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June 23, 2011

Midnight Movie of the Week #77 - The Hidden

If I were listing the very coolest horror movies of the 1980s, The Hidden would be near the top of the list. From the opening scene and the neon green opening credits, every minute of The Hidden screams "HEY YOU GUYS, I'M FROM THE '80s YOU GUYS!" at the audience.  Some might say that that makes the movie dated, I think that makes the movie AWESOME.
Michael Nouri and Kyle McLachlan star as the kind of mismatched duo you'd expect from an '80s cop film like Lethal Weapon (which was released about 7 months earlier in 1987), but there's a catch.  Nouri plays a hard-boiled homicide detective with a wife and daughter, McLachlan plays a young FBI agent who has few connections and a nice Porsche....and he also happens to be an alien hiding inside a human body who is tracking a similar alien who is moving across L.A. and committing crime in the bodies of random Los Angelenos.
Those random victims/killers change in size, shape, gender, age and even species (at one point the killer inhabits a dog) throughout the film, which allows Jack Sholder's film to present some talented character actors giving unique performances.  As the film opens, we get veteran "nice guy" Chris Mulkey (First Blood, The Fan) robbing a bank with a shot gun before starting a high speed chase in a sports car.  He's followed up by William Boyett (Forbidden Planet, When a Stranger Calls) as a fellow with a bad heart whose gassy performance would foreshadow Vincent D'Onofrio in Men In Black a decade later.  And let us not forget '80s babe Claudia Christian (Maniac Cop 2, The Substitute 3), playing an exotic dancer who becomes a fatal femme for much of the film's second act, who steals her few scenes and delivers some of the film's most ominous exposition in a rooftop shootout scene.  Also joining the fray are genre favorites Ed O'Ross (Full Metal Jacket, Red Heat) and Clu Gulager (The Return of the Living Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street 2).  And if that's not enough....DANNY TREJO shows up for three seconds!
 Now, your head might have exploded due to that cast - and if it hasn't due to their names, it will when you see them on screen - but I must also point out that The Hidden is one of the slickest, most action packed monster films of the decade.  With an '80s hard rock soundtrack and plenty of car chases in shiny sports cars - mixed with plenty of shootouts and a few explosions, The Hidden plays like something Stallone would have starred in.  In fact, one could almost call it Tango & Cash with Aliens, except that it of course has nothing to compare to the prison escape scene from T&C, which is clearly the best scene in any film EVER MADE.  EVER!

The slow side of The Hidden comes from McLachlan's deadpan performance as the emotionless alien hero.  While Nouri moves from one level of frustration to another while dealing with the senseless violence around him, McLachlan manages to keep a straight face and a stiff posture, even as bullets fly around him.  That's been his schitck in plenty of other films and TV shows too, but the lessons he probably learned working with David Lynch the previous year seem to have helped him with this role.  He never wavered in Blue Velvet's chaos, and that probably left him more prepared to never waver in this high octane cheesefest.
But the most important thing to know about The Hidden is that it hits me with an adrenaline rush every time, and when my mind's caught up in the whirlwind of alien in man suit and man versus alien in multiple man and woman and dog suits....well, it gets a little out of control.  In fact, I'd say The Hidden is cinematic caffeine.  It's not a refined Coca-Cola or Pepsi, it's like the Jolt Cola of '80s action/sci-fi/horror, and it gets my blood pumping.

So, I'm just gonna slow it down and tell you all to go find The Hidden if you haven't seen it yet.  If you're up for some machoness with a ton of '80s cheese and some weird alien hijinks, you can't really beat it.  Well, maybe you can - it is a little one-note and the special effects are incredibly dated - but if you're like me you might be so hopped up on it that you won't even notice.
Oh last note.  The final one of the weirdest in '80s history.  It's not necessarily a downer, but it's incredibly awkward and I just never know what to think of it.  It's kind of like the crash after the film's 90 minute sugar rush, because it has these weird ethical and psychological and developmental subtexts that leave us thinking "Wait, is that OK?  What does that mean?"  Yet...I'm kind of happy it's there, because it suddenly makes me think the film's deep...kind of like the tacked on ending of Face/Off...only not necessarily happy. 

Y'know what, just watch the movie.  It'll speak for itself.  Plus, THERE'S DANNY TREJO!


Anonymous said...

I`ve always liked "The Hidden" because when it was released in October of `87 Heather O'Rourke still had over 3 months to live so whenever i watch it its like i`m bringing her back to life.

The Mike said...

Hamster you rascal, you`re always going to be lurking around out there aren`t you.

the posturing (and admittedly rather irritating) little popinjay said...

"The Hidden" is THE ultimate definition of a "cult classic"