Reviewbr> "A flame-thrower man, can you believe it? Patrol picked this up off some homeboy on the street" - Sanchez
Gosh, this is an old classic if ever there was one. An alien is on the run in America. It kills anyone that gets in its way, and uses the body as a new hiding place. This alien has one goal in life - total power. Hotly pursued by another alien (who's borrowed the body of a dead FBI agent), lots of innocent people die as the movie heats up. Over to the Outsider for the good oil on a classic.
The 80s were a great decade. Not only did they give us some of the worst cinema, it also gave us some of the best guilty pleasures. Clue, Young Sherlock Holmes, Band of the Hand, The Terminator - these were all 80s flicks that were made to entertain, not solely for art. It also was the tops in creature features. Films based around slimy parasites or monsters oozing their way towards your gullet. The Blob, The Thing, Aliens and one of my favorites - The Hidden.
The Hidden was a mix of the best things of the 80s. It had fist-pumping music, B-level actors, sweet ass cars and hot smoking scantily-clad ladies - oh yeah, and it was about a parasite from outer space infecting human hosts and the alien here to stop him. Yes, this was the 80s when the decade rocked. A teenager had everything he could want in a sci-fi horror film - from the women to the gore to the violence to the laser gun, this was a film built for fun.
But I digress as I am getting ahead of myself. Why am I so fond of a low-budget film from twenty years ago, starring pretty much nobody and based on a rip-off of Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Allow me to explain:
A low budget creature feature that pretty much spawned a sub-genre as the idea caught on
The Hidden starts by flying out of the gate. Jack DeVries was a solid citizen until recently. A good, upstanding man who had lived an ethical and moral existence. Yet here he was. Walking out of a downtown LA bank, shooting innocent civilians with nary a flinch of emotion other than a smile. After a few more innocent casualties, DeVries jumps in his stolen Ferrari and leads the LAPD on a monstrous cross-city police chase that leaves just about every car and pedestrian destroyed in its wake. Yes, a sci-fi/horror flick that opens with a bank robbery and police chase! GOD, I miss the 80s!
Enter Tom Beck (Michael Nouri), a decorated (is there any other kind?) LAPD detective pursuing DeVries. He has been hot on the trail of this wacko and he always gets his man. Mostly because in films like this, it is required.
Beck and his police compadres set up a roadblock to stop DeVriesís mad dash through the city. Of course, Beck is the last cop to get out of DeVries's way as he barrels the roadblock, firing that one last shot that of course does DeVries in. Because in film, my friends, the hero cop has to fire the last shot as the 4,000 other shots by the other Detectives we all know went nowhere.
Flash-forward to the hospital. DeVries is in critical condition (apparently only Beck's shot actually hit the guy) and looks about to kick the bucket. Beck writes it up as case closed and heads back to the station. What happens next is both a beloved scene to me as well as so completely impossible to happen that it is mind-boggling. DeVries's hospital roommate, Jonathan Miller (yes, the man who killed numerous people attempting to escape gets a roommate, see what I meant?), has a heart condition, but he will be released soon. DeVries wakes out of his coma, grabs Miller and proceeds to excrete a very nasty little slug deal into his mouth. DeVries drops dead and Miller is rejuvenated and can now begin his rampant streak of violence. That's right, Grandpa is now going on a killing spree.
Meanwhile, Beck becomes plagued by an FBI agent here to investigate the crime. Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan) is sure that DeVries is still a threat. When DeVries's body is discovered, he is determined that DeVries and Miller are working together and now Miller is the threat. Beck for a while goes with the theory that Gallagher is a frickin' loon and needs a vacation... that is until more innocent civilians begin tearing up the city for no good reason. As the bodies pile up, Beck and Gallagher must work together to stop the alien slug before it reaches Senator Holt, the man it wants to ultimately become.
There is the basic plot. Beck and Gallagher run around the city, chasing various incarnations of the alien slug. The trick is, the only way to kill the beast is by causing its current human host to become so damaged (by shooting the shit out of it), that the alien slug is forced to leave the body in search for a new one. When alien hits air, it's Miller time!
The Hidden is one of the most exciting films to come out of the 80s, in my opinion, and I loved every second of it. You can have your Terminators or Things; I will take The Hidden every time. This film incorporated so many different elements flawlessly from sci-fi, horror and action films that at times you have to stop and marvel at how well they pulled it off. They had no budget, minimal resources and this was a time when special effects were very not special.
The acting was spot-on as well. Nouri, as the textbook hero cop, played his role to the hilt and I truly bought when he finally came around to what the hell was going on around him. It was also nice, in a film such as this, that The Hidden took a few minutes every now and then to slow down and focus on Beck's home life and how he does this job for his family. Most flicks of this ilk would not bother, but The Hidden makes it real. MacLachlan sold his role as well as the alien cop posing as an FBI agent. He doesn't want to deal with humans any more than that slimy alien slug, but he knows it has to be done. He also conveys a 'thing' that sees what Beck has, a family, that he longs for himself and the pain it causes him to go without. Essentially the workaholic version of the Terminator.
Jack Sholder directs as if this is the only film he will get a chance to. Which it pretty much was. Aside from a really bad Keifer Sutherland flick (Renegades) and Nightmare On Elm Street 2, this is really all of merit that Sholder has done. But you can tell that this was the one time the Studio let him loose to do whatever he wanted because he jacks up every scene with sick enthusiasm. Oh yeah, and it is FUN! Something sorely lacking in todayís depression film environment. Possibly Sholder's only worthy contribution to cinema, but at least the one was a hell of a ride.
Overall, this is one of my favorite films and is so off the map that I am not even sure which category it should go in - Sci-Fi, Horror or Action.
[Editor's Note : Review originally published for "Nox Noctris Vigilo".]