Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Predator (1987)

... aka: Alien Hunter
... aka: Hunter
... aka: Primevil

Directed by:
John McTiernan

A cabinet minister and his aide have disappeared somewhere in a Central American jungle so harsh that it "makes Cambodia look like Kansas." Believing they've been apprehended and are being held prisoner by guerrillas, General Phillips (R.G. Armstrong) and CIA Agent Dillon (Carl Weathers) call in a unit of expert commandos to form a heavily-armed rescue team to find them. Heading up the squadron is Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who's apparently the best at what he does, along with his skilled five-man lineup; Mac (Bill Duke), Poncho (Richard Chaves), Billy (Native American former hardcore porn star Sonny Landham), Blain (former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura) and Hawkins (Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black). They, along with Dillon, repel into the jungle for what is supposed to be a quick in-and-out rescue mission lasting 24 hours. As soon as they're dropped off, they locate a crashed American helicopter and three corpses hanging upside from a tree that have been completely skinned. Troubling? Certainly. And things are about to get even worse.

The soldiers quickly invade the enemy camp, shoot and blow up dozens of terrorists, take along a female hostage (Elpidia Carrillo) and then head back toward their pick-up to wait for their chopper ride home. Dutch learns there's no missing minister and they've been lured there under false pretenses by Dillon, but that's not really all that important. What is important is that something is now stalking them... and that something happens to be a stealthy alien hunter (played by 7'2" Kevin Peter Hall) who's brought along all kinds of special gadgets to make short work of its prey. Among the creatures most dangerous abilities are its heat-censor vision and (especially) its ability to become almost completely invisible with just a push of a button. It even comes with a handy self-destruct button in case things don't go its way... and if you're facing off against Arnold in an 80s flick, chances are they won't.

A movie like this doesn't live or die on the performances or writing, it lives or dies on the amount of action and the amount of excitement it can generate, and this does both pretty well. The plot line is simple and straight-forward and that also carries over to the "motive" of the alien visitor: he's pretty much on Earth simply for a pleasurable hunting trip. The basic gist with this one seems to be there's no need for an elaborate plot or characterization when that would just get in the way of the carnage. The noisy action scenes certainly deliver the goods. There's plenty of heavy artillery, machine guns blazing, laser weaponry, booby traps, shootouts and explosions, mixed with gory violence like skinnings and guttings, an arm shot off, a head exploding and a chest being blown completely away.

On the production side of things, this is professionally done all the way through, with especially good editing (Mark Helfrich, John F. Link), music score (by Alan Silvestri), creature design and visual effects. The latter received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Joel Hynek, Richard Greenberg, Robert M. Greenberg and Stan Winston. The alien itself isn't visualized on-screen until near the hour mark and doesn't even remove its mask so we can get a look at it until the last scene, but it's worth the wait. And while we're on the subject of alien monsters, what is up with the general public's resistance in considering this a horror film, anyway? The plot involves a hideous monster stalking and slaughtering people in the jungle in gory ways and that's pretty much all it involves. Sure, it's also an action movie with sci-fi components, but the horror elements are just as pronounced as the action. I can't help but think if this weren't a popular, big budget Hollywood film with an A-Lister in the lead, there would be no resistance in calling it what it really is.

On a budget of 15 million dollars, the film grossed almost 60 million, making it the 12th highest-grossing film of its year. The 1990 sequel (which moved the action to an urban setting) didn't do nearly as well and was viewed as a major disappointment at the time, which put an end to any more sequels until the alien predator from this was combined with another popular alien monster for the spin-off AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004), which itself spawned the sequel AVPR: Alien vs. Predator - Requiem (2007). There was also Predators (2010), which is actually considered the third Predator film by fans who choose to discount the AVP films. A remake / reboot is currently in production and is set to be directed by Black and star, uh, Emma Roberts (?) of all people.

Interestingly, three of the male stars later became involved in politics. While Schwarzenegger (2003 "Governator" of California) and Ventura (1999 - 2003 Governor of Minnesota) obviously were successful, Landham, who withdrew from the Kentucky Governor's race in 2003 and made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 2008, was not. The deeply religious, part Cherokee former star of such titles as They're All Sluts, Slippery When Wet and Trouble with Young Stuff aligned himself with the Council of Conservative Citizens and went on to refer to Arabs and Muslims as "ragheads" and "camel dung shovelers" while suggesting that "We should bomb every man, woman and child in the Muslim countries." and "We need to commence genocide in the region." He has since faded from view and hasn't appeared in a film since 2009.


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