Sunday, October 8, 2017

THE HIDDEN (1987) (Warner Archive Blu-ray Review)

Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: Region Free
Rating: R
Duration: 97 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080P HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Jack Sholder
Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri, 

Directed by Jack Sholder (Alone in the Dark) and written by Jack Koulf (The Boogens) 80's sci-fi action gem The Hidden (1987) opens with a real zinger, with static black and white security camera footage of Jack DeVries (Chris Mulkey, Twin Peaks) robbing a Wells Fargo bank in L.A., blasting three security guards with shotgun before staring straight into the security camera and shooting it. He takes off with a bag full of money in a sweet Ferrari, what follows is an an amped up car chase through the street of 80's Los Angeles where no one is safe, he even runs down a man in a wheelchair! The bank robber is finally stopped when his car plows through a blockade of cop cars and is gunned down in rain of bullets, smiling all through it, then his car blows up and he is knocked to the ground. The culprit is not expected to survive his injuries and is sent to the hospital where he is hooked up to life support. Surprisingly he wakes up and walks over to the bed next to his, where a man named Jonathan P. Miller (William Boyett, Blood Birthday) lays comatose with a bad heart. DeVries leans over the man and opens his mouth, a slimy black, tentacled slug crawls out his mouth into Miller, while DeVries body drops to the floor lifeless, Miller wakes up, and walks out of the hospital. That's right, this guy is some sort of of alien parasite that takes over a human host.

Investigating the case is hardened L.A.P.D. detective Thomas Beck (Michael Nouri, Flashdance) whom after speaking with neighbors of the normally mild-mannered DeVries' is more than a little confused as to why an ordinary citizen would one day just wake-up and set about robbing banks and murdering people. Beck is none to pleased when Seattle-based F.B.I. Agent Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan, Blue Velvet) shows up and takes the lead on the investigation, when informed that DeVries is dying in the hospital Gallagher quickly heads there where he discovers the strange set of circumstances regarding DeVries and Miller. From there Gallagher and Beck track down Miller, whom Gallagher says was an accomplice of DeVries, which further confuses Beck, there seems to be no correlation between the two men. Moments later Miller arrives at a local record store and beats the clerk to death, making off with the money from the register and a sweet 80s boombox.

I could not help but think of Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks when I saw Kyle MacLachlan onscreen, though this predates his turn in the series by a few years. He's an aloof guy, way more naive than you would expect of an agent, he literally takes everything at face value, and there's a reason for that. The alliance with Beck is an uneasy partnership, but Beck invites him home for dinner, and after drinking some beer Gallagher tells Beck and his wife that the killer he is tracking murdered his former partner, wife and daughter, and you can see the L.A. detective coming around to the weird FBI agent. An example of Lloyd's weirdness is when Beck offers him an Alka-Seltzer and he tries to eat the tablet instead of dissolving in water, the joke is called back a few minutes later when he was given an aspirin, for the same reason, and he drops into the water expecting it to dissolve. The humor is not unlike the spaceman-on-the-wrong-planet stuff we saw in John Carpenter's Starman (1984) a few years earlier.  

While we as viewers know it almost from the beginning Gallagher tries to tell Beck that the string of strange murders is actually the same alien-parasite inhabiting different human hosts, and we also ind out that - SPOILER - Gallagher himself is alien being who has been tracking the alien criminal for the last nine years, Of course Beck scoffs at the very idea, but eventually he comes around to it when there's little other explanation for why so many ordinary citizen are turning into 80's super-villains.

The long-list of human hosts are fun, the alien-criminal causing all sorts of trouble with each new embodiment until he has abused and used each host, abandoning them for a new one, beginning with DeVries, then into Miller, then the parasite chooses a comely stripper named Brenda (Claudia Christian, Maniac Cop 2) who after admiring it's new found titties, literally fucks a man to death before being forced to vacate that bodacious body for that of a dog! Sadly, this stripper has some nice moves but never fully undresses, so points must be detracted for that oversight, but you do see a lot of her rear. The parasite continues to work its way up the food chain of human hosts, from an L.A.P.D. Lieutenant to a prominent  politician with presidential leanings. The actors do quite nice job of making you feel like they are the same parasite, just inhabiting a different host. They all have a behavioral tick were they lick their lips, they each stare at themselves in the mirror, crave fast  cars, loud music and money. Though Brenda is easy on the eyes my favorite host is Miller, I love the way he lurches as he struggles with his hosts failing health, and the scene of him sitting at a booth in a diner with the boombox blasting Concrete Blonde at max volume - to the ire of diners and waitresses, clearly giving no fucks. Then he goes to a Ferrari dealership, repeatedly asking for the key for a sweet cherry-red Ferrari, before shooting the coke-addled buyer and dealer, and driving off. He also funnily attempts to pick-up a woman on the side of the street with behaviors he's observed, nearly pulling out his gun to kill her when she tells him to "fuck off". 

