Release Date(s)1987 (October 3, 2017)
Studio(s)New Line Cinema (Warner Archive)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C
Jack Sholder’s career as a director has been a bit of a rocky one, mostly due to the material that’s been offered to him. Although primarily known as the director of A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge, he’s also managed to sink his teeth into two other properties: 1982’s Alone in the Dark, and today’s item, 1987’s The Hidden. A mix of science fiction, horror, action, and police procedural, it showcases Sholder’s strengths as a filmmaker a bit more than his other work with more of a variety of visuals, complicated special effects, the use of themes, and deeper character development – all within a story about a cop and an F.B.I. agent hunting down a body-swapping alien creature from another world.
This film has a range of highlights, starting with the opening bank heist, which takes place during the opening credits through a closed-circuit monitor, then switching gears into a well-executed car chase through the streets of Los Angeles, including some off-road action. There’s also the extremely effective body-swapping scene, which is, hands down, the best thing in the film. Following that are scenes with the alien hosts and their rampage throughout the city, including their encounters with an angry music store manager and a Ferrari salesman’s cocaine-snorting customer. Meanwhile, Detective Beck (Michael Nouri) and F.B.I. Agent Gallagher (Kyle Maclachlan) are hot on the alien’s trail, with Gallagher having a secret or two up his sleeve. Other familiar faces in this sci-fi/horror gem include Claudia Christian, Clu Gulager, and Richard Brooks.
The good folks at the Warner Archive Collection have chosen The Hidden for their prestigious line of remastered catalogue titles, and the wait is well worth it. With a presentation taken from a 4K scan of an interpositive element, it’s a remarkable improvement over its early 2000s DVD counterpart. It features mostly even grain levels, aside from a few brief shots here or there, with a strong encode and a maxed-out bit rate. The color palette has a built-in green overlay, removing much of the blue in the image (also inherent in the set design), but hues are otherwise well-rendered. Blacks are solid with excellent contrast, and the overall image is quite clean, aside from some negligible speckling. Extremely minor instability is also leftover, which is only really noticeable during static shots. To say the least, the picture quality has been greatly improved. Audio options include the original 2.0 theatrical track, as well as a 5.1 remix, both presented in English DTS-HD with optional subtitles in English SDH. The 5.1 mix is primarily a front-focused presentation without much speaker to speaker activity. Therefore, I found the original soundtrack to the better option. It too doesn’t offer much in terms of dynamics, but dialogue is clear and precise with well-represented sound effects and score, the latter of which benefits from the added fidelity.
The extras are brief, but everything has been carried over from the aforementioned DVD release. This includes the audio commentary with director Jack Sholder and Tim Hunter (director of River’s Edge), with Sholder offering up some excellent insight to the making of the film, only occasionally stopping to watch it; nearly 8 minutes of raw special effects production footage narrated by Jack Sholder (presented in standard definition), which is more or less Sholder speaking about special make-up effects artist Kevin Yagher and the effects team more so than the effects themselves; and the original theatrical trailer, presented in HD.
The Hidden has certainly earned a minor name for itself over the years since its original release. It was mildly successful at the box office, but has mostly been known as a cable and rental favorite amongst horror fans. I find that the film gets better and better every time I see it, and thanks to Warner Archive, we now have an excellent presentation of the film to draw upon. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons