CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM
By Michael Arruda and L. L. Soares
Inside a darkened sewage tunnel, with filthy water dripping down walls into a rushing river of human waste, an Alien opens its mouth and hisses at the unseen intruder it senses. Suddenly, the Alien suffers violent spasms and falls onto its back as it squeals in pain. The Alien’s chest bursts open in an explosion of guts and green blood, and out pops MICHAEL ARRUDA. MA brushes the green goop from his body and is about to speak when he hears a strange clicking sound behind him. He whirls around.
Turning off its cloaking mechanism, a huge Predator materializes in the sewer and aims a funky looking weapon at MA. The weapon jams, and from behind the Predator’s mask comes a loud expletive. The Predator removes its helmet to reveal— L.L.SOARES.
LS: I’m glad I saved my receipt. I didn’t buy this get-up just for show!
MA (sighs in relief): I’m glad to see you. For a minute there, I thought I was a goner.
LS: For a minute there, you were.
MA: Well, this opening has used up our budget for the year. Wait a minute. We’re a writing column. We don’t need no stinking budget! But ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM (2007), or AVPR, obviously had a budget, a decent one, and it showed.
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned monster movie, and that’s what ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM is, and for that reason alone, I loved this movie, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
LS: What else is new? Hey, next time, how about suggesting we meet somewhere that doesn’t smell so bad?
MA: Really? For some reason I thought you’d feel right at home here. Anyway, AVPR begins with a bang and really doesn’t let up. In the opening scene, aboard a Predator ship, Aliens emerge and attack, causing the ship to crash land onto present day Earth. The opening battle on the ship, as brief as it is, is still much better than most of what we saw in ALIEN VS. PREDATOR (2004), a film that I thought was OK but ultimately a disappointment. AVPR is much better.
The ship crashes outside a town in Colorado which opens the door for a host of small town characters to suddenly find themselves in harm’s way. There’s the big brother Dallas (Steven Pasquale) with a checkered past returning home from a stint in jail to make good and look after his little brother Ricky (Johnny Lewis). who’s struggling to make good himself and get through high school. There’s big brother’s best buddy Morales (John Ortiz) who’s now the sheriff, little brother’s beautiful love interest Jesse (Kristen Hager), and there’s the strong Sigourney Weaver-type, Kelly (Reiko Aylesworth) recently home from the military (Iraq, most likely, though the film doesn’t say) who ends up having to protect her daughter.
LS: Oh yeah, Kristen Hager is a knockout. And you can tell they were trying to add some poignancy with Rieko Aylesworth’s returning solider character. I just wish they’d developed her more.
MA: The cast are mostly newcomers, but they handle their roles admirably.
LS: The only actor I recognized was Steven Pasquale, who plays Sean Garrity on the FX Channel show RESCUE ME. He’s good on that, and he did a decent job here, despite what little he had to work with. It was good to see him in a leading role for a change.
MA: These characters and more are thrust into the middle of a deadly battle, as the Aliens breed like crazed bunnies and infest the town faster than maggots on rotting meat, and on their heels is a Predator who’s hell-bent on destroying them all.
LS: Yeah, when we first see him, he’s sitting in some kind of throne and then jumps into a rocketship to take them all on by himself, like Super Predator. Oh, and don’t forget the Alien/Predator hybrid that they were brewing up on that spaceship.
MA: Yes, the Alien/Predator hybrid. I believe he was cooked up in the last film. Were you wondering, like I was, why Mr. Super Predator didn’t call for back-up? Wouldn’t it have been much easier to hunt down the aliens if he had some help?
LS: I don’t think you understand the Predator mindset. They’re the ultimate hunters, and they love a challenge.
(LS finally gets his weapon to work and it shoots out a laser beam, but MA ducks. Instead the beam zaps another Alien who crawls out of the darkness.)
MA: Thanks! You’ve got fast reflexes. And FAST is the key word here. The pacing of AVPR is quick. With a running time of just under 90 minutes, you barely have time to breathe. Things happen right away, and there’s no let up. The action builds to a conclusion that frankly I saw coming, but the fact that it was predictable didn’t ruin it for me. The whole film could have been much worse, but it wasn’t. It was damn good. As I watched this movie, I kept expecting things to fall apart, but they didn’t.
After the opening battle in space, when the ship crash lands on earth, the first victims of the Aliens are a hunter and his young son. Both these characters meet grisly ends, yes, the little boy too. Now, I’m a parent, so it’s not that I want to see children harmed in a movie— and the fact is, you really don’t see the boy hurt— but since the filmmakers broke what traditionally is the golden rule of horror movies, which is, children survive the monsters, it was a refreshing way to begin. I thought, cool! This movie is going to be good, and it was!
(A “face-hugger” alien jumps on MA’s face and he struggles with it, until it finally falls off.)
Man, I hate those touchy-feely types! AVPR was directed by Colin and Greg Strause, and they really deliver a kick-ass movie, chock-full of cool scenes. For example, the father telling his little girl after she sees the Alien outside her window that monsters don’t exist, only to have the Alien crash through the window at that moment. Now, this has been done before (think JURASSIC PARK 2) but AVPR takes it a step further because the Alien kills daddy in front of his little girl. Intense stuff for a sequel.
LS: Actually the whole “there’s a monster in the window” thing struck me as kind of cliché. And I was half expecting a “cat jumping out of nowhere” scene, too.
