The Eyes of the Demon: A Look Back At The Predator Film Franchise

The Eyes of the Demon: A Look Back At The Predator Film Franchise

So, as I’m sure you’re all aware by now, Nimród Antal’s Predators is about to be unleashed at the box office in a couple of days. Being that Italian Horror Week is over here at The Blood Sprayer, I thought it might be fun to get back to business as usual by discussing the films that preceded it. After all, regardless of whether or not you are excited for the new film, it’s hard to deny the the Predator is an iconic character in the Sci-Fi/Horror genre.

Personally, the Predator has been one of my favorite film characters since I first caught the original film on HBO as a kid. I’ve never been one for Sci-Fi in the Star Trek sense, but when the main baddie in the movie is a giant alien that stalks you and then rips your spine out, it’s a whole new ballgame. I was so hooked that, a few years later, I found myself snatching up comic books, novels, etc… Basically, anything with the Predator was fair game. And, as you are probably also aware, there were many offerings to be had; especially when the Aliens vs. Predator universe came into the mix.

However, books and video games aren’t the focus of this piece. Instead, I am going to focus solely on the films that feature the Predator. I’m not going to go crazy in-depth or anything; just give a brief overview of each film and my thoughts on them. So with no further adieu, we’ll start where it all began…

Predator (1987)

In the mid-80’s, action films were all the rage, with franchises like Rocky and Rambo dominating the box office. Luckily for us, two brothers, Jim and John Thomas, decided that it would be really freakin’ cool if the main action hero was fighting a bad-ass alien instead of the Russians or the Vietnamese. 20th Century Fox realized that this might be a good chance to make some cash and scooped it up, quickly attaching everyone’s favorite Austrian Superman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to it.

The plot was simple, a military group made up of tough guys head into the jungle on a top-secret rescue mission. However, not long after they arrive, they discover that the guerrilla forces that they set out to battle aren’t the only ones they have to worry about. One by one, members of the squad are picked off by an unknown, unseen entity that has a penchant for skinning its victims and hanging them from trees. Eventually, most of the team is knocked off, and their leader, Dutch (Schwarzenegger) finds himself in a grudge match against against the alien creature that is responsible.

This first entry is the one that most seem to feel is the best in the franchise. And, to be honest, it’s not really all that surprising that people love it. After all, it combines all of the awesomeness of the overly violent and ridiculous action flicks of its time with horror and science fiction. Not only does it star Schwarzenegger in his prime, but it also has Carl Weathers, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, and Bill-Fucking-Duke. Add to that some of the best one liners (“This shit will make you a goddamn sexual tyrannosaurus,” etc.), a good healthy dose of bloody violence, and a badass creature designed by Stan Winston, and there’s not much to hate.

Needless to say, the movie killed at the box office, making it’s director, John McTiernan, the go-to guy for awesome action movies (Die Hard, anyone?). And, as we horror fans know all too well by now, when something makes a profit, Hollywood is guaranteed to pump out a sequel… Which brings us to the next movie in the franchise…

Predator 2 (1990)Predator 2

This time around, a Predator finds itself in a different kind of jungle; the urban jungle of Los Angeles. Set in 1997 (which, at that time, was the “future”), during a ridiculous heatwave, the Predator heads to the city, which is besieged by over-the-top gang violence, in search of a worthy adversary. The crazy Colombian drug gangs are warring with the Jamaicans, causing the bodies pile up. Lieutenant Michael Harrigan’s (Danny “I’m Too Old For This Shit” Glover) old partner also happen to wind up dead. Thinking that the cartels are responsible, he vows revenge and sets out to battle the gangs. However, he stumbles upon the Predator and finds himself dealing with a special task force (led by Gary “I’m Fucking Insane” Busey) that is trying to capture the creature to study it (always a great idea, right?). As things ramp up, Harrigan soon finds himself battling the Predator one-on-one.

While many people that I’ve talked to over the years seem to talk about Predator 2 like it’s just another average/sub-par sequel, it happens to be my personal favorite of the bunch. Part of the reason for this is that the cast is great. In addition to Glover and Busey (before he really went nuts), we also get the always awesome Bill Paxton (Near Dark, Frailty). Not only are the performances pretty rad, but the violence, blood, and gore are ratcheted up quite bit, and the inclusion of voodoo in the storyline is cool as hell. Add to that the fact that the Thomas Brothers returned to script the film, and director Stephen Hopkins (fresh off of A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child) stepped behind the camera, and you have a total win, in my opinion. Probably the biggest thing that the film has going against it these days is that it plays the “futuristic” card and gives us an actual year that has now come and gone. That can seem cheesy, to say the least, but since I love the movie so much, I can forgive it. It is also especially noteworthy to mention that the finale of this film showed the skull of an Alien in the Predators’ ship, setting the stage for the many comics, books, and video games (and everntually, films) that followed under the Aliens vs. Predator moniker.

