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HIDER IN THE HOUSE

Straight-to-video eighties stuff that holds up better than I expected.  This doesn’t mean the film is a classic, mind you, just that it’s above average for its type.  One thing it definitely has in its favor is Gary Busey at his absolute craziest--and that’s saying a LOT! 

The Package    
     I’m one of the select few who got to experience HIDER IN THE HOUSE on a big screen (lucky me) via a cast and crew screening in Culver City back in 1989.  I also read the script before production started, and remember a far different conclusion than what ended up onscreen.  There were high hopes for the film, directed by up-and-comer Matthew Patrick (who previously made the now-forgotten Spanish art film ATRAPADOS) and starring Gary Busey, just coming off a real life motorcycle accident whose affects may well have contributed to his unforgettably psychotic performance.  The film, in other words, wasn’t meant to go straight to video and be quickly forgotten...but it did and it was.

The Story 
     Tom Sykes is a criminal psychopath who’s just been released from a state institution--not that his time there has curbed his violent impulses, as he attacks a man in a hotel lobby on his first day of freedom.  Fleeing from the scene of the crime, Sykes finds himself in a suburb and decides to move into the attic of a large two story house, sealing himself off in a small section where nobody can see him.
     Said house has just been purchased by the Dyer family, consisting of the attractive Julie, her asshole hubbie Phil and their two young children.  Sykes, using his post in the attic to eavesdrop on the Dyer’s conversations, understandably develops a crush on Julie, and is horrified at overhearing Phil’s whiney, self-centered benter.  Sykes wastes no time in banishing Phil from the picture by surreptitiously sending Julie to a hotel room where Phil happens to be indulging his bimbo addiction.  Other problems for Sykes include the family dog, who manages to sniff him out, and an exterminator, who nearly poisons Sykes--he offs both, and then attempts to ingratiate himself into the family by romancing Julie and protecting her son from a schoolyard bully.  His attempts, of course, are doomed to failure, and he ends up alienating everyone and committing yet another murder, the victim this time being of Julie’s lady friends who catches him alone in the house.  Julie eventually decides to take her husband back...and discovers Sykes’ hiding place in the attic.  Clearly, a bloody confrontation is imminent.

The Direction
     While it’s hardly award worthy, Matthew Patrick’s direction isn’t bad; the film is well paced, with fine, crisp photography.  Patrick unfortunately can’t overcome Lem Dobbs’ sub par script, which suffers from a severe case of the Idiot Plot Syndrome (and anyway appears to have cribbed its premise from the Jack Vance novel and seventies TV movie BAD RONALD).  It seems a bit inexplicable that nobody in the film ever thinks to look through the air vent leading to the title character’s lair in the attic...or that the family would so matter-of-factly accept the disappearance of their dog...or that Mimi Rodgers nonchalantly allows a stranger (who is of course the “Hider” himself) into her house in such a suspicious atmosphere.  The tacked-on FATAL ATTRACTION-esque climax is another liability, being a thoroughly implausible jumble of guns, wholesale brutality and that ever popular Hollywood thriller staple, the dead/not dead bad guy (the script, as I remember, originally ended with the house burning down with the Hider inside, but that was apparently out of the scope of the budget). 
     At least the film is well cast: Michael McKean (yes, that Michael McKean) is reasonably effective as the asshole patriarch and Mimi Rogers proves once again that she’s one of Hollywood’s most underrated actresses in an extremely winning turn.  This leaves Gary Busey, who pretty much nails the title role and is largely responsible for the film’s effectiveness.  He has two of his best-ever moments herein: the scene where he demonstrates to Rogers’ son how to beat up his tormentors is a showstopper (and had the audience at the screening I attended all but climbing the ceiling), and his breakdown when he tries to ask Rogers out on a date is terrifyingly convincing.  Unfortunately, the filmmakers insist on presenting Busey as both a hiss-able boogeyman and a tragic anti-hero.  Such a dichotomy rarely ever works, and only a select few films--FRANKENSTEIN, REPULSION, TAXI DRIVER--have been able to pull it off.  HIDER IN THE HOUSE, it’s safe to say, is not among them. 


Vital Statistics 

HIDER IN THE HOUSE
Vestron Pictures 

Director: Matthew Patrick
Producers: Edward Teets, Michael Taylor
Screenplay: Lem Dobbs
Cinematography: Jeff Jur
Editing: Debra T. Smith
Cast: Gary Busey, Mimi Rogers, Michael McKean, Kurt Christopher Kinder, Candace Hutson, Elizabeth Ruscio, Chuck Lafont, Bruce Glover, Leonard Termo, John Green Jr., Bob Neill, Carole King, Jake Busey, Ryan Sheridan, Martin Goslins
 

     

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