The Hidden (1987) is an obscure science fiction film starring Kyle MacLachlan after his role in Blue Velvet, but preceding his Twin Peaks fame. Despite several tropes, the skewed plot line makes it an enjoyable distraction.
Essentially a warped version of the “buddy cop” genre, Michael Nouri plays L.A. detective Thomas Beck. Beck pursues and (apparently) fatally injures spree killer Jack DeVries (Chris Mulkey) during the chase. FBI Special Agent Lloyd Gallagher (MacLachlan) later confronts Beck, saying DeVries is still a threat.
Meanwhile, in the hospital, DeVries jumps up and attacks a heart patient Jonathan P. Miller (William Boyett). DeVries pops opens his mouth and out crawls a hideous, slug-like alien. It crawls down Miller’s throat and takes him over, letting its old host collapse. Miller runs off to commit more of the random violence in the same manner as DeVries.
After this starts, Gallagher tries to convince Beck that Miller is a partner of DeVries who is every bit as dangerous, despite no criminal record.
You can probably guess how the rest of this goes. The evil alien continues to jump through host bodies while the authorities struggle to catch up.
It’s fairly obvious from the beginning that Gallagher is another alien. MacLachlan does a brilliant job of being “not quite right”. He conveys a vibe of alien without much scenery-chewing. Not only his weird questions, but MacLachlan’s deliciously “off” mannerisms. There’s an especially amusing dinner scene with Beck’s family, where Gallagher gets tipsy. Bloody hilarious. My favorite part is when Beck asks him where he’s from. Gallagher points straight up. “From up north?” Beck asks. Gallagher nods.
It turns out Lloyd is an alien “cop” (named Alhague) and the evil alien is a criminal who killed Alhague’s family. Yes, it’s a cop revenge story.
If all this sounds cheesy, it’s actually not. Or not much. The performances in this are wonderful, despite the bizarre premise. William Boyett has a wickedly good time being the heart patient turned evil alien. His murder spree is both amusing and horrifying. Of special interest is when the alien possesses a stripper named Brenda (gorgeous Claudia Christian of Babylon 5 fame). She fondles herself in front of a couple of cops before shooting them with an assault rifle. This is after she humps a drunken lecher to death.
There aren’t many special effects in this. I suspect it’s deliberate–a combination of shrewd writing and budget considerations. The few that do appear are pretty effective. The alien slug switching bodies is skin-crawlingly impressive. I think it’s a case of “less is more”.
MacLachlan’s freaky acting in this is worth it, even if you don’t care about the rest of the film. Go dig up a copy and enjoy.