Comfortable and Furious

The Hidden (1987)

If you’re a seething fantasist, a deeply immature guy incubating warped daydreams about making ’em all pay, then The Hidden is right up your dark little alley. Here you can vicariously indulge your most hedonistic, destructive impulses. You know, taking whatever the hell you want, beating the shit out of whoever objects, smashing stuff up, driving like a madman, giving the finger to the cops, and flaming out in one great-big-fuck-the-world orgy of excess.

As the great Freddie Mercury once sang: I want it all and I want it now.

And guess what?

You’re not alone. There are aliens out there who also don’t want to go gentle into that good night. For they, too, love pounding rock music, piles of money, the hottest chicks, naked displays of power and the pleasurable sight of bullet-riddled irritants lying at their feet…

We begin with grainy, black and white security cam footage of an everyday scene inside a Los Angeles bank. A guard smiles at a bloke who’s just walked in. Within seconds the new arrival had pulled out a weapon, blown all resistance away, grabbed the cash, grinned at the camera and strode outside to jump into a black Ferrari. A fantastic chase involving dozens of cops ensues in which our demented driver mercilessly runs down a wheelchair-bound man, sending his body flying over the bonnet.

Slaying the disabled? Fuck, I’m in.

Detectives Beck and Willis (Nouri and O’Ross) try to piece things together after the perp is finally halted by a hail of bullets and put into intensive care. Nothing makes much sense, though. From all accounts the thrill killer’s a good guy yet in the last fortnight he’s wiped out twelve people (six with a butcher’s knife, including two kids), wounded twenty-three more, stolen six cars, and robbed eight banks, six supermarkets, four jewelry stores and a candy shop.

But the mayhem isn’t over.

Within hours of dumping Public Enemy No. 1 at the hospital, a different patient walks out and starts doing exactly the same anti-social stuff. All a bewildered Beck can do is ask: “What is it? A full moon?”

Things grow even weirder when a dazed-looking FBI agent (MacLachlan) turns up to offer help. There’s something not quite right about this dude from the way he’s baffled by an Alka-Seltzer tablet to how awkward he is around a child. The harried, sarcastic Beck forms an uneasy alliance with him, but one of The Hidden’s strengths is its nimble sidestepping of cliches. They’re neither buddies nor a pair of mismatched, bickering cops. Instead, we get an understated chemistry that not only builds an air of mystery but leads to a deeply satisfying conclusion.

Like the best movies, The Hidden reaches out, grabs you by the front of your shirt and hauls you into its chaotic universe. Given its inspired script, breakneck pace and glorious mash-up of sci-fi, horror and action, it’s a surprise it didn’t find much of an audience upon release (people instead flocked to the likes of Beverly Hills Cop II and Three Men and a Baby. Aah, what would Morrissey say? Come Armageddon, come, Armageddon, come…) Sholder directs with both panache and restraint, ensuring his varied array of super-charged villains smirk now again during their bouts of high-octane carnage but never cackle or twirl a moustache. There’s plenty of smart dialogue, excellent special effects and some nifty stunt work. The whole shebang is also nicely balanced by moments of humor, such as a perp growing enraged upon hearing a snatch of sappy, upbeat music. When it comes to sci-fi/horror, The Thing and Alien tend to lead the pack with their outstanding special effects and growing sense of claustrophobia. The Hidden isn’t quite in the same extraterrestrial league, but its elastic concept and unrelenting inventiveness sure do deliver one helluva fun ride.



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