Predator 2 didn’t do quite as well at the box office as it predecessor, but it still made some decent cash. However, for whatever reason, it took a long time before the Predator showed up on the big screen again, and unfortunately, its return was very disappointing…

Alien vs. Predator (2004)AvP Poster

Ah yes… Fourteen years after Predator 2 hinted at the idea of the Alien and  Predator universes colliding on-screen, we finally got it. Unfortunately, as someone who religiously read the comics and books based on this idea as a teenager, I have to say that the film is quite the awful mess.

The story focuses on a group of archaeologists, led by Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen), who are investigating a mysterious heat signal near the Antarctic. Unfortunately for them, they stumble across an underground pyramid that happens to be a breeding ground for Aliens. As it turns out, the Predators have been hatching the Aliens there for a long, long time and then hunting them as a sort of rite of passage. Needless to say, the team gets caught in the middle of things, and winds up having to fend for their lives while keeping the Aliens from escaping to the surface.

Sounds kind of cool, right? Well, that’s probably because the idea itself is cool, and considering that the late Dan O’Bannon had a hand in coming up with the story, it very well should be. However, Paul W.S. Anderson somehow wound up writing the final screenplay and directing it, and he really doesn’t have the best track record for being awesome… Oh, and for some reason, the geniuses at the studio decided that the movie should be PG-13… Yeah, what the hell…

Still, I tried to stay positive going into the theater to see the film, but what I saw just annoyed the hell out of me. Somehow, Anderson managed to make the movie boring and waste Lance Henriksen’s talent. The whole first half of the movie just feels like abunch of people talking, and then when shit finally starts to go down, it’s filled with way too much CGI, stupid setups that barely pay off, and not enough violence and blood. That is just unacceptable for a film that is the product of two franchises that utilized quality physical effects and had a good share of carnage. I’m tellin’ ya… When I left the theater I was shaking my head and trying to think of some way that I could paint the experience as not so bad… I couldn’t.

However, this apparently serves as yet another situation where my opinion is not the same as the majority of film-goers, as the movie did pretty darn good at the box office, making more money than the previous films and spawning its own sequel a few years later…

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)AvP: Requiem Poster

I’ll be honest here… I only watched Requiem once, and again, I was far from impressed by it. However, I will admit that the film was a tad more enjoyable than it’s predecessor. This might be because Anderson did not return to direct and this time the studio gave us an R-rated picture. However, upping the violence does not always make the film that much better, and this movie is proof of that.

Basically, the film picks up where AvP left off ; with the Predators flying away from Earth. Unfortunately for them, however, one of the dead Predators on board the ship has been impregnated by an Alien facehugger, and the little bastard pops out while they are in mid-flight, causing chaos that eventually crashes the ship in Colorado. This creature winds up being a hybrid “Predalien” (yeah, it’s stupid…), and it escapes into the woods with some facehuggers that were aboard the ship. As you can guess, those creeatures soon spawn more aliens, and once the off-world Predators  become aware of what’s going on, they head to Earth to try and kill them off. Unfortunately for them, the town’s citizens get caught in the middle of all this.

While I still find much of the movie to be bland, I have to admit that there is a lot more going on here than in the last film. However, I found the “Predalien” idea to be rather stupid, and the overuse of CGI to be too rampant. Still, because I had such low expectations for the film, it wound up being better than I anticipated. That being said, when taken on its own, the film is a mess, but I must admit that it was way better than the one that came before it.

That brings us to the newest film…

Predators (2010)Predators Poster

After the poor critical reception, and lower box office draw of  Requiem, there was much talk of both franchises being dead. This really bugged me because I enjoyed just about every film in both series, aside from the AvP movies. Luckily for us, Robert Rodriguez didn’t give up on the Predator franchise, and he produced the latest film,  Predators, which opens this Friday.

Predators takes place 13 years after the events of Predator 2. In it, a bunch of humans with a penchant for killing are kidnapped by Predators and taken to an alien planet, where they are to be hunted as game.

Since I haven’t seen the film, and I don’t know much about its director, Nimród Antal, I can’t say much about it other than the trailer looks awesome, and I fully trust the franchise in Rodriguez’s hands. That being said, I plan to have my butt in the theater on opening night, and you can probably expect that I will be weighing in with my opinion shortly afterward.

Well, that about does it for my look back on the Predator franchise. Hopefully it was a nice trip down memory lane for most of you (barring any painful memories that may be present due to AvP… Sorry!). For those that haven’t checked the films out yet, I highly recommend that you do so. The first two are genre classics, and hopefully Predators will join their ranks soon!

As always, feel free to weigh in below with your comments on the franchise, any of the previous films, or the upcoming movie.

See you soon!

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