ICYMI - HALLOWEEN EDITION: The Hidden (1987)
The weather is cooling down, the days are getting shorter and pumpkin is finding its way into everything you can and cannot think of, so Halloween must be around the corner. And with it, the perfect time to reminisce about the films that scare us and still give us nightmares. As I did last year, I will take the time to highlight a few lesser known horror and suspense films in the next few weeks. The classics like Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, Halloween, and The Silence of the Lambs never go out of style, but it is important to widen one’s horizons and be open to discovering what you may have missed.
Science Fiction cinema is brimming with tales of aliens inhabiting our very bodies. From Invasion of the Body Snatchers (and its many iterations) to The Faculty to even Jeff Bridges' Oscar-nominated turn in Starman, Hollywood has gotten plenty out of this concept of an up-close and personal alien encounter. But more importantly, I think actors relish the opportunity to take on such a role of an alien inhabiting our body and consciousness. It seems like something out of acting school 101 where you imagine yourself in someone else’s body and take the time to learn and understand every moving part while trying to fit in among the masses. It’s a fun exercise I am sure and many actors have been up to challenge, including Kyle MacLachlan in The Hidden.
From director Jack Sholder (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2) comes this sleek 1987 thriller that finds an unknown evil alien bent on world domination with only one good alien, in the guise of Mr. MacLachlan, to stop him. The film is fast-paced, tension-filled and even has a few laughs. As the film starts, we see a bank robber lead a high-speed pursuit and be seemingly killed by a hail of bullets that would make Sonny Corleone flinch. But, its just the beginning. Det. Tom Beck (Michael Nouri) thinks he’s looking at a standard crime until another “ordinary person” continues the M.O. He is soon joined by an FBI agent, played by Kyle MacLachlan, who convinces him this is just part of a pattern.
The audience learns that the “evil alien” is just moving from body to body until they have outlived its’ usefulness or it finds a better fit. MacLachlan as the “good alien” is trying to stay on its’ trail and may have found his “best fit” taking over the body of an FBI agent. Things move quickly and thankfully Nouri catches on with the best line of the film, “Are we talking Spaceman, here?” We watch as the “evil alien” moves from body to body, including a stripper, a cop and even man’s best friend. The film culminates with said alien finding himself in the body of a US Senator turned Presidential candidate. Yes, the film may even be relevant today.
The Hidden works because the script by Jim Kouf (Stakeout, Gang Related) is crisp and director Sholder keeps the action moving along. But it also works because of the performances of MacLachlan and Nouri. Coming off the disaster that was 1984’s Dune and the provocative Blue Velvet, MacLachlan seems right at home in this world as a crusading alien. And yet, he never seems to be going for an effect. He plays the role relatively quietly, understanding the need to fit in among the actual humans. His performance reminded me and many of the previously mentioned work of Jeff Bridges in Starman. As for Nouri, he grounds the film as the cop who thinks he has seen it all and is smart enough to believe what it is that he is seeing now. I’m glad to see that both have actors have had sustained careers.
While The Hidden may not have the scares of other Halloween fare it’s still worth a look because of it’s style, wit, and energy. The fact that it hasn’t been remade is both a shock and a pleasant surprise for me. Hopefully, you are equally surprised.