Aside from the movie itself, what I remember the strongest about The Hidden is where I was in my life when it came out. It came out in October, I was eighteen and had already graduated from high school, but that fall was strange. Not having to go back to school was an odd feeling. My best friend, Gerry, was a year behind, so when September came I was basically all alone when it came to hanging out with friends. I had one other buddy, Chris, but he was someone I could only see every once in a while. I remember feeling very lonely for the first time in my life. I hated high school, but without in my life, I really didn’t know what to do with my days. It took me a year to get my shit together (i.e. getting my driver’s license and my first job), but that October me and Chris saw The Hidden one Saturday afternoon. I knew of the movie briefly before then from Entertainment Tonight doing a segment on it. I know Fangoria covered it in one issue only (issue #68), but I never owned it, which is probably why I never knew anything about the film until a short time before it actually hit theaters. I also remember the TV spots for it.
In a galaxy far, far away there were these two aliens, one made of pure energy and one a black, tentacled slug. The slug killed the wife and child of the energy being and for the past nine years (Earth time), it’s been seeking revenge. This history is never shown in the film, but conveyed through dialogue. Both aliens are “shape-shifters,” but they don’t shape-shift by creating random forms or copying existing one, they change by body jumping, and a takeover results in the death of that “individual,” the alien’s personality replacing the “original identity” completely. By the time the movie starts this “alien feud” has already reached Earth by a month.
If you aren’t totally sure of the psychopathic nature the “slug” from the opening bank robbery and murder of three cops inside, and the subsequent car chase that results in several people being deliberately rundown, you’ll be damn sure of it later on after this Jack Devries (Chris Mulkey) is nearly blown up, is dying in the hospital, and Detective Willis (Ed O’Ross) explains to the doctor what this man did in the last two weeks, and all of it involves bank robbery, theft, mostly Ferraris, and serial killing involving a couple of kids he happily carved up with a butcher knife. Yup, that is one messed up “slug.”
Being on Earth this “slug” has acquired a taste for rock music, fast cars, and money and will murder anyone who gets in the way of that. There’s a touch of The Terminator in these two aliens, especially the “slug” once it gets into a body, and it won’t switch bodies until the one it’s using has been all “used up.” Bodies taken over show extreme resilience to physical damage. You can shoot this thing in a human form as many times as you want, and it won’t go down, even a shot to the head that would normally kill a human on the spot is no longer an easy way to end the life of a taken over body.
The energy being does not do a lot of body jumping throughout the film; it pretty much stays within the body of a Robert Stone (Kyle MacLachlan) it encountered on a camping trip. Stone and his buddy Lloyd Gallagher were caught in a forest fire and Gallagher was killed, Stone’s body was never found, but presumed dead. Gallagher was an FBI agent and so while in Stone’s body the it decides to also take over Gallagher’s identity, which, I assume, was no accident. Under the guise of an FBI agent it would have access to people and places no regular human would, making its mission a whole lot easier. Though it’s never clear why the alien just didn’t take over Gallagher’s body to begin with.
Both aliens in their human disguises don’t display a lot of emotion. Gallagher is at least better at showing the minimal where he doesn’t come off as utterly robotic, but the “slug,” once it goes into murder mode, is clearly more robotic (i.e. Terminator), but it too can at least show the minimum and generally pass for one of us. This is the first time I had ever seen MacLachlan in a movie and I remember being really impressed with his acting. He does come off as “slightly off,” slightly “alien” in his mannerisms, an odd performance that added to the greatness of the movie. The flick appears to take place in Los Angeles, and it all starts with the random murder spree of this Devries. Gallagher shows up and is partnered with reluctant Detective Tom Beck (Michael Nouri), who is another standout actor in this movie.
