October Horrorshow: Predators

It seems that, for this year’s Horrorshow, I can’t get enough of the Alien and Predator franchises. Maybe I should slow down. It’s not like these things grow on trees. Aliens and predators are a finite resource.

Predators, from 2010, is the first standalone Predator flick since Predator 2 in 1990. In between were the two Alien vs. Predator movies, but I have a hard time fathoming how the flagship title was dormant for so long. There weren’t even any straight to video entries or bad SyFy productions. The predators are excellent horror/sci-fi antagonists. In the right circumstances, they can even be the good guys.

The predators look mean, what with their large stature and menacing mask, and that’s before viewers see the horrible countenance hidden therein. The fact they are aliens who traveled here from the stars just to hunt us is unsettling. We’re supposed to be the top of the food chain. Check that. The predators aren’t here for food. They’re hunting us for sport. That’s an upsetting of the current order that is hard to contemplate outside the realm of fiction.

In this latest film, none of the action occurs on earth. Rather, a group of human badasses has been assembled after the predators scooped them up one by one from hotspots all over the world. There’s the mercenary, Royce (Adrien Brody); the Israeli sniper, Isabelle (Alice Braga); the Spetsnaz commando, Nikolai (Oleg Taktarov); the African rebel, Mombasa (Mahershala Ali); a Mexican drug cartel enforcer, Cuchillo (Danny Trejo); a death row inmate, Stans (Walton Goggins); a Yakuza straight out of The Simpsons episode, “The Twisted World of Marge Simpson” (Louis Ozawa Changchien); and a scrawny doctor, Edwin (Topher Grace).

They do not know each other, nor do they know why they have been deposited on the jungle planet…but they learn.

A trio of predators, bigger than the ones humans encountered in the previous films, begin stalking the group, taking them out one at a time. There’s lots of reckless gunplay, and more ammo consumed in five seconds than any human being could carry. It’s reminiscent of the first Predator film, in that way, but an acceptable trope from the 1980s doesn’t seem to work as well in the 2010s.

That may have more to do with the film in question rather than the methods director Nimród Antal chose to employ. There is still a way to employ massive bursts of unfettered testosterone in a movie without making it so ho-hum. I’m sure there is. I’m not thinking Antal should have gone full Tarantino and turned the violence into a cartoon, but one of the film’s producers is Robert Rodriguez. Surely he had some pointers to give about how to film action sequences.

As the film progresses, Royce holds out hope of commandeering one of the predators’ spaceships and returning to earth, while another human on the planet who finds them, Noland (Laurence Fishburne), should be enough to dissuade such optimism. All that remains after this is how the group fights back against the predators, and who, if anyone, gets to go home.

Unlike a lot of other films, Predators doesn’t hide its flaws behind outlandishness. But unfortunately the result is a film that’s a little too dour for its own good. If there’s going to be a cast like that listed above, there should be more life to them. We viewers know they are a diverse bunch, because Royce does a helpful rundown early in the film, but their uniqueness as characters stops at their costumes and their accents. Only Goggins showed some individuality, and he was playing a rapist.

All these characters from all over the world, and these folks aren’t as interesting as the Special Forces guys who all knew each other from the first film. There’s a lesson about storytelling in there, somewhere.

Predators doesn’t commit any fatal sins. It’s a mediocre film in the true definition of the word. It neither offends nor elates. It walks a line straight down the middle to obscurity. The good news is, it made money, which means there is no way the predators will not be making another appearance in theaters.