The Hidden (1987)
★★ / ★★★★
Jack DeVries (Chris Mulkey) robs a bank which leads to a car chase with the police. After killing some innocent people and leaving many wounded, DeVries is sent to the hospital due to life-threatening injuries. Tom Beck (Michael Nouri) is convinced that the case is closed now that the perpetrator is captured but it proves to be just the beginning when an FBI agent, Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan), shows up at the station. Gallagher has been looking for DeVries and that although he learns that his suspect is in the hospital, he still considers DeVries extremely dangerous. And he’s right.
Although “The Hidden,” written by Jim Kouf and directed by Jack Sholder, proves that it has the capacity to create great special and visual effects, it is actually more interested in telling a story even if its strands are eventually stretched too thin. The formula is simple: Beck and Gallagher join forces to hunt down a person of interest, a chase scene with a shoot-out occurs, the person of interest gets away, the FBI agent mutes his disappointment while his partner begins to grow suspect, and the cycle continues. It isn’t particularly exciting except the person that they wish to capture is not at all human but an extraterrestrial. It uses a human body as its host and when the body is either too weak or damaged, it evacuates and crawls into the closest organism that can sustain its needs.
The alien looks slimy and gross, but equally interesting to observe is MacLachlan as the quiet, almost eerie, FBI agent. There is a creepy calm that rests on his face as violence and murder unfold before him. Is it because he’s seen and experienced many bizarre happenings during his specialized career? Has he been hunting this life form for too long that he’s no longer surprised by its pattern of behavior? Unfortunately, I found the character quite easy to figure out. Because the picture lacks enough layers to keep us occupied, it is possible for the eventual revelations to be accurately predicted halfway through.
I enjoyed the partnership between Beck and Gallagher because they are never allowed to feel close to one another. Despite the extraterrestrial angle, this collaboration is anchored in reality. One of the best scenes is when Beck invites over his temporary partner for dinner. In a way, it subverts the audience’s expectations because we expect them to like each other more after conversing and sharing a good meal. By the end of the night, the screenplay makes a point that their relationship has not gone through some sort of change. After all, they’ve known each other for only a couple of hours. The point is we want them to warm up to each other and we look forward to the moment if or when they finally do.
Despite its in-your-face violence run amok, “The Hidden” can be appreciated for the small things. For instance, the scene involving the alien, while inside a host, wishing to get its hands on a Ferrari Mondial has an undercurrent of humor. The alien works as a metaphor because when we really want to have something in our possession, even if we know we shouldn’t buy it, most of us give in to that gnawing need—as if something had taken over our bodies for some time.