Typical with most alien invaders they end up wanting world domination and during the “slug’s” hedonistic spree of death and carnage it stumbles upon a newscast of a visiting Senator Holt (John McCann), who has aspirations of being a President. This knowledge is duly noted, but doesn’t get executed until this case becomes personal for the cops involved. It’s obviously personal for the energy alien, but once the “slug” body jumps into a couple of detectives, the first being Lt. John Masterson (Clarence Felder ) and then Det. Willis (O’Ross) does it feel Beck’s profession is being attacked from the inside, and only then does the “slug” feel it can get close enough to Holt for a jump. Believe it or not, after a bloody shootout, it manages to successfully take over the senator! Fear not, fans, the movie has a happy ending, well, a bittersweet one that has Gallagher finally killing the “slug,” which can only be done between body jumps and with this alien weapon, but in an early shootout Beck is fatally wounded and is dying in a hospital. Gallagher having taken an obscene amount of lead in his diet as he fought his way to the “possessed” senator is also in the same hospital and decides to give Beck’s family their father and husband back by jumping to his body as he dies. This is where we learn he’s an energy being.
Like George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead (1968), well, perhaps, to a lesser degree, The Hidden created its own sub-genre—the “alien buddy cop” flick. The next one I remember coming out that had a similar plot was I Come In Peace (1990), though with a few tweaks since the Dolph Lungren-starrer came with his own human, FBI partner, leaving the “alien cop” to go after the “alien drug dealer” himself until a fatal wounding forces him to seek help from Earth cops. Peacemaker (1990) was another I remember, though vaguely at this point since I haven’t seen it since the 90s, but I recall a plot about two aliens in human form fighting it out, and the gimmick was you’re not sure which one is the bad guy and which one is the good guy. The most well known “alien buddy cop” flick, though, is Alien Nation (1988). That film was so popular it spawned a TV series and slew of made-for-TV movies. The Hidden’s influence even branched out giving us some films where the cop wasn’t always paired with an extraterrestrial. I’m not sure, though, how much Jack Sholder’s movie influenced Dead Heat (1988), since it came out only a year after The Hidden, which means it had to be filmed in 1987, and The Hidden didn’t get released until October, but I see similarities even if the pairing involved one of them being a resurrected corpse. Believe it or not we also got a movie where a cop had to work with a gnome in A Gnome Named Gnorm (1990, aka Upworld). I remember not liking it, but the effects for the gnome were extraordinary. I believe The Hidden’s influence is still being felt today, just take a gander at the Will Smith action fantasy, Bright (2017), that has humans and fairies co-existing on the same plane, and Smith being partnered with an orc!?
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.78:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English: DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 English: DTS-HD Master Audio (mono)—English SDH subs only
The color green is very prominent in this movie. You can see it on the cover art and even on the back of the case. Even the opening credits are in green. The green’s pop and in some scenes there is a slight greenish-hue. This is not an accident of the print. This deliberate color scheme is mentioned a few times by Director Jack Sholder on the commentary. I’ve never seen the old DVD, so have nothing to compare this new transfer too, but just by what I’ve seen here the overall transfer is another gorgeous home run from Warner.
This print, however, may be different from the DVD in one regard. There’s a scene where Sholder mentions he didn’t like a line of dialogue Nouri utters, and since this commentary is a port over from the 2000 disc, he states he removed it for this release. Well, that line of supposedly removed dialogue is still intact on the blu, so I assume Warner remastered the theatrical version rather than the 2000 version Sholder oversaw. Personally, it didn’t bother me, it’s just a comedic line Sholder thought didn’t work.
Extras included . . .
- Audio Commentary With Director Jack Sholder and Tim Hunter
- SFX Footage With Commentary By Jack Sholder (7:32)
- Theatrical Trailer (HD)
The movie even has it’s own theme song, “Hidden” by The Truth. I miss that about 80s movies, some of them came with theme songs.
I’m pleased to see this flick still holds up, it’s paced perfectly, has a great plot, excellent characters and acting, and one other reason I felt it still feels relevant, not sure why this popped into my head last night as I watched it, but it did . . . on a more primordial level the movie depicts rather accurately random, psychopathic violence, an age old problem we humans seem to have. Rightly so, in all reality we’re still a very primitive species, and, if you ask me, random, psychopathic violence feels more prevalent in 2017 than it did in 1987.