There’s action movies and then there’s ‘The Hidden’. I’m not the first person to eulogise about this film, but with ‘District 9’ bringing back the uneasy do-gooding truce between man and extra-terrestrial in a film that switched from ‘V’ as envisioned by Ken Loach into an entertaining compromise between ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Children Of Men’ it feels more relevant than ever. It’s curious that in the late ’80s a subgenre sprang up wherein cops were twinned with aliens for some ’48 Hours’ grit with added laserbeams. Why? Who the hell cares? It’s got car chases and impossible weapons being implemented. That’s what matters.
You never got body-swapping sentient beings driving Ferraris at silly miles an hour during ‘In The Heat Of The Night.’ 1987 gave us ‘The Hidden’. 1988 brought the close but no cigar James Caan and Terence Stamp outing ‘Alien Nation’ (you see what they did there?) and 1990 unleashed the Euro video rental favourite ‘Dark Angel’ with Dolph Lundgren and a script rewrite by Hollywood’s perennial writer of choice, David Koepp with Dolph briefly buddying with an alien’s outerspace pursuer who bites the bullet, or whatever otherwordly object pierces his flesh mid-way through the film in his pursuit of a large Aryan gentleman who injects strangers with vast amounts of smack and drains the ensuing overdose endorphins from their brain via their forehead. Its US title, ‘I Come In Peace’ sold it short. So did a trailer than contained the film’s ending.
I’d like to have seen the alien ‘odd couple’ approach employed in ’91’s ‘The Borrower’ – John McNaughton’s ultraviolent follow-up to ‘Henry – Portrait of a Serial Killer’ where an alien has to borrow, well…steal heads from people to stay alove on planet earth, alternating between doctors, a dog, and at one point, Antonio Fargas’s cranium. Instead, the beautiful Rae Dawn-Chong rolls with a disappointingly humanoid sidekick. Earlier oddities, like Larry Cohen’s demented 1976 masterpiece ‘God Told Me To’ (the forefather of ‘The Hidden’) and the dreadful, yet curiously watchable ‘Laserblast’ from the same year would have benefited from mixed-galaxy lawmen too.
Back to ‘The Hidden’ – an alien arrives that takes over bodies, loves fast cars and listens to crappy groups like The Concrete Blondes loudly, kills at will and robs banks for the fun of it. It even shoots Danny Trejo in an early speaking appearance for no good reason. A veteran cop is teamed with the weird Kyle Maclachlan who’s got a modus operandi for bringing in the intergalactic perp. Why this movie isn’t whispered about with the same reverance as ‘Predator’ and ‘Die Hard’ has long been a mystery. It’s fast paced, it’s got one of the best car chases (watch out for that wheelchair!) ever, strippers with firearms, blood, great prosthetics, and an ending that’s open to interpretation, provided you ignore the atrocious 1994 sequel.
This is the buddy movie on sherm sticks. There’s a spot of Carpenter’s ‘Starman’ and ‘The Thing’ in there, a sprinkling of ‘To Live And Die In LA’ and a whole lot more. In the US, a great almost Psycho Stick style poster looks like the way an addled Robert Downey Jr. probably saw the world during the filming of ‘Less Than Zero’ down the road, but in the UK, a different tact was used. The VHS cover stripped it of any promise of non-stop action, and showed something that’s borderline spoiler if elaborated on. Where’s the 308 GTS being blown to pieces? Check out its entry at the Internet Movie Car Database if you’re sceptical. And if the sci-fi cover threw you off the scent, the picture of what looked like a spider coming out a man’s mouth merely made this a ‘perhaps’ rent next to whatever tat Vestron had pumped out that Monday.
Only after seeing the coming attractions before ‘Die Hard’ in 1988, did the error of my ways become apparent. Deaths. Explosions. Silliness. This is the most overlooked film of the decade where the action film came of age…