Dir: John McTiernan, 1987
After the success of The Terminator and Commando, Arnold Schwarzenegger was now, firmly, established as an action star, contending with Sylvester Stallone for the coveted top spot.
Riding on the high that James Cameron’s Aliens gave Twentieth Century Fox, the production studio didn’t hesitate in snapping up the script to this little gem.
Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer is the head of a rescue team, assigned to enter a South American jungle to rescue hostages.
While there, they find bodies that have been strung up, eviscerated and skinned. Believing it to be the work of guerillas, Schaefer’s team is picked off one by one, unaware that the murders are being committed by an alien, hunting for sport.
Extra-terrestrial killers were quite a big thing for Hollywood in the eighties. There was an abundance of them, all with varying degrees of success. Films like The Thing and The Hidden all dealt with man’s chances of survival.
But Predator was different. Whereas a good majority of alien flicks were corny and forgettable, Jim and John Thomas’s script was clever and had enough originality about it to make sure it wouldn’t be forgotten.
Action director McTiernan keeps the pace going and doesn’t allow room for any slack.
Predator is a mix of genres, from the obvious sci-fi to full on action film and “whodunit?”. Of course, we know the answer but what we didn’t know was what the alien looked like. It’s like a sci-fi version ofAgatha Christie and Columbo.
McTiernan does a superb job of building the tension and creating an unsettling atmosphere that is, genuinely, creepy.
Of course, McTiernan can’t take all the credit. The eerie and foreboding soundtrack by Alan Silvestri works in tandem with the direction to create a sense of unease and terror.
The script by Jim and John Thomas is, intentionally, cheesy giving it a fun and comic book-like feel. Riddled with cliches, there are one or two lines that have entered pop culture because of the strength around how memorable and quotable they are; most amusingly, Blain’s (Jesse Ventura) line of “I ain’t got time to bleed!”.
For 1987 the effects still hold up amazingly. Whereas films like RoboCop (released the same tear) have dated a little, Predator still astounds with its computer generated effects of invisibility. The design of the creature by Stan Winston, is a terrifying invention of menace and fear.
For years to come, Predator is a film that will stand the test of time and always remain high in the “best of” lists.
An awesome classic.