Irresistible horror/sci fi from 1987 that combines two eighties movie mainstays: alien invasion and police action. Think STRANGE INVADERS meets LETHAL WEAPON, or perhaps XTRO meets COBRA in a seriously entraining film with enough action to satisfy action fans and more than enough over-the-top grue to pacify horror buffs.
Produced by former New Line Cinema honcho Robert Shaye, THE HIDDEN was one of New Line’s most prestigious 1980s releases. It didn’t enjoy the type of success granted New Line’s crown jewel A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, which was heavily sequalized--although a HIDDEN 2 appeared in 1994.
Of course, THE HIDDEN is actually superior to A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET in many respects, being a more confident, streamlined piece of work with a bigger budget. It’s certainly the finest film ever made by director Jack Sholder (then coming off A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2), whose career never got the boost it should have from THE HIDDEN; later Sholder offerings include better-forgotten straight-to-DVD bummers like WISHMASTER 2 and ARACHNID.
One morning a trench coat wearing man goes nuts in a downtown LA bank, whipping out a rifle and shooting everyone in sight. He then leads cops on a high speed chase and ends up in a hospital. A background check determines that the man was a quiet, nonviolent fellow who inexplicably snapped.
What the authorities don’t know is that an alien creature has taken control of the guy’s body, and in the hospital it takes possession of another man by slithering into his mouth. In this new guise it makes more trouble, stealing a Ferrari and gunning down a sleazeball car salesman--and then the critter switches bodies again, the receiving vessel this time being a hot stripper. She initiates another high speed car chase, ending up atop a tall building and jumping off. From there the critter enters the body of a dog, and then the animal’s police commissioner owner, leading to a gun battle in a crowded prison.
Throughout it all Beck, a tough cop, has been tracking the creature in its various guises. He’s joined by Lloyd, an FBI agent who is himself an alien in disguise, and has been pursuing the monster for approximately nine years of “our time”. Beck is severely wounded in the prison shoot-out, leaving Lloyd to finish off the critter, who now controls the body of a popular senator in its bid to take over the world…
This film has an indisputably great opening sequence with an indistinct man shooting up a bank, seen from the point of view of a video surveillance camera; the guy then ventures outside for a wildly kinetic car chase down Wilshire Boulevard. That’s a lot for any movie to live up to, but this one pulls it off with a wealth of expertly staged shootings, car chases and gross-out horror.
Jack Sholder (who describes himself as a “humanistic” filmmaker and claims his greatest inspiration was the French master Jean Renoir) tends to favor wide angle masters over the multiple set-ups and cutaways favored by so many modern-day directors, yet the film is remarkably lively and fast-paced, with a good amount of breakneck action mixed with standard eighties cop movie shtick, which is itself pulled off with uncommon energy. This brings us to the script, which is smart, tight and imaginative--and, I understand, was heavily rewritten by Sholder and others during production.
The low budget special effects are good, if unexceptional by modern standards, while the performances are top-notch. Kyle MacLachlan, who was then known for headlining David Lynch movies, has an authentically otherworldly vibe, while the various actors playing the “Hidden’s” human vessels all do superlative work, in particular Chris Mulkey as the bank robber and the always-watchable Claudia Christian as the machinegun-packing stripper.
New Line Cinema
Director: Jack Sholder
Producers: Robert Shaye, Gerald T. Olson, Michael Meltzer
Screenplay: “Bob Hunt” (Jim Kouf)
Cinematography: Jacques Haitkin
Editing: Michael N. Knue
Cast: Michael Nouri, Kyle MacLachlan, Claudia Christian, Clarence Felder, Clu Gulager, Ed O’Ross, William Boyett, Richard Brooks, Katherine Cannon, Larry Cedar, John McCann, Chris Mulkey