The Hidden

The Hidden (1987)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri
Extras: Commentary track, Production footage, Trailer

I remember the first time I heard about "The Hidden, " it was in the late 80s when a friend recommended me to watch this rather obscure movie at the time. I went out, rented the video and was quickly captivated by this powerful film that had been so overlooked and underrated at the time that it flew completely under my radar. After the fabulous "Nightmare On Elm Street" films, it was "The Hidden" that reinforced my feeling that New Line Cinema had a great nose for intelligent and well done horror, even on a limited budget. New Line Home Video has now prepared Jack Sholder’s science fiction horror movie for DVD and I was very eager to give the disc a thorough look.

Rather unsuspecting, the film dives right into the action immediately after the opening credits. We witness a man holding up a bank, taking down numerous guards with his shotgun without a single blink, smiling at the surveillance camera before destroying it and then racing off in his black Ferrari. Accompanied by pounding heavy metal music we see him fly through the streets of Los Angeles with police cars close to his bumper. Unimpressed, the man violently turns every which way, runs over pedestrians without a second’s hesitation and finally runs head on into a police barricade. He does all of this with a smug smile on his face. After crashing, he steps out of the car pulls the gun, is showered with bullets by the surrounding officers and still grins while the car explodes right next to him, engulfing him in flames.
Not bad for a movie’s opening, is it? But not much of a horror movie it seems. Not yet, the horror starts when the man is delivered into a hospital. Badly burned he has no chance to survive and yet, he manages to scramble to his feet to walk over to the bed next to his, where an old man lies sleeping. It is now that the man reveals his true identity. Opening his jaws wide, we see that the man is host to a membranous, slithering alien that now escapes the body and immediately makes its way into the body of the old man, taking control over his bodily functions. The old man gets up as if completely restored and goes on a killing spree of his own.
Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan) is an FBI agent who has been tracking the alien for many years and he is determined to find and destroy this violent parasite that hides inside innocent people’s bodies and follows the bloody trail of the creature.

"The Hidden" is a fast paced and very stylish movie that has viewers on the edge for its entire running length. It is not a very gory movie and despite the one scene at the beginning of the film we hardly get to see the alien at all. It is the wisdom that it is there that drives the story, and of course all the action. With a lot of gun play and bucket loads of blood shooting out of bullet wounds, "The Hidden" often appears more like an action flick than a horror movie.
The movie is beautifully photographed and the production design is also done very nicely, giving the film a very uniform look, oftentimes using cold colors and tones to create a subliminal feeling of harshness and hostility.

New Line Home Video is presenting "The Hidden" on this DVD in a new <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> <$PS,widescreen> version that restores the movie’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio, as well as a <$PS,fullframe> version. As expected, the <$PS,fullframe> version is an <$OpenMatte,open matte> transfer of the movie, adding additional picture information at the bottom and the top of the screen without cropping the picture’s sides. Although the source print used for this DVD is generally without defects or speckles, the film itself shows quite some grain. I am not sure whether this was intentionally part of the movie’s visual design, or simply a side effect of the film material used. Color delineation is generally good, although the slightest hints of color bleeding are evident in scenes where the fiery red Ferraris are featured for some reason. The film sports a very desaturated look throughout its production design, which has been nicely ported on to the DVD. However, the disc’s contrast appears a little limited, giving the picture a somewhat flat appearance at times without the depth and dimensionality found especially in brand new movies. Some edge-enhancement is evident in the transfer resulting in some slight ringing artifacts, but other than that the compression on this DVD is once again flawless. Not a sign of <$pixelation,pixelation> or <$chroma,chroma noise> is evident in the transfer, but unfortunately the amount of film grain evident in the transfer gives the presentation a very busy feel, never really managing to create as solid an image as you would expect from such a well-prepared DVD.

"The Hidden" comes with a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track that is well produced but has a tendency to sound a bit nasal. It is especially noticeable in the heavy metal tunes, which sound unnaturally flat with an obvious overemphasis in the mid-range. The low end extension is very limited, giving the film a limited frequency response, which is also very noticeable in the action scenes. Surround effects are limited mostly to the car chases and action sequences during the film. Dialogue however is very well produced and always understandable, albeit somewhat harsh sounding.

The disc also contains a <$commentary,commentary track> by director Jack Sholder. He is remarkably candid in his commentary, not shying away from pointing out poor performances and personality problems he was facing with some of the cast members. He offers a lot of insight into the production, mixing self-critique with information and behind-the-scenes anecdotes. It is a good <$commentary,commentary track> that has also been released on the movie’s earlier Laserdisc release, although I personally found Sholder’s incoherence a bit distracting at times. It is just so hard to follow someone who constantly stops in mid-sentence and then continues with a new one. Tim Hunter, a filmmaker who is unrelated to the movie, is also on the <$commentary,commentary track>, but apart from a few quips – many of which are shot down quickly by Sholder – he is mostly silently watching the movie, obviously enjoying it a great deal. (Who would blame him for that?)

Some additional footage that has not been used in the film is also part of the DVD, including test footage for the alien and other special effects. The footage also has a commentary by director Jack Sholder who explains in detail what happens in the scenes, and why the material wasn’t used.

Since the first time I saw "The Hidden" I thoroughly liked the movie. It is its science fiction elements mixed with horror and the furious action that keeps going on for 90 minutes, that makes this movie a highly entertaining ride. The stylish direction, the pounding music, and the relentless thrilling moments are what made "The Hidden" a very original movie at the time, and looking at it now on this DVD from New Line, I found that it still holds up pretty well indeed.