Stuff I Watch in October: Predator (1987)

predator

Happy October and welcome! All 31 days this month, I will be reviewing all the films I watch in the month of October. They’re mostly a selection of horror or suspense films in my own library or films and shows that have been recommended to me.

Please enjoy and leave a comment!

And if you missed any of our past reflections, take a look:

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Psycho (1960)
The Haunting (1963)
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
The Other (1972)
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Halloween (1978)
Alien (1979)
The Shining (1980)
Halloween II (1981)
The Evil Dead (1981)
Halloween III – Season of the Witch (1982)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Teen Wolf (1985)
Aliens (1986)
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Our next film is…

WATCHING: Predator (1987)

predator

DIRECTOR: John “Bow to Me For I Directed Die Hard” McTiernan. This movie was just bonus action he didn’t need to give us — but he did.

WHAT IS IT?: A fun cat-and-mouse game set in a jungle where the mouse is a guerrilla commando fighter and the cat is a friggin’ alien hunter from another planet who hunts people like guerrilla commandos.

I am not kidding when I tell you that the inspiration for this film came from a Rocky Balboa joke which was basically that Rocky had beaten everyone he could possibly beat after Rocky IV so, obviously, his next opponent would have to be a badass alien. And that, folks, was how you got “Predator”, a film which goes a little something like this…

THE PLOT: A team of Army Commandos storm the jungles of Central America to break up the corrupt gangs and guerillas that run things…but they end up attracting the attention of someone — or something — that isn’t of this planet: a large alien being that’s on Earth solely to hunt humans like wild game, no matter who they are, what they do, or who they serve.

WHAT DID CRITICS THINK?: The movie appeared to have mixed reviews. The New York times called it “unsurprising” and “dull” while the L.A. Times said it was “empty”. Cinefantastique said that the creature of the film “fell under its own weight”. All of these people should be wished into the cornfield and hunted by a Predator.

WHAT DID I THINK?: In the hands of anyone else, this movie might have been a disaster.

Which is why the producers of the film brought in “Die Hard” director, John McTiernan, to direct. Arnold Schwarzenegger was cast as “Dutch”, the commando who eventually does battle with the mysterious creature of unknown origin.

Nothing about this feels cheap. Everything here is big. Everything works, from the suspenseful game between Arnold and the Predator, to the big, brash Alan Silvestri musical score, to the big, sweaty jungle setting. The Predator’s design isn’t at all hokey. The design of the creature is insanely convincing. The thing looks real to the point where you believe this creature’s biology.

John McTiernan is a top action director, with the awful remake of “Rollerball” being his one and only flaw. I mean, aside from being a legend for having directed the original “Die Hard” film (and “With a Vengeance” which I believe to be just a notch below the original but still great), he’s responsible for “The Hunt for Red October”, the badass, underrated meta-cop film “The Last Action Hero”, and the severely underrated “The 13th Warrior”. “Predator” was a walk in the park for McTiernan as he applies the same expert blocking he used for “Die Hard”, providing us with a suspenseful chess game of a brawl between man and alien.

One of the coolest things about the film are the shots from the Predator’s POV. Using thermal waves to detect their warmth while learning and mimicking their speech patterns (and using that against them later) is as creepy as it is cool. It’s a genius stroke. Director John McTiernan does nothing half-assed, giving us big bangs with a nice amount of quiet set-up.

John McTiernan’s sure-footed direction, a suspenseful action script, late-1980’s Arnold in his element and Alan Silvestri’s memorable score make for one hell of a film.

GRADE: B+

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