Predators

I suppose it’s a sign of the times that instead of a highly trained and diverse team of American special operations troops we have a motley crew of killers from around the globe in Nimród Antal’s Predators.

The story suffers from the same problem that most franchises these days have: it’s a really awesome piece of fan fiction. I found myself wondering how good this movie could have been if they’d have just said “Predator inspired us,” but went further in other directions.

Adrien Brody plays the grizzled main character, who we meet in mid-air as he plummets toward an unknown jungle. He and his full-auto-shotgun cross paths with six other internationally known types of bad-asses, like a member of the Yakuza, a Spetznaz soldier, an Israeli sniper and others who were all deposited the same way. Then there’s Topher Grace. Grace’s presence leads to several fish out of water jokes and the most dramatically brain-dead twist since it turned out Harry J. Lennix was behind it all in Dollhouse.

The plot is the Schwarzenegger original turned up to 11. Brody and his Testosterone Team are being hunted by god knows what only now it’s on a whole other planet, which would have been revealed in the movie with a neat skyline shot had they not given it away in the previews two months before the release of the film.

And then they get hunted some more. That’s pretty much it. There are hints, provided in the form of a Laurence Fishburne cameo, that there is some sort of war going on between two separate Predator races, but it adds almost nothing to the plot. Fishburne does have fun as a sort of human answer to the Bald Headed Bear to the Predator’s John Candy in The Great Outdoors , but that joy is short lived as the movie is intent on hinting that man is the real monster despite the fact that these people were kidnapped by aliens.

I hate to come across as a jingoistic when it comes to alien cultures, but you know what? If you are going to abduct people from our planet for sport hunting, well you had best be prepared for me to not care how “evil” the people you are hunting are. Up with the Humans!

The movie gets a lot right, including building tension like the original and having some of those really nasty “These people are being hunted!” moments, but it actually feels hamstrung by the Predator premise.

Let’s think a minute on action movies. You find an excuse to blow things up and shoot and things, and you build a narrative around it. Predator was cool precisely because we had never seen anything like it, and the tension comes from people having no clue what the hell the Predator actually is. After one hard sequel and two spin-offs, we know what the hell a Predator is so now the only surprise is how the predator kills people. That sounds a lot like an intergalactic slasher franchise, which Jason X already did and while it was terrible, it was at least fun.

Haunted World of El Superbeasto, The

If you’ve seen any of Rob Zombie’s films and music videos, you have a good idea of what Zombie enjoys: violence, cars, the 70s, wrestling, monsters, and tits....Not necessarily in that order, mind you.  So, it should come as no surprise that when Zombie decided to make a feature length cartoon titled The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, it would have all of those things.  But, you know, in cartoon form.

Based on the comic book of the same name (which I own…SHAME!), El Superbeasto (Tom Papa) is a luchador (Mexican wrestler)/celebrity who only wants a nice plate of buffalo wings and the sweet, sweet ass of Velvet Von Black (Rosario Dawson).  Unfortunately, Von Black is the key to Dr. Satan’s (Paul Giamatti) plan to obtain world domination through the “sudsy powers” of HELL!  So, ‘Beasto recruits the help of his sister/international super spy Suzi X (she’s hot, she’s blonde, AND she has a squeaky voice. You guessed it: Sheri Moon Zombie).  What follows can only be described as "madcap", “For Mature Audiences Only,” and … "gooey".

Part of what makes this film a lot of fun is that it’s done in the style of the old Looney Tunes.  There’s an extended title sequence featuring single frames of art behind the titles and cast.  There are multiple cameos of horror film icons like Jack Torrance, Michael Myers, The Devils Rejects crew, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon among others in the same fashion of celebrity cameos in old Bugs Bunny and Tiny Toons cartoons.

And what was missing from those old Warner Bros. cartoons?  Gratuitous female nudity!  The film is strange because it’s not presented like an adult Japanese animated film, or even a Ralph Bakshi film.  It’s not presented as a pornographic film.  It’s a silly Scooby Doo-esque cartoon with full frontal nudity and butt hair...Lots of butt hair.

Providing music and a running commentary throughout the entire film is Chris Hardwick’s comedy band, Hard ‘n Phirm.  The songs elevate the film in that they make fun of it, including an extended indictment of a parody of the prom scene in Carrie (1976) .

Zombie’s animated epic runs only about 80 minutes but, oddly, it’s a long 80 minutes.  There are long stretches where jokes do not hit, and sight gags are few and far between.  However, if you liked Ren & Stimpy, you’re probably going to enjoy the trip into the “Haunted World.”

Oh, and if nothing else, there’s also a million Nazi zombies.