Clu Gulager

The Hidden (1987, Jack Sholder)

The Hidden opens with a shock. Then there’s another shock, then another, then another. The first act of the film races through them. Chris Mulkey is on a killing spree, the cops are in pursuit–including Michael Nouri’s soulful supercop–only it turns out Mulkey can’t be killed. Enter oddball FBI agent Kyle MacLachlan, who teams with Nouri, and investigates Mulkey’s “accomplice,” William Boyett. Because now Boyett’s on a killing spree. Only we know something Nouri doesn’t.

An alien bug crawls into a dead body’s mouth and reanimates them. Then it goes on a killing, looting, and general obnoxious spree.

The alien jumps around a bit, first into new supporting cast members, later into established ones. Some actors have a great time with it–Mulkey, Boyett, the third act surprises; others don’t. Claudia Christian is fine, but she doesn’t get much to do in Jim Kouf’s pseudonymous script except fondle herself. Oh, and she gets to shoot machine guns. Those scenes, which might be fun if The Hidden let itself be trashy, fall flat (except as technical exercises). Sholder’s good at setup, not pay-off.

His lack of interest comes in waves. At the open, Sholder’s super on. He’s got his cranes–Sholder loves his crane shots–he’s got good photography from Jacques Haitkin and good editing from Michael N. Knue and Maureen O’Connell. Sometimes the editing is a little too obviously cut against the eclectic rock soundtrack selections, but it’s still good editing. Except The Hidden isn’t just this string of pursuit sequences, it changes and Sholder can’t handle those changes.

The film runs ninety-six minutes. The first hour is pretty much contiguous, with the minor pauses or breaks either not getting in the way of the building momentum or contributing to it. Everything works. Script, direction, acting. Once the film breaks the narrative, jumping ahead until the next morning, entropy sets in. There’s a lot of action, not enough time for exposition, no time for character development.

And The Hidden almost makes it. If any one thing had been better about the finale–well, Sholder’s direction, Kouf’s writing, or Michael Convertino’s music–it would’ve been fine. Instead, everything works against it. Sholder leverages a lot on Convertino’s score but it’s a bad score. It starts a mediocre score, then–like everything else in Hidden–gets worse as the film progresses. So it’s real bad in the finish.

Neat “alien-in-man-suit” performance from Kyle MacLachlan. It’s a shame no one thought about how MacLachlan’s character development should react to external events or why children think he’s weird. Nouri’s affable and reasonably successful. The role doesn’t ask for much, even when it pretends a greater import. The Hidden has a couple buddy cop movie moments; Nouri and MacLachlan do them well. The more soulful Nouri stuff–the handwringing, impassioned pleas–doesn’t work. Especially not since they frequently take place in the awkwardly homy squad room set.

Clarence Felder is good. Richard Brooks is good. Ed O’Ross is fine. Clu Gulager has nothing to do, but it’s still nice to see him.

Most of The Hidden is good. The builds up this phenomenal momentum, which should be able to sail through anything. Turns out its no match for the third act icebergs.



Directed by Jack Sholder; written by Jim Kouf; director of photography, Jacques Haitkin; edited by Maureen O’Connell and Michael N. Knue; music by Michael Convertino; production designers, C.J. Strawn and Mick Strawn; produced by Robert Shaye, Gerald T. Olson, and Michael L. Meltzer; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Michael Nouri (Tom Beck), Kyle MacLachlan (Lloyd Gallagher), Chris Mulkey (Jack DeVries), William Boyett (Jonathan Miller), Claudia Christian (Brenda), Katherine Cannon (Barbara Beck), Clarence Felder (Lt. Masterson), Clu Gulager (Lt. Flynn), Ed O’Ross (Willis), Richard Brooks (Sanchez), and John McCann (Senator Holt).

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985, Jack Sholder)

Why is Freddy’s Revenge so bad? It shouldn’t be so bad. No mistake–it’s terrible and it’s terrible mostly because of director Sholder and lead Mark Patton.

While Patton’s awful, it’d be wrong to blame it entirely on him. He doesn’t get any help whatsoever from director Sholder. But then Sholder doesn’t direct any of his actors. It’s painfully obvious with Clu Gulager and Hope Lange, who are both game to try in this waste of their time, but Shoulder never gives them anything. The movie’s so weird because it’s like the actors are doing their own version of the script and Sholder’s doing his version of it.

But the movie’s also weird because, like I said, it should be better. Whoever decided to put an emphasis on having Robert Englund (in an eighty percent bad, twenty percent good) performance made the film worse. It’s hard to believe it would have been screenwriter David Chaskin because he writes all of the dialogue for the supporting cast when Englund’s around as though he’s not the character who’s supposed to be there. It seemingly unintentionally makes Englund’s Freddy Krueger into a bland monster. I say seemingly because if director Sholder had gotten that approach, in observing it, he would have changed it. Freddy’s Revenge isn’t a comedy. Sholder’s got no sense of humor. Of course, editor Bob Brady has no sense of timing so it wouldn’t matter anyway.

