its premise and budget. And it’s the character stuff that makes it special. Again, Sholder has said he saw it as his chance to make a Sidney Lumet-style police procedural, albeit one with Claudia Christian as a gun-toting stripper.

  19. This reminds me, Vern. You ever seen The Puppet Masters? 1994 Heinlein adaptation with Donald Sutherland. I always liked it and Kino Lorber has a great Blu-Ray of it now.

  20. Oh shit, THE PUPPET MASTERS! That movie is pretty forgotten these days, isn’t it?

  21. It was forgotten in 1994 but I worked at the movie theater and watched everything and I liked it.

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