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‘The Hidden’s Meaning: What It Means To Be Human

By  · Published on April 7th, 2017

The zeitgeist of one of the 80s more insane buddy cop flicks.

Buddy cop movies are plentiful to be sure, in fact, when The Hidden was released in 1987, it wasn’t even the biggest buddy cop flick of the year. Ironically, The Hidden costar Michael Nouri turned down the role of Detective Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon to star in this sci-fi actioner about an alien inhabiting the bodies of various law-abiding citizens and using their bodies as vessels to engage in brazen crime sprees.

If that synopsis doesn’t grab you, then you really should start evaluating your cinematic perspectives. To those of you who hear that logline and immediately begin prepping your The Hidden/I Come in Peace double feature, bravo. You’ll probably glean a lot from this week’s episode of the Junkfood Cinema podcast.

A common trope of sci-fi movies in which we, at least for a time, follow the exploits of the extraterrestrial, is the exploration of the idea of what it means to be human. Blade Runner is arguably the mother of this conceit (though if you ask about its mother it will shoot you dead), but even more recent films like Under the Skin and even Arrival have delved deep into the basic and most fundamental elements of humanity.

But where those films trade in lofty, universal themes, The Hidden is more interested in exploring planet Zeitgeist. Jack Shoulder’s film proposes the idea that the time and place wherein an alien lands will drastically alter that alien’s understanding of what constitutes a human. Were it to land in, say, Los Angeles in 1987, that alien might come to understand that it cannot be identified as a human being, unless it is blaring heavy metal, driving Italian sports cars, and constantly shoving mountains of pure cocaine up its nasal face hole. The Hidden is a commentary on the rampant excess of the 1980s, much like John Carpenter’s 1988 cult gem They Live, and presents an antagonist who finds comfortable purchase not only within the carbon-based lifeforms it inhabits, but also within the environment of the id-indulgent late 80s.

Of course, one needn’t paint The Hidden as as weighty a film as, say Under the Skin. In fact, what’s waiting under the skin of our rotating collection of unfortunate meat puppets is a giant slug puppet with a penchant for strippers, blow, and senseless violence. However, the idea that what is actually being hidden is the soul of person – behind the hollow, self-destructive pursuits – gives a little more gravitas to a movie that charmingly clumsily walks the line between high-art and low-brow.

To hear more about the out-of-this-world ridiculousness of The Hidden, download and listen to this week’s Junkfood Cinema. If you enjoy it, please share it around so that we may initiate our own invasion!

As a special treat, anyone who backs JFC on Patreon will have access to a weekly bonus episodes covering an additional cult movie, a new movie in theaters, or a mailbag episode devoted to your submitted questions! Have a couple bucks to throw in the hat, we’ll reward you!

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The Hidden

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Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.