The flick is a lot of fun, fast-paced and high-energy, a hybrid genre film combing science-fiction, body horror, and buddy-cop action movie elements, it's a fun mash-up from start to finish. The special effects are also quite good, in measured doses we get the disgusting slug transference - which is all sort of sick with awful squishy sound effects and vomitous visuals, there's also lots of bloody squib action, and a great fire-stunt of a man being immolated by a flamethrower, with the slug emerging from the charred corpse before blowing up like the Death Star! Great stuff, and the high-speed car stunts are pretty great too, some of the opening car pursuit scenes feel par with The French Connection (1971) and To Live and Die in L.A. (1985).   

Not all the special effects hold up to the high-def image, some of the latex-origins betray themselves, and the space-gun Gallagher uses to combat the slug-creature is sort of laughable, but they're never not entertaining. This one has a little bit of everything for everyone, loads of actions, some sweet special effects, buddy-cop stuff, and sci-fi, body- horror elements are bundled together for one heck of a fun watch. 

Audio/Video: The Hidden (1987) arrives on Blu-ray from the genre film lovers over at Warner Archive, dusting off this gem from the Dimension Films vault. The 1.78:1 framed HD image is strong with good color reproduction, this one has a nice otherworldly green hue about it, not in a problematic sort of way, but the greens are really infused here, looking better to my eye than the overly bright DVD image, which leaned towards blue. The grain is well-managed, the image has a nice clarity to it, and skin tones look good. It also appears to show more edge detail around the frame. The images in this review are from, the site has a great comparison of the DVD versus Blu-ray for those interested. I'm not sure if this is a 2017 HD Master, the original announcement on the WAC Facebook page advertised it as such, but that delineation seems to be removed later, regardless, the new HD image looks fantastic to my eyes, a very significant upgrade from the now ancient looking snapper-case DVD release.

Audio on the disc includes both English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 which is the original mix, and a DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround Mix. I preferred the original mono mix, dialogue and effects are crisp and clean and delivered with some nice precision and oomph, the soundtrack featuring a score by Michael Convertino (Wake Wood) and choice song selections from Shok Paris, Concrete Blonde and The Lords of the New Church sound great, optional English subtitles are provided. 

The extras are carried over from the DVD release, we get an audio commentary by Director Jack Sholder and Tim Hunter, plus 8-minutes of SFX Footage with commentary by Jack Sholder and a theatrical trailer. The commentary is great, Sholder gives good commentary, very honest and blunt, taking a few shots here and again regarding Nouri, who seems like he was difficult to work. 

WAC aren't known for having the budget to furnish new extras for their releases, but this is a title that would have been even better with some new Scream Factory or Arrow Video-styled interviews with director Sholder, actors Kyle McacLachlan and Michael Nouri, and the special effects team which included such notable names as Howard Berger, Kevin Yagher,  Gino Crognale, Robert Kurtzman, and Kevin Yagher. A new Red Short Pictures making-of doc could have been something huge for this release. I'd be okay spending $10 more for these WAC titles with some new extras and interviews, just saying - hint hint.

This single-disc release comes in a standard Blu-ray keepcase, this one sporting the original movie poster artwork. The spine features the title of the film in a turquoise colored font, which is interesting, all of the other WAC titles I own have the same bronze/gold colored lettering on the spine, so that's sort of cool.

Special Features:

- Commentary by Director Jack Sholder and Tim Hunter

- SFX Footage with commentary by Jack Sholder (8 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD

The Hidden (1987) is a sorely underrated 80's sci-fi horror entry, it has a solid cult-following but it remains a bit of a hidden gem. Those who love it, LOVE IT, myself included, and I hope this gorgeous new Blu-ray from WAC throws a spotlight on this overlooked 80's sci-fi action classic, it deserves more love.