Review: The Hidden

Directed by: Jack Sholder

This is one of those little seen low-budget sci-fi flicks that I love, but hardly anybody has seen or even heard of. It stars a post Dune and Blue Velvet but pre-Twin Peaks Kyle MacLachlan as an FBI agent tracking a series of random acts of violence by seemingly ordinary people with not a scratch on there records. He's teamed up with local detective Tom Beck, played by Michael Nouri to try and catch these culprits before they kill anyone else. But everytime they get close to one of them, that suspect winds up dead and all of a sudden there's someone new running around killing people for no apparent reason. We soon learn that we're dealing with an alien who inhabits human bodies to move around and the only thing the cops do know is that they like fast cars, namely Ferrari's, and seem to kill at random.

The film is technically low-budget, but it doesn't look it. In fact, I could easily have seen this thing in the theater because the production value is pretty damn good. From the practical effects to the action sequences and just the overall look of the film shows you that there is legitimate talent here. It's a really fun film and right from the opening sequence, your never bored or frustrated at how cheap it looks or how badly it was made. Not with this film. Your only real complaint might be of how ridiculous the story is. Because it is just plain fucking silly most of the time. But if you can look past that aspect of it, it's a badass ride.

It's directed by a guy named Jack Sholder, who's done mostly TV work as a director except for a couple of Direct-to-Video titles and 2 or 3 big budget titles-this being one of them. The others being A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge from '85, probably the darkest of the Elm Street entries and one of my favorites, and Renegades, a forgetful crime drama with Lou Diamond Phillips and Kiefer Sutherland. The guy's got a great eye and keeps the action, suspense and thrills moving along nicely. His talent as a director here is matched only by the pretty damn great practical effects by a crew of big names in the effects industry now like Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman and Kevin Yagher to name a few. So the effects are pretty awesome.

As fun as this movie is most of the time, the script is also pretty horrible. A lot of it makes no sense whatsoever. Shit happens here that never gets explained and literally makes no sense. I mean, I know it's a low-budget sci-fi flick, but you'd think they'd try to offer up "some" explanations or reasoning for some of the shit that they do.
I suppose that's why the guy that wrote the screenplay, Jim Kouf, uses a pseudonym here as Bob Hunt, and all of his other scripts he might be embarrassed about. Which is weird because he's also written a couple of big budget hits like National Treasure, Stakeout and Rush Hour. Only he uses his real name for those, but whatever.

What we learn is that there is an alien responsible for all of this. It looks like a big black slug and inhabits a human body to move around. Once the human body is too damaged or wasted by say being in a car crash, falling off a building or getting riddled with bullets, it transfers to the next body that comes in contact with it via the mouth. As this alien inhabits random people it's killing people, robbing banks, stealing cassetes and a boombox from a record shop, plowing down people in high speed chases and in one case fucks a guy to death. All for seemingly no reason. Enter FBI agent Lloyd Ghallager who seems to show up out of nowhere trying to track this thing down who has a surprisingly intimate knowledge of why these people are acting the way they do and doing the things they do. He seems to know that they kill anyone who gets in there way if they want something. And he knows that they like fast cars, which is funny because "he" also drives a fast car, a Porsche to be exact, that he says he stole when asked by his new partner about it. His partner thinks he's joking of course. This is where you're supposed to start thinking that maybe this FBI agent Gallagher might not be all he says he is because from the moment you meet him, he's just odd. He looks and acts like an FBI agent and seems to know the protocol, but doesn't know what an alkazelzer is or even how to take an aspirin. Weird. So you start wondering is this guy an alien too? Also, once it's revealed that he may be from some where far, far away as well, he sports a special gun or weapon that he says is the only thing that can kill the alien. And it has to be when the alien is transferring between bodies because the gun or weapon is useless against humans because of our chemical structure or something to that effect. This is probably the stupidest looking weapon I've ever seen, even for an alien weapon. It looks like something they bought at the .99 cent store. My 8 year old son has a cooler looking alien gun than the one the actual good alien uses in this film.

Every once in a while throughout the film you see the alien or whoever's body it happens to be inhabiting catch a news report on any random television set about the governor. Maybe he's in a diner or whatever, but there always seems to be a television set around somewhere and they're always showing footage of the governor and the alien or "whatever poor schmo" this alien inhabited always watches intently, like it's something important. Well we come to find out that the alien's agenda is to inhabit the governors body and hopefully one day soon become the president so that this alien rules the world, or something like that.

So as much as I love this film, and I really do because it's ridiculous, but oh so much fun to watch, there are still things that are so fucked up and never get explained.

1. They only listen to heavy metal music. Doesn't matter if the alien is in the body of an old man or a hot stripper, heavy metal music has to be blaring out. And remember, this was 1987 so it's cheesy 80's metal.

2. They only like fast cars, namely Porsche's or Ferrari's, but they never say why, which is weird because they are big slug looking things with no appendages so how would they even know how to drive in the first place and what difference does it make what kind of car hey drive?

3. They do this weird obscene lip-licking thing with there tongue if for no other reason than to show you the viewer that the person your looking at is the alien. I mean, it's cool seeing Claudia Christian do it, but when you see 2 old guys in there 60's do it, it's kinda gross.

There's a scene towards the last act that made me laugh so hard when I saw this last night. The detective, being so frustrated with his FBI partner's unwillingness to tell him anything about the case arrests the FBI agent and throws him in jail. As he's walking through the station he walks past a couple of cells but because of the camera angle you can't tell who it is. You just see bodies in the cell. One of those bodies yells "Hey I wanna make a phone call!". in 1987 you wouldn't have known or cared who the hell that person was yelling. But in this time and in this age of cinema you immediately recognize that voice and you say to yourself "was that???". A few minutes later the alien has inhabited the police captain's body and he's got a bazooka strapped to his back and he's walking through the police station looking for the FBI agent who has just been arrested and put in a cell. As he's walking around with a machine gun in his hand that same voice that you thought you recognized now says "What kinda weird dude are you?", only this time the camera pans to him as the captain blows him away. That person is none other than Danny Trejo! Machete himself! It was so funny for so many reasons. One was that was such a weird line to say. The alien is in the captains body and he looks normal, except for walking around with a gun and a bazooka on his back. To say "What kinda weird dude are you?" just makes no sense whatsoever and that's why it's funny. I mean, what does that even mean in the context of the situation? Second, it shows us how far Danny Trejo has come. Here he was always playing a prisoner or thug or gang member in countless movies where he either had no lines or maybe 1 or 2 before getting killed off. Now he's the Spy Kids uncle, Machete and finally starring in his own flick, the you-either-love-it-or-hate-it Machete.

I remember owning a 2-VHS tape set of this film for what seemed like forever. I don't remember where I got it, probably ebay, but it was cool because it was one of those rare VHS tapes in letterbox format. They rarely ever released films in this format and to see that they did that for this flick was pretty awesome. I would usually pop it in maybe once a year or so and always being shocked at how good and entertaining it was. Because in all honesty, it is. It's fun as hell with car chases, action, good effects, good performances, Kyle MacLachlan playing weird like nobody else can and a fun premise. I would have to categorize this up there with I Come in Peace, another low-budget sci-fi flick made really well but never got the love it deserved.


  1. I do watch that from time to time---high rewatchability!:)

  2. right on dude! it really is one of those rare low-budget gems. :)