DIRECTED BY

Jack Sholder

 

STARRING

Kyle MacLachlan

Michael Nouri

Richard Brooks

Claudia Christian

Chris Mulkey

 

RATED

R

 

RELEASED IN

1987

 

RUNNING TIME

1 Hr., 36 Mins.

The Hidden March 23, 2020  

he villain of The Hidden (1987) is all id. He's (?) a slimy alien who has crash-landed on Earth. He's there for the sole purpose of taking over human bodies and using them to enjoy destructively hedonistic pursuits — sex, theft, and murder among them. He will use a host’s body until the host is too weak to continue hosting — which in most cases means that the host has been shot to death by the police following a long chase

Kyle MacLachlan and Michael Nouri in 1987's "The Hidden."

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thanks to the extremes to which the alien will go.

 

The Hidden opens with a bank robbery, peppered by the killings of onlookers. Then it moves into a car chase climaxing in a Bonnie & Clyde-style showdown. After the melee, law enforcement finds out, surprisingly, that the perpetrator (Chris Mulkey) has no criminal record. He is unimaginatively described by those who knew him as "nice," "someone who kept to himself." At first I wasn’t moved by this since superbad real-life criminals are frequently described in similar terms before their arrest for a particularly heinous act(s). But then we learn that the perpetrator actually was nice and someone who kept to himself. It’s just that his body was taken over by the film’s alien villain. The freakiest of a thrill killer, if you ask me.

 

The Hidden is a standard-enough cop thriller though more so feels like the kind of old-fashioned chase movie American International Pictures used to make, just with a sci-fi edge. It follows the investigation of L.A. detective Thomas Beck (Michael Nouri) and his assigned partner, FBI agent Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan, clearly playing a heroic alien chasing after the villainous one). The movie, which is written with a pre-X-Files-like phantasmagoria by Bob Hunt, pretty much constitutes Beck and Gallagher trying to catch up with the bad alien’s latest victim before he can move onto the next one. Unfortunately they can’t just shoot the alien dead. (And besides, a specialized unearthly gun is the only device that has an effect.) They must act as the alien is exposed, wriggling around en plein air between bodies. In the course of The Hidden the literally spineless beast will take over the limbs of a stripper (Claudia Christian), a middle-aged man with dangerously high cholesterol (William Boyett), a dog, a senator (John McCann), and others. 

 

Little about The Hidden surprises. Both alien reveals are, I think, meant to be looked at as plot twists, though it’s probable that most viewers will see them coming from more than a few miles away. But this obviousness, in a way, adds to the charm of the feature. This is an efficient and cleverly made genre movie meant to act as a cheap thrill without having to venture out to be much more than that. It doesn't have to shock to be effective. We have a good time with it while it lasts, then we forget it.

 

For fans of Twin Peaks (1990-’91), the show on which MacLachlan would soon star, and of The X-Files (1993-2002), a viewing of The Hidden is especially worth pursuing: MacLachlan’s outré performance in the movie acts as a sort of prologue to his socially maladroit but likable Agent Cooper, and the film’s rather seamless way of inserting the supernatural into otherwise routine cop-drama antics is a nice preamble to the formula perfected by Chris Carter and company. The Hidden isn’t that great a movie, but on an average evening where one wants to escape into something fun without their intelligence being insulted, a well-made thriller with a taste for at least a little risk-taking goes far.  B