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.

Nightmare on Elm St. 3: The Dream Warriors

What does a production company do after it follows it’s breakout hit horror film with an introspective look at a young man’s homosexual awakening? (Link) Well if you're producer Robert Shaye, you go back to well!  Chuck Russell’s 1987 film A Nightmare on Elm Street part 3: The Dream Warriors features the return of subjective reality, a high body count, both Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and Donald Thompson (John Saxon), and-most importantly-women!

Kristin Parker (Patricia Arquette) is having, you guessed it, sleeping problems to the point where it appears to her negligent mother (Brooke Bundy) that Kristin’s trying to kill herself.  Little does she understand is that Freddy’s (Robert Englund) back once again to terrorize the teens on Elm Street.  Little does Freddy understand is that when teens are trapped in a mental ward because of their group psychosis, said teens will unionize!  Under Nancy’s leadership, the troubled teens of Elm Street learn that they each have a unique “dream power” that can be used against Freddy.  But will it be enough to send Krueger back to hell?  Well, no, but luckily psychologist Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson) is armed with holy water and a crucifix.  Wait, isn’t that for…?  Nevermind, he seems confident enough.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of this installment of the NoES series.  Dream Warriors is essentially the Goldfinger (1964) of Freddy films in that it solidified the formula that would define every film to follow.  It introduced the “one defining character trait/ironic death” motif, the dream power, Freddy’s control over the dream setting, the opening quotes, and the bizarre methods of death.  Dream Warriors also brought back the gimmick of Freddy killing people in a manner that was explainable in the real world, thus throwing suspicion off him.  Because blaming a dead man that murders people through dreams is completely plausible.

The death scenes in this installment are grotesque.  The artery-strings on Phillip (Bradley Gregg) still make me cringe.  Whereas Taryn’s (Jennifer Rubin) track mark mouths are simply wrong.  And then there’s Dick Cavett.  Dick Cavett attacks Zsa Zsa Gabor with Freddy’s glove.  You can't mock that.

Equally important is the defining of the Freddy character.  After two films, Freddy is now in the spotlight.  He’s using superpowers and cracking the jokes that audiences would identify with him forever after.  Also important, the “soul chest” is shown for the first time, explaining how Freddy gains his evil powers and stores the souls of his victims.

Except for A New Nightmare (1994) and Freddy vs. Jason (2003), every subsequent film follows the Dream Warriors mold.  And with good reason, Dream Warriors is just a good horror film, the result of great filmmakers like Chuck Russell, Frank Darabont and Wes Craven working together to make THE 80s supernatural slasher.  And if that’s not enough, Dokken plays the title track over the credits.  Dokken.