Freddy’s Revenge fails on multiple cylinders, but they all seem unaware of one another. The visual effects and Christopher Young’s score weather the film the best, even if Sholder doesn’t know how to shoot the effects sequences. Brady wouldn’t be able to cut them anyway.

You know, maybe another big problem is bad (and uncredited) production design from Gregg Fonseca. It’s entirely possible Sholder wouldn’t have been able to shoot it properly but there’s just something off about Freddy’s Revenge.

Chaskin’s script isn’t good, but it’s got signs of ambition. Sholder’s actively trying to avoid ambition. For instance–the infamous gay subtext. It should have made the movie. Instead it’s just another one of the film’s failures because Sholder’s not cognizant of what he has to direct. And Patton’s desperately in need of direction, unable to figure out the bad–but ambitious–script.

Anything titled A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge should be bad, but nowhere near this bad.



Directed by Jack Sholder; screenplay by David Chaskin, based on characters created by Wes Craven; director of photography, Jacques Haitkin; edited by Bob Brady; music by Christopher Young; production designer, Gregg Fonseca; produced by Robert Shaye; released by New Line Cinema.

Starring Mark Patton (Jesse Walsh), Kim Myers (Lisa Webber), Robert Rusler (Ron Grady), Sydney Walsh (Kerry), Clu Gulager (Ken Walsh), Hope Lange (Cheryl Walsh), Christie Clark (Angela Walsh), Marshall Bell (Coach Schneider) and Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger).

Tangerine (2015, Sean Baker)

There’s no hope in Tangerine. It’s not a completely negative film–and it’s often quite funny–but there’s no hope. Director Baker leaves the most devastating part of the film in the viewer’s mind. The movie ends. The lives of the characters do not; Baker goes out of his way with these beautiful montages set to a various types of music to give the viewer time to consider, to anticipate, to reflect on the film’s contradiction. Baker never asks the viewer to empathize, even when a character’s sympathetic, likable.

The film is about a prostitute (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), fresh out of jail, hunting down her cheating boyfriend slash pimp. Her quest gets her best friend (Mya Taylor) involved, but it also ties into the life of one of their customers, a cabbie.

The cabbie, played by Karren Karagulian, gets to do the most dramatic acting for the first act of Tangerine. Rodriguez is this uncontrollable force raging down the Los Angeles blocks with Taylor’s failure to contain her funny but also scary. Baker’s very careful about how he follows Rodriguez and Taylor–they’re the world, everything else is background, but dangerous background.

Baker and co-writer Chris Bergoch forecast a lot of the plot but against the viewer’s anticipation; it seems too much, but then Tangerine delivers.

Amazing acting from Taylor, Rodriguez and Karagulian. Great writing; not just the scenes and the plotting, but how Baker and Bergoch so perfectly set up the ground situation.

Tangerine’s depressing, reassuring, mundane, magnificent.



Edited and directed by Sean Baker; written by Baker and Chris Bergoch; directors of photography, Baker and Radium Cheung; produced by Baker, Karrie Cox, Marcus Cox, Darren Dean and Shih-Ching Tsou; released by Magnolia Pictures.

Starring Kitana Kiki Rodriguez (Sin-Dee), Mya Taylor (Alexandra), Karren Karagulian (Razmik), Mickey O’Hagan (Dinah), James Ransone (Chester), Alla Tumanian (Ashken), Luiza Nersisyan (Yeva), Arsen Grigoryan (Karo), Ian Edwards (Nash), Ana Foxx (Selena) and Clu Gulager (The Cherokee).

A Day with the Boys (1969, Clu Gulager)

Ah, the joys of boyhood. Watching A Day with the Boys, one quickly tires of all the outdoor activities director Gulager chronicles. The titular boys have no names and no dialogue–Boys is entirely dialogue-free–and they just act adorably rambunctious. When they’re sliding down a hill on cardboard sheets, they even put their faithful dog in a box so he can join them.

The film’s extremely well-made. Gulager has a lot of excellent help from László Kovács’s photography and especially Robert F. Shugrue’s editing. The process shots are stunning.

But he doesn’t seem to have a point. It’s all very idyllic, then it starts getting monotonous. The only thing suggesting otherwise is Michel Mention’s occasionally ominous score. It doesn’t seem like Gulager has any insight into boyhood.

Then, as it turns out, he does have some insight and it’s startling. Boys is a fantastic piece of filmmaking.

3/3Highly Recommended


Written, produced and directed by Clu Gulager; director of photography, László Kovács; edited by Robert F. Shugrue; music by Michel Mention; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Mike Hertel (Boy), Jack Grindle (Boy), John McCaffrey (Boy), William Elliott (Boy), Craig Williams (Boy), Mark Spirtos (Boy), John Gulager (Boy), Artie Conkling (Boy), Ricky Bender (Boy) and James Kearce (The Businessman).

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