They do not make them like 1987’s The Hidden anymore, and that’s a real shame. Jack Sholder’s action thriller is a flavourful melange of other movies, which is usually a recipe for disaster, but for once, they all just fit perfectly together to create something that works like a charm. Think The Thing meets Predator meets They Live meets Lethal Weapon meets The Terminator meats Twin Peaks and you’re getting the right kind of vibe; The Hidden was New Line’s attempt to create their own knockout sci-fi franchise, and although one measely sequel followed, I’d be right up for reviving the high-concept of thrill-seeking aliens from the planet Altair using earth as their playground for kicks.
The Hidden features similar day-glo credits and musical cues to To Live And Die In LA, together with a mise en scene of burnt-out LA cops led by Tom Beck (Michael Nouri from Flashdance). The fuzz have reasons to be frazzled; there’s a crime wave hitting the city, and it’s all the work of an alien slug able to shift from one victim to another. The alien has a penchant for rock music, fast cars, murder, fast food, and other conventional 80’s excitements, and Beck has his hands full even with the assistance of a FBI man who may not be who he seems. He’s Lloyd Gallagher, played by Kyle McLachlan in a prototype for his Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks. Gallagher may also be an alien called Alhague, and there’s no hiding place as two alien races collide over a series of car-chases and shootouts across Los Angeles.
The Hidden establishes its bad-ass credentials from the get go as the alien robs a bank, steals a red sports car and starts mowing down innocent people, before slipping into a more comfortable, gelid form to pass to another unwitting victim in a horrific but cool looking effect. ‘It’s a little bizarre,’ admits Gallagher as the earthly hunters become the hunted and the alien slug closes in on him, while Beck works hard to understand a cosmic conflict that’s well above his pay-grade, ‘I knew all that, I just wanted to know if you knew that,’ he admonishes Gallagher as the truth comes out, but their buddy cop routine plays well with Altarian Alhague taking Gallagher’s form to seek revenge for his own death.
The Hidden is probably the movie that’s closest to The Terminator in its frenetic pace, punchy action, underlying sci-fi premise and ingenious story; ‘I already shot you once,’ the alien tells Beck before shooting him again, and for once we have a ruthless, fearsome adversary that uses people as puppets, but retains a specific sense of purpose, and is also smart enough to make the best of the high-end cars, guns and ammo available to it in mid-80’s America. ‘I want to be President,’ the alien slug announces when it takes over a political candidate towards the end, but satire is just one of many strings to this bracingly un-PC action thriller. Something of a cult film today, and a big influence on other projects since, The Hidden shouldn’t be kept under a bushel; it’s a rocking, kick-ass movie that burns rubber, shoots to kill and generally gets the job done, right up to a tricky, ambiguous ending. The Hidden has everything, strippers with machine guns, shoot-outs in mannequin warehouses, Ferrarris being driven through plate glass windows, and that thing where Kyle McLachlan acts like an alien disguised as an FBI man; what more could you want?