RETRO REVIEW: The PREDATOR Hunts Some Schwarzenegger Again at Splatter Cinema at the Plaza Theatre

Posted on: May 13th, 2014 By:

Splatter Cinema presents PREDATOR (1987); Dir. John McTiernan; Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kevin Peter Hall, Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura; Tuesday, May 13 @ 9:30 p.m. (photos and merch table open @ 9 p.m.); Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Splatter Cinema has partnered with the Plaza Theatre once again to take a rare field trip out of the horror landscape and into 1980s action cinema territory. This time, we’re treated to the sight of Arnold Schwarzenegger beating the holy hell out of an alien invader in PREDATOR!

For a movie that started out as a joke, it’s not half bad.

See, what with Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa having just taken down the Soviet Union in ROCKY IV, the joke started going around that Sly was going to have to take on an alien in his next picture. Hollywood being Hollywood, someone said “that’s not a bad idea!” and moved on it before Stallone could. Hollywood again being Hollywood, it was developed into an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, and its cast peppered with only-slightly-less-alpha personalities like Carl Weathers, Bill Duke and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Mix well, and you’ve got yourself a 1980s action movie stew going.

And it’s really not much more complicated than “Rocky vs. Alien” when it comes to the plot, either. A paramilitary team is sent into the jungles of Central America, ostensibly to rescue a government official, and gets picked off—one at a time—by an interstellar hunter looking for human trophies.

What, you were looking for subtext and depth? C’mon, it’s a movie whose express purpose is to have a bunch of sweaty, muscle-bound goofballs throw one-liners at each other in between action movie setpieces. If you were to analyze the movie’s blood, the results would show that it’s made up of 50% testosterone and 50% adrenaline. Now, that’s far from a condemnation: when it comes to this kind of movie, PREDATOR does everything right. It may not transcend the sub-genre of “80s Action Movie” into mainstream consciousness quite like LETHAL WEAPON or DIE HARD does (indeed, unlike those films, it was widely panned upon release), but what does set it apart is its willingness to transcend its genre in other ways. Instead of aiming up like the other movies mentioned, it reaches out laterally into the other fields of science-fiction and horror to make its mark. And, like any good exploitation movie, it doesn’t waste any time letting you know why it’s reaching out laterally, it just does it. It steals whatever elements it wants to take and then rocks along at a million miles an hour before you can even think to question anything about why it’s doing what it’s doing. It ain’t got time to bleed.

And it’s got a metric ton of visceral thrills. The special effects are grisly and effective (the Predator does skin his victims, after all), but beyond that, the entire movie feels like these people are literally fighting to stay alive. Part of that may have been due to the absolutely abysmal filming conditions. First-time director John McTiernan helmed the picture (writer/director Shane Black was cast in the movie in order to keep an eye on him and to provide some last-minute rewrites), and the jungle locations proved difficult to shoot in. Heat lamps had to be used constantly because of the near-freezing temperatures of the season, the water filtration system broke down and everyone was suffering from explosive diarrhea, actor Kevin Peter Hall was blind inside the Predator suit and still had to pull off fight scenes, and everything and everyone was covered in mud and leeches.

Not that this was any APOCALYPSE NOW, mind you. Schwarzenegger did manage to fly off in his private Lear jet for three days to marry Maria Shriver in the middle of filming. But it also doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to work on, either.

The end result, however, is a lot of fun. And that’s all it’s really supposed to be, when you get down to it. It may sound like a near-insult to say that it’s among the best of a disreputable genre, but to paraphrase Joan Jett, who gives a damn about a bad reputation?

Not me.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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Retro Review: DEATH RACE 2000: It’s Not Whether You Win or Lose, It’s How Many You Kill Along the Way

Posted on: Mar 24th, 2011 By:

By Mark Arson, Contributing Blogger

DEATH RACE 2000 (1975); Dir: Paul Bartel; Starring David Carradine, Mary Woronov, Sylvester Stallone; Sat. March 26;  SPLATTERDAY NIGHT LIVE Stage Show at 9:30 pm; Screening at 10 PM; Plaza Theatre; $10.

DEATH RACE 2000 is one of my favorite films of all time, and I could probably stop at that. But I also could talk about this movie for hours, so I’ll meet you wonderful readers halfway. I was tempted to watch the recent remake with Jason Statham just as a reference point, but having heard about the differences between the two films beforehand I decided to skip it. Why? Because killing people for points has been removed in the remake, entitled simply DEATH RACE. Now, the concept hardly even seems to make a difference in the original film (it is implied that finishing first means more than scoring the most anyway), but DEATH RACE 2000 is first and foremost a dystopian sci-fi film, and in this case, the point that drives the state of the world home is that people are watching other people being run over by cars on TV.

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