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Ten Words or Less Review: Decent 80’s sci-fi that apes its betters, works anyway.

The fact that “The Hidden” is watchable is a pretty amazing thing.  On paper it’s little more than a low-budget 80’s sci-fi film that transparently apes Cameron’s original “Terminator” film and combines it with Carpenter’s 1982 remake of “The Thing.”  An alien is loose in L.A. on a crime spree of robbery and murder, stealing European cars, killing indiscriminately, all the while jamming any kind of metal music it can get its hands on.  Every time the body it’s in gets shot to pieces, which is frequent, it jumps into another host and starts the fun all over.   A rugged L.A. cop (Michael Nouri) and an FBI agent (Kyle MacLachlan) team up to hunt down this evil alien dickweed.

Like I said, on paper it sounds atrocious.  The odd thing is that after 22 years, “The Hidden” still hasn’t quite fallen off the radar of nerd awareness.  It still warrants the occasional mention on movie sites and the reason is that while marred by unoriginality, it’s made with an ample amount of skill, has a screenplay that isn’t terrible but mostly gets by on the strength of its agreeable leads.  Nouri does the overworked, skeptical cop thing pretty well, but of more interest is Kyle MacLachlan.  His peculiar FBI agent was only his third film, after “Dune” and “Blue Velvet”, and it seems to have served as his model for the work he did in “Twin Peaks.”  Its strong performances in dumb material that often make the dumb material work.  The film also avoids being too ambitious with its special effects.  Very often films like this can run into a brick wall as they reach for something they can’t achieve.  “Hidden” doesn’t try complex alien effects or shots of space ships falling to Earth and is probably better for it.

“The Hidden” has nice touches that make it a little bit better than the exploitation crap it was probably meant to be.  The part about the alien that loves rock is the best of them.  It’s probably never been anybodies favorite movie and I doubt an elaborate DVD special edition will ever materialize, but it works for what it is.  As someone who has suffered through some very awful retro, sci-fi pieces of late, “The Hidden” was a breeze to watch.

P.S. As marginal or awful as these 70’s and 80’s sci-fi movies can be, they usually had better posters.  Like the one above.

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