'The Hidden' at 35: When Shape-Shifting Aliens Attack | Features | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

‘The Hidden’ at 35: When Shape-Shifting Aliens Attack 

The Hidden arrived three years before the arrival of Twin Peaks, but it’s a movie that should naturally appeal to fans of that particular show: It’s got Kyle MacLachlan, playing an FBI agent with an unorthodox style, who’s partnered with a more traditional cop, with the cop played by an actor named Michael. Furthermore, traditional crime storytelling tropes are combined, seamlessly, with the supernatural. 

In reality, The Hidden, which was directed by Jack Shoulder, fit nicely in with a run of satirical sci-fi films of the late Reagan era, along with Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop (also from 1987) and John Carpenter’s They Live (1988). Like those films, The Hidden works as commentary and as sci-fi, although it’s also frequently hilarious. 

It’s hard not to laugh at a car dealership that employs a bouncer: 

The Plot

The Hidden combined what looked like a traditional cops-and-crime action thriller, complete with chase scenes and shootouts, and combined it with sci-fi. And it did that with a spectacular hook: Previously law-abiding people in Los Angeles keep committing gruesome killings. The reason why is that a slug-like alien is taking over their bodies, one by one, before finding a new host. 

MacLachlan is Gallagher, an FBI man who joins in on the case along with a cop (Michael Nouri) who repeatedly shows his contempt for his federal colleague. The twist, we soon learn, is that Gallagher is in fact an extraterrestrial himself, having traveled to Earth in order to avenge the murder of his family by the other alien. There’s a subtle foreshadowing of this when Gallagher eats with the cop’s family, and it’s hinted that he has no idea how to use silverware. 

The alien inhabits various people, including a bank robber (Chris Mulkey, also a Twin Peaks), a stripper (Claudia Christian), and, eventually, a senator who wants to be president (John McCann). The rules of the film, that the alien can’t be conventionally killed while in a human host, leads to the film’s famous ending, where Gallagher uses a flame thrower to draw him out: 

This, in turn, led to one of the best political tweets in history: 

Watching The Hidden today, a few things are striking, many of them having to do with the leading man. 

Kyle MacLachlan

Kyle MacLachlan was really, really young in The Hidden ― still in his late 20s, as this came out just a year after Blue Velvet, in which he played a college student. It’s also just stunning that, especially after those two movies and Twin Peaks not long after, MacLachlan didn’t have more of a career as a leading man in movies.

 Was he still being blamed, all those years later, for Dune flopping? Did his turn in Showgirls leave a bad taste in people’s mouths?  For that matter, I always expected Twin Peaks: The Return to give his career more of a boost than it did, though he did have a memorable turn in the recent Confess, Fletch.

The Hidden was added to the Criterion Channel this year, leading many to rediscover it or find it for the first time. It’s also on all the major VOD platforms. 

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

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