In the constant shifting land mass that is how people view their movies it’s somewhat inevitable that certain titles get lost in the shuffle. From the move from VHS to DVD to Blu Ray to HD and everything inbetween, the phenomenon of the “lost film” is somewhat more common than you’d think, especially in countries other than America where changing rights ownership makes things even weirder for a collector who doesn’t own a multi-regional player. I only bring this up because I recently got my grubby hands on a brand new, shiny copy of The Hidden (not to be confused with Michael Haneke’s 2005 Hidden), a little seen, barn storming science fiction action movie extravaganza from 1987 that hasn’t been seen on my shores since the analogue days of videotape and I want to use this platform to shoot my mouth off.
Something strange is happening in Los Angeles. Seemingly law abiding citizens are robbing banks, stealing Ferraris and getting into REALLY destructive car chases with no explanation whatsoever. We join Jack DeVries, a previously mild mannered member of society, at the peak of his baffling one man crime spree as he shotguns his way out of a bank, hops into a high performance car and careens recklessly through the city streets like a 12 year old hopped up on Mountain Dew playing Grand Theft Auto. After plowing through numerous poor bastards at high speed, Jack’s irresistible force finally meets the immovable object of an LAPD roadblock who proceed blast the living shit out of the maniac and put him on life support in critical condition. This would be where most movies end but The Hidden is only 15 minutes old and is only getting warmed up; because the reason for DeVries’ personality shift is that he’s been possessed by a body hopping, slug-like, extra terrestrial criminal who slithers out of his host’s pie hole to commandeer the meat suit of the poor bastard in the next bed. And so the cycle begins again as the confused police force can’t quite comprehend what is happening, but salvation is at hand in the form of odd FBI agent Lloyd Gallagher who somehow seems to have a handle on all the batshit crazy going on. He teams with no-nonsense, homicide detective Tom Beck to try and staunch the chaos but how can they possibly hope to succeed when the criminal they are pursuing can leap from body to body like a gun toting case of herpes?
To be super blunt, right from the off, The Hidden fucking ROCKS. A rollicking hybrid that employs the sci-fi paranoia of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, the driving action of The Terminator and the buddy cop shenanigans of Lethal Weapon to blistering effect. Director Jack Sholder (previously known for the second Nightmare On Elm Street movie) keeps a steady hand on the wheel as this movie hurtles from one violent encounter to the next but all the cinematic firepower in the world doesn’t mean a damn thing if the talky bits hold hold your attention. Kyle Maclachlan gives a sweetly, doe-eyed turn as the weird FBI agent with a predictable twist in his back story who can shoot out the tyre of a speeding car but has no idea how you use alka seltzer or how to read social cues, while TV actor Michael Nouri is amusingly impatient as a man desperately trying to comprehend what the fuck he’s actually dealing with.
However it’s the character progression of the kleptomaniac, murder-happy, alien slug that marks The Hidden’s script a cut above the usual exploitation trash, with about six different actors (and a dog) portraying the various poor souls it inhabits. Sharing a single facial tic as a unifying character trait (a licking of the lips) the alien explores our world with the id of a needy toddler, simply taking what it wants because it wants it. It has a fondness for Ferrari’s and the colour red, it’s momentarily fascinated about leaping into a female body for the first time, it likes the idea of trying to inhabit a visiting senator (the flat, greedy reading of “I want to be president.” probably isn’t far off many earthly politicians) and is an incredibly clean and crisp villain for our heroes to stop.
I mentioned Grand Theft Auto before and that’s a remarkably a good way to describe the movie’s anarchic tone feels like a between mission rampage as the creature causally wanders into stores and car lots and causes death and destruction for no other reason than it’s a massive prick.
Packed with character actors that’ll have you going “it’s THAT that guy!” every 20 minutes (Clu Culager, Claudia Christian, Ed O’ Ross and an alarmingly young looking Liz Shaye are only a few), an awesome heavy metal soundtrack (yes, the alien likes heavy metal too) and funky, squishy special effects courtesy of Chucky creator Kevin Yagher The Hidden is crazily entertaining, reassuringly old school and solidly violent and should really be sought out for any and all action junkies.
It’s time this movie remained hidden no longer.