Robin’s Underrated Gems: The Hidden (1987)

“He killed twelve people, wounded twenty three more, stole six cars, most of them Ferraris. Robbed eight banks, six supermarkets, four jewelery stores and a candy shop. Six of the ones he killed he carved up with a butcher knife. Two of them were kids. He did all that in two weeks.”

Those words describe a seemingly normal, law-abiding citizen who has inexplicably gone on a massive crime and murder spree. At the beginning of this film, the suspect is seen robbing a bank and the credits have barely finished rolling before The Hidden establishes its credentials by delivering one hell of a kick-ass car chase. This criminal is so ruthless that he does not hesitate to plow right through a catatonic old man in a wheelchair!

The Hidden seems like it’s going to a traditional action film, but something seems a little off when the police have to fire about a million bullets into the suspect before he goes down. The suspect is taken to a hospital, but it’s not long before an alien creature crawls out of his mouth and enters the body of another patient, who proceeds to exit the hospital and go on a crime spree of his own. It becomes clear that The Hidden is one of those rare films that is able to successfully balance no less than three genres. It’s a terrifically entertaining mixture of action and sci-fi, with a little horror thrown in as well. Two other films from the eighties that pulled this off successfully were The Termiantor and Aliens and while they’re now considered classics, The Hidden has never achieved the same recognition. It’s beloved by those who have actually seen it, but I’m sure it wasn’t a film that had a lot high expectations, considering that its director was Jack Sholder, who had previously made the godawful A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, and has never done anything else in his career that’s even as remotely as good as this.

Anyway, the hero of this story is an FBI agent named Lloyd Gallagher, who’s played by Kyle MacLachlan in his first non-David Lynch role. He has the same innocent, clean-cut persona he had in Blue Velvet, but there’s a reason something seems weird about him this time: he’s really an alien inside a human body! He’s teamed up with a non-alien L.A. cop named Tom Beck (Michael Nouri) and they attempt to track down the evil alien creature, who keeps transferring into different host bodies and wreaking havoc throughotu the city. This was made during an era where seemingly every other movie featured an odd couple cop-buddy team, but MacLachlan and Nouri have genuine chemistry with each other and make a great pairing. There’s a lot of humour to be had from the FBI agent being an undercover alien and displaying some really awkward human behaviour, and it leads to a lot of witty exchanges like this:

Beck: I want to ask you if I’m crazy, or does this seem just a little bizarre?

Lloyd: Yeah, it’s a little bizarre.

Beck: I knew that. I just wanted to know if YOU knew that.

There’s not a lot of deep character motivation here, but there doesn’t need to be: all you really need to know is that a good alien needs to stop a bad alien who particuarly loves Ferraris, bad eighties heavy metal music, and doing whatever the hell it wants! The Hidden works so well because it moves at a blistering pace and contains virtually no dead spots or wasted moments. You never get a chance to reflect on how absurd the plot really is, but the movie clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously and has a great sense of humour. The concept of an evil being jumping from body to body has since been copied (much less effectively) by films like Shocker and Fallen and runs the risk of wearing thin after awhile, but The Hidden finds a lot of inventive, clever ways to keep the idea interesting.

The film contains a lot action and a very high body count… which includes Danny Trejo in one of his earliest roles, as a prisoner who gets one line of dialogue (“Hey, hippie, what kind of dude are you?”) before being gunned down. Overall, the movie is 97 minutes of pure entertainment and it all builds up to an ambigious, but very satisfying conclusion. It’s a shame that The Hidden has never achieved the recognition it deserves, but it does have a pretty devoted cult following and virtually everyone who’s given it a chance are pleasantly surprised by how good it really is. It deserves a high triple recommendation for action, sci-fi and horror fans.

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