|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 01 June 2004|
Even if you’ve never seen ‘The Hidden’ before, parts of it may look familiar to you. That’s because this unjustly neglected science-fiction action thriller has been liberally "borrowed" from by other films and TV shows ever since its 1987 release. Writer Bob Hunt has concocted a superb villain from beyond the stars, and director Jack Sholder knows just what to do with him.
The film begins with security camera footage of a hold-up in progress. Surprisingly, the robber (Chris Mulkey) who’s holding up the joint deliberately tags himself in the surveillance footage before fleeing the building. A further shootout takes place outside the bank, followed by a car chase in Chapter 2 that can proudly hold its own against most of its more famous vehicular pursuit peers. LAPD Homicide Det. Beck (Michael Nouri) is there when the perp goes down for the count, even though he doesn’t die outright in the hail of gunfire. Beck is perplexed when the killer finally expires in the hospital – only to have his crime spree apparently continued by a hitherto upright citizen. What we know that Beck doesn’t: a strange, slimy creature crawled out of the dying robber into the mouth of its new host, the nice man in the next hospital bed who rises suddenly cured to begin killing and stealing. Enter FBI Agent Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan), who irritates Beck with his mysterious, secretive manner. Gallagher’s unusual knowledge of what’s going on and his polite, unworldly manner tip us (though not Beck) off that he may be from much further out of town than Beck imagines.
Even if the rest of it wasn’t as engaging as it is, ‘The Hidden’ would be worth owning for that fabulous, go-everywhere, hit-everything car chase in Chapter 2. In the informative audio commentary track, hosted by Tim Hunter (himself the director of ‘River’s Edge’), Sholder explains how he made sure the bad guy drives a Ferrari, despite suggestions from on high that he use a less expensive Corvette. (Corvettes don’t dent as easily and are therefore much less fun in demolition footage.)
The film fairly flies along, with gunfire, speeding vehicles and modest but potent explosions at every turn. Creature fans will want to check out Chapter 4 – the evil alien is equal to anything seen these days in terms of both plausibility and gross-out factor. There’s a particularly good shoot-out and a great stunt fall in Chapter 13. Along with the audio track, ‘The Hidden’ DVD provides the unusual bonus of including test footage of unused versions of various effects, including the creature, with narration from director Sholder.
MacLachlan’s air of cautious reserve has seldom been put to better use, and Nouri is solid as the straightforward guy caught up in ever-increasing weirdness. Sholder and the cast do an excellent job of making sure that the evil entity displays a consistent personality from host to host, with Claudia Christian a sultry standout in this capacity.
A pleasure both as action and as science fiction, ‘The Hidden’ deserves to be seen.