Made by New Line at a time when the studio was known primarily for its early John Waters comedies and the Nightmare On Elm Street series, 1987's The Hidden is a crackerjack low-budget science-fiction thriller that has attracted a richly deserved cult following. The story of a benevolent body-shifting alien (Kyle MacLachlan, whose otherworldly blankness is employed effectively) who travels to Earth to hunt down an evil body-hopping alien with the help of a tough human detective (Michael Nouri), The Hidden is a textbook example of how a B-movie can transcend its origins and budgetary constraints through craft, imagination, and all-around resourcefulness. Shifting genres almost as often as its villain changes bodies, it's at once an enormously effective thriller, a smart exercise in science fiction, an exciting action movie, and a kinetic dark comedy. Screenwriter Jim Kouf's script isn't overwhelmingly original, but it does what good B-movies do: It builds on and synthesizes its obvious influences (Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, The Terminator, Alien) into an entertaining, fast-moving, cohesive whole. With the benefit of 13 years of hindsight, The Hidden's villainous extraterrestrial chameleon emerges as the ultimate '80s consumer run amok: a being of pure desire with a taste for the finer things (it makes a point of stealing only expensive sports cars) that lives for the moment and doesn't care about the consequences of its actions. One of the great things about director Jack Sholder's nuts-and-bolts audio commentary on this new DVD is that while the director is generous with his praise (particularly for MacLachlan), he's just as generous with his criticism, delivering blunt analysis that pulls few punches. Presented in a meticulously remastered widescreen version, The Hidden is the sort of modest genre film that today would probably go direct-to-video. That's a shame, but it makes the deluxe treatment it receives here even more refreshing and worthwhile.
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