The Hidden (1987)

The Hidden could never have been a great science fiction movie on a par with 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) or Star Wars (1977), but as most science fiction movies go, this one could have been something really special in its own small way.  Unfortunately, the producers of this movie did not have the guts to carry things out to their logical conclusion, but pulled back to something they felt would be safe. Big mistake.

FBI agent Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan) enlists the aid of local cop Tom Beck (Michael Nouri) to hunt for a succession of people connected to a bunch of strange murders.  As Gallagher knows, but Beck does not, they are pursuing an alien from another planet that takes over human bodies, and when they manage to pump one so full of bullet holes that it can barely function, it leaves that body and takes over another.  During the transfer, the human body opens its mouth, and a large, disgusting parasite that looks part slug and part insect comes out and enters into the mouth of its new host.  As the alien moves from one host to another, it really seems to enjoy the pleasures afforded it by dwelling inside a human:  it likes fast cars, rock music, and sex.  Its big crimes, however, are motivated by a desire for money and power.

Eventually, it turns out that Gallagher is actually an alien cop from the same planet as the alien they are pursuing.  After coming to Earth, he took over a human body that was going to die anyway.  Just as he and Beck finally manage to destroy the bad alien, Beck suffers fatal bullet wounds.  But Gallagher has met Beck’s wife and daughter, whom he likes, and having lost his own wife at the hands of his nemesis, he decides to take over Beck’s body just as Beck is about to breathe his last.  But when he opens his mouth, we see no parasite emerge, but only a golden beam of light leaving him and entering Beck’s mouth.  When the doctor enters the room, along with Beck’s wife and child, they find that Gallagher has died and Beck has seemingly made a miraculous recovery.

Imagine how great it would have been if Gallagher had opened his mouth and, instead of that beam of light, another disgusting parasite had come out and entered into Beck’s mouth.  We would have been forced to think that something that looks like a combination slug-insect could be good, decent, and kind.

It is standard in science fiction movies that good aliens look like humans, usually with frail bodies, slightly larger craniums, and big eyes.  But if the aliens look like insects, then we know they are evil and must be destroyed.

This movie could have split those alien stereotypes wide open, making us accept what we should have known all along, that someone who is ugly may nevertheless be a nice person to know.  But the producers of this movie had a failure of nerve.  Sure, we can assume that Gallagher and his nemesis were of two different species.  We can make up any story we want.  But the result will still be the same.  The minute Gallagher opened his mouth and a beam of yellow light came out instead, this movie became second rate.

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