The Hidden (1987) Blu-ray Review: The Best Movie John Carpenter Never Made

The epitome of everything that made ’80s cinema everlastingly fantastic, Jack Shoulder’s cult classic The Hidden is a rare hybrid of horror, sci-fi, action, and comedy. Set in the ghostly shadow of Los Angeles’ past, the 1987 film focuses on a parasitical alien lifeform from the infinity beyond with a local affinity for fast sports cars, deadly assault weapons, more money than it needs (since it doesn’t actually need any), loud rock music, and a lot of power over others. Yes, there’s one of them there allegories present in that particular synopsis; one which not only becomes all the more apparent as The Hidden moves its way up the human social ladder, but which is also downright frightening when viewed today.

With a cinematic pace akin to James Cameron’s The Terminator, Shoulder’s third feature film (released two years after that very homoerotic first sequel to A Nightmare on Elm Street) also manages to toss in the classic “buddy cop” motif. Representing the more down-to-Earth side of things is Michael Nouri, who actually turned down the chance to play in something called Lethal Weapon over this. Here, he’s joined by young Kyle MacLachlan, who plays a rather alienating FBI man ‒ two years before he would do so again in David Lynch’s masterful Twin Peaks ‒ who can’t seem to be terribly honest with his new, easily-annoyed L.A. cop (read: L.A. cop) partner when it comes to just what the hell is going on.

But one of my favorite things about The Hidden (and there are many, I can assure you) is the ever-changing selection of hosts our alien organism inhabits. Beginning with Chris Mulkey (another original Twin Peaks regular), the bad guy soon invades the body of an coronary victim, as played by character actor William Boyett of Adam-12 fame! Usually cast as a policeman throughout his long career in film and television, Boyett makes for a very memorable “shell” during his stint as the murderous, Ferrari-stealing villain, before passing the baton to stripper Claudia Christian! But it’s when The Hidden starts to hide inside the police station that things really start to get messy. And explosive. And damn fun, too.

Also featured in this, the best film John Carpenter never made, are Clarence Felder, The Return of the Living Dead‘s Clu Gulager (in one of his least-utilized roles of the decade), Ed O’Ross (Six Feet Under), Richard Brooks, Katherine Cannon, and Lin (Snakes on a Plane) Shaye. There is also a brief, early, blink-and-you’ll-miss-him appearance by none other than Danny (Machete) Trejo, who plays a prisoner (naturally) during the film’s climax. Producer Robert Shaye, who also brought us the entire original Elm Street legacy, John Waters’ Hairspray, and ‒ wait for it ‒ Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, also puts in a cameo. Grimm creator Jim Kouf provided the screenplay, albeit pseudonymously.

Replete with gratuitous ’80s gunplay, special effects that get under your skin, dynamic chemistry from our leads, and a rocking soundtrack featuring The Truth, The Lords of the New Church, and three songs by Concrete Blonde, The Hidden emerges once more via a new 2K scan from the Warner Archive Collection. Mastered from a new interpositive, The Hiddens ports a gorgeous 1080p MPEG-4 AVC transfer in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. English 5.1 and 2.0 (Mono) DTS-HD MA audio options are included for this release; the former being a redux of what we heard on the old New Line DVD, whilst the other has been taken from the original soundtrack. Optional English (SDH) subtitles are included.

Special features for this amazing cult classic have been ported over from the aforementioned New Line DVD release, and start off with an audio commentary by Jack Shoulder, who is joined by River’s Edge director Tim Hunter (who is pretty silent for the most part). Shoulder’s voice returns to narrate some special effects production footage, which features several different tests (in black-and-white). Lastly, the catchy and very 1980s movie trailer (narrated by the late great Hal Douglas, one of the kings of his craft) is included, which has been remastered in High-Definition for this release. Thankfully, the godawful sequel from 1993, The Hidden II, is not included here (believe me, it’s for the best).

Providing you “get it,” The Hidden is one of those films even people who don’t regularly watch the same movies over and over will have to revisit every so often. To this day, I recall my first encounter with it on late-night cable TV as a kid stuck in a hotel room with my grandparents. (In fact, I still hear my grandfather chuckling away at when an alien tentacle squirms out of Boyett’s arm. While I sat there in awe over what was surely the most awesomest movie ever made, I can only wonder what he must have thought!) MacLachlan is particularly awesome as the awkward fish-out-of-water lead, and I’m 75% certain my conscious molded part of my personality after seeing this film as an impressionable tween.

A good 30 years after the fact, The Hidden still leaves an impression on me every time I see it, and this beautiful new Blu-ray presentation from the Warner Archive Collection just makes me love the weird little B-movie that much more.

Highly Recommended.

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Luigi Bastardo

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