Film Review: The Hidden (1987)

Release Date: October 30th, 1987
Directed by: Jack Sholder
Written by: Bob Hunt
Music by: Michael Convertino
Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri, Richard Brooks, Claudia Christian, Chris Mulkey, William Boyett, Clu Gulager, Ed O’Ross, Danny Trejo, Lin Shaye, Robert Shaye (uncredited)

Heron Communications, Mega Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 97 Minutes

Review:

“No one deserves to die like that. I don’t care what the man’s done.” – Doctor, “He killed twelve people, wounded twenty three more, stole six cars, most of them Ferraris. Robbed eight banks, six supermarkets, four jewelery stores and a candy shop. Six of the ones he killed he carved up with a butcher knife. Two of them were kids. He did all that in two weeks. If anyone deserves to go that way, it sure in the hell was him.” – Det. Cliff Willis

I recently found out about this movie, which kind of sucks, as I was robbed of its greatness, as a kid. I would’ve loved the hell out of this movie back then but it’s also kind of cool discovering it 33 years later and seeing it for the first time.

One thing that immediately struck me about the plot is that it’s essentially the same idea that was used in that ’90s Denzel Washington film Fallen. In that film, Denzel fights a demon serial killer that changes bodies. In this film, it’s an alien and he isn’t so much a serial killer as he is just an asshole that takes what he wants and kills those in his way, sometimes just for fun. Regardless, it seems like Fallen stole this movie’s concept.

That being said, I like this a lot more than Fallen and it has similar vibes to They Live, I Come In Peace and even the comedy zombie movie Dead Heat. Other than They Live, this movie is better than those others. I’d also say that it’s pretty close in quality to They Live and frankly, this should probably be held in much higher regard than it is.

Watching this, I also have to wonder if it was a favorite movie of David Lynch. It stars Kyle MacLachlan, as an FBI agent, which he would be most famous for playing again in Lynch’s Twin Peaks, just a few years later. Additionally, Lynch tapped into the cast of this film for other roles in Twin Peaks. Plus, Michael Nouri’s role in this film plays like it was used as a template for Miguel Ferrer’s character in Twin Peaks. Additionally, seeing MacLachlan play an agent in this makes it hard not to draw allusions to his role as Cooper in Twin Peaks. However, in this film, there’s a twist where you discover that he’s not exactly who he appears to be. Granted, I figured out that twist pretty damn quickly.

I really liked the story in this film, its progression, the constantly changing villain (especially, when it was Claudia Christian) and the big finale that starts with a violent shootout in the police station’s jail.

More than anything, I loved the practical special effects. Especially, in regards to the alien creature, whose first appearance was kind of shocking and terrifying. I can’t imagine how it caught people off guard in the theater who saw this on a whim, not knowing until that exact moment that this was a sci-fi/horror picture and not just some B-movie action flick.

The Hidden is an underrated gem. I dug the hell out of it and will probably watch it again in the near future. It features one of my favorite Kyle MacLachlan performances of all-time and he’s an actor that’s been a favorite of mine for years.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: They Live, Fallen, Dead Heat, I Come In Peace and Alien Nation all immediately come to mind.

Film Review: Arena (1989)

Release Date: March 29th, 1989 (Germany)
Directed by: Peter Manoogian
Written by: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo
Music by: Richard Band
Cast: Paul Satterfield, Hamilton Camp, Claudia Christian, Marc Alaimo, Shari Shattuck

Empire Pictures, 97 Minutes

Review:

“Oh, I could stay all night, folks, but I gotta go. A hand for the boys in the band, and remember, I hate your guts!” – Space Comic

Arena is such a bizarre and odd movie that I find it impossible not to love on some level.

A doofus Earthling living in space ends up being a fighter in an intergalactic arena that pits him against alien fighters like some sort of bad ’90s fighting game. But I guess this movie was ahead of its time, as it came out in 1989. It didn’t get an American release until 1991, however, and that release saw it go straight to video.

Produced by Irwin Yablans, who made some pretty shitty movies before this, Arena may be the best motion picture that he produced. It’s one of the few that I walked away from that I saw as a positive experience. Because Laserblast and Parasite were absolutely terrible. Fade to Black was decent though, if I’m being honest.

The vibe of the film feels like it is ten years out of date. The sets and the fashion style feel more like an episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century than something from 1989. The special effects are also really outdated but this is a film with a scant budget and a lot of that money went into the actual creatures in this film.

While the alien warriors don’t look exceptional, they are still pretty decent. Their movement sucks and it makes the action look goofy as hell but I thought that the detail was good and this movie did a lot with what little it had. On that same token, this isn’t up to par for the era but I can’t wholly knock it. The filmmakers tried to make this work and they achieved more than what most people would have with limited resources.

For some, this will be a hard film to look at. For all, you can’t watch this and remotely take it seriously. But the film seems pretty self-aware and the actors ham it up quite well and seemed to really enjoy the project. Marc Alaimo, best known as the villainous Dukat from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, really steals the show in his scenes. Alaimo was a solid talent that was always fun as a villain. His performance her is no different.

I rented Arena a lot as a kid but I haven’t seen this since I was working at a video store in the ’90s. It was cool to revisit and it still puts a smile on my face.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: Robot Jox, Eliminators, Crash and Burn, America 3000 and Hardware.

Film Review: Maniac Cop 2 (1990)

Release Date: July 18th, 1990 (France)
Directed by: William Lustig
Written by: Larry Cohen
Music by: Jay Chattaway
Cast: Robert Z’Dar, Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Michael Lerner, Laurene Landon, Bruce Campbell, Clarence Williams III, Leo Rossi, Danny Trejo, Sam Raimi, Charles Napier

Fadd Enterprises, Medusa Pictures, The Movie House Sales Company, Overseas FilmGroup, Live Home Video, 88 Minutes

Review:

There is a belief that sequels are never as good as the original. Well, Maniac Cop 2 bucks that trend, as it is better than its great predecessor. While the IMDb rating doesn’t reflect that, most people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, which is why Avatar is the highest grossing movie of all-time.

We’re missing the gravitas of the first in regards to it boasting the acting talents of Tom Atkins and Richard Roundtree. Bruce Campbell comes back, at least, even if it is in a limited capacity. However, we do get Robert Davi and that’s a big plus. Clarence Williams III and Danny Trejo also have small roles in this.

This chapter in the trilogy sees the Maniac Cop return, as he didn’t die in the finale of the first film. His first order of business is to tie up the loose ends from the previous movie, which in a horror picture translates to “kill those damn survivors!”

We also learn more about the situation that sent our title character to prison in the first place. He was a good cop that went to the extreme, at times, but he was set up in a government conspiracy and made to take the fall. All this comes out in this movie and Robert Davi is on a mission to clear the Maniac Cop’s name and hopefully give him peace: ending his spree of violence.

The action in this film is a lot heavier and so much better than the first one. There are a lot of good vehicle sequences and then the big battle between the Maniac Cop and an entire police station is absolutely fantastic. Then there is the finale where he storms the prison, catches on fire and angrily stalks and murders the criminals who initially killed him behind bars, all while he is still on fire!

Maniac Cop 2 is a solid film. It is low budget horror at its finest but it is a film that has so much more than that. It also surpasses the first movie in bad ass intensity. Robert Z’Dar was so good as the monster and this is the monster at his best.

Rating: 7/10