MA: AVPR is also a good example of blood, gore and violence having a place in a movie and being done right. These are friggin’ space creatures, so you want to see intense blood and gore, and you want to be frightened because in your heart you know this isn’t real. You’re not watching some sick bastard torture innocent people. As far as I’m concerned, there could have been MORE blood and guts here.
LS: Of course you like the gore in this movie. Because it’s safe. It’s just big goofy monsters ripping each other apart.
MA: It’s imaginative. When I want gritty hardcore horror, I watch the 6 o’clock news. The script by Shane Salerno was also cool. The best line in the film comes when the characters are questioning the army’s advice to them, doubting whether or not the military is being truthful, and one of the frightened women cries, “What are you talking about? The government doesn’t lie!” The theater erupted into laughter.
LS: Yeah, like I’ve never heard that joke in a movie before (laughs).
MA: Sorry some of us don’t go to the movies as much as you! Geesh! I thought the special effects were a step above AVP1.
LS: Not a big feat.
MA: I thought the battle sequences were better, and the creatures looked far less CGI than in the last installment. The story also was a step above the previous film. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that AVPR is the most entertaining film of the Alien series since ALIENS (1986).
LS: Best since ALIENS? That’s not a big feat either. The sequels since then have been pretty lame.
MA: Exactly. AVPR is far from lame. Drawbacks? Sure. I realize that darkness makes for spooky atmosphere, but I would have enjoyed some better lighting. There was a lot of intense action going on, and a lot of it I couldn’t see clearly, so that was disappointing.
LS: I actually thought this was a big drawback. I guess that way they don’t have to worry about how good the CGI effects look. But every major battle took place in a dimly-lit place, and the monsters moved fast, which means you had no real idea what they were doing. They could have been playing patty-cake for all I know. But they were growling and grunting a lot, so I guess that means they were fighting. For once I’d just love to see a movie where these things fight in the daytime so you can really get a good look at them.
And how did you know the action was intense, if you couldn’t SEE it?
MA: I said I couldn’t see it clearly. But I agree with you that I’d rather see things fight in the daytime. And while I enjoyed the pacing in terms of storytelling, AVPR could have given us more minutes of character development. The characters in the film are likeable, and knowing more about them would have made the movie even better.
LS: The only one I wanted to know more about was Kristen Hager.
MA: Stop that! She’s playing a high school student, for crying out loud! Though, she did look purdy good in that bathing suit. (Wipes slobber from his lips).
With the scenes of people in peril, especially in small town America, it brought to mind films as recent as THE MIST and 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, and as old as THE BLOB (1958). The scene where the high schoolers try to explain to the “adults” that they saw a monster reminded me exactly of a similar scene in THE BLOB with a young Steve McQueen.
LS: That’s funny. In saw comparisons to THE BLOB, too. This movie reminded me of those sci-fi classics of the 50s, only with scarier monsters. Unfortunately AVPR doesn’t have anyone as good as Steve McQueen in it.
MA: All in all, AVPR is well worth your time. I highly recommend this movie.
LS: I still think that the Predators are kind of outclassed by the Aliens, if only because the first two Alien films are classics and better than anything the Predator has ever appeared in. But both kinds of monsters look great and put up a good fight. I also think it’s interesting how viewers tend to relate more to the Predator character just because he appears to be more humanoid, but the Predator is far from a good guy (a dead man found hanging from a tree without his skin attested to that).
MA: True, but he’s better at killing the Aliens than we are! And when you’re being attacked by those buggers, that’s something!
LS: While I don’t think this is a horrible franchise, and it was an entertaining film, it is kind of hokey at times and it’s hard to really care about what’s coming next (although the ending does set things up for yet another sequel).
And there are some other flaws. Early on in the movie, there are a few major explosions, including a spaceship crash-landing in the woods, and the same ship blowing up after a Predator booby-traps it, and yet nobody seems to notice. In fact, nobody seems to notice anything is wrong until the monsters attack a power plant and the lights go out.
And the acid blood of the Aliens only seems to show up when it’s convenient. When a hunter shoots an alien and its blood sprays on him, the corrosive fluid instantly eats through his flesh, severing his arm. Later on, when our human survivors fight in close quarters with the Aliens, and machine-gun one of them to death, the acid blood doesn’t seem to spray on anyone and cause any injuries.
And what was in that blue vial the main Predator kept using to pour on the aliens and their victims to get rid of the evidence? He sure did pour a lot each time, and the vial never seemed to run out of fluid! I wish I could find a beer bottle like that!
MA: Also, I kept waiting for there to be some significance to the fact that the main character’s name was Dallas, which was Tom Skerritt’s name in the original ALIEN. But nothing came of it.
LS: All in all, I thought it was a mixed bag. It was better than I expected after the first one. And it did remind me of old-fashioned horror movies – and it did move fast. But I don’t think it’s worthy of a HIGH recommendation. If you want to see a fun monster movie, check it out. But don’t go in expecting anything close to Ridley Scott’s original ALIEN (1979).
MA: No, don’t expect ALIEN, but if you like monster movies, you’ll really like this film.
(MA suddenly drops to the ground and his chest bursts open, revealing another Michael Arruda!)
MA: What’s going on!
LS: You gave birth to yourself! That has to be the most disgusting thing we’ve ever had in Cinema Knife Fight!
MA: No. This is.
(MA drops to the ground again, and his chest bursts open again. Out pops a Michael Arruda/L.L. Soares HYBRID.).
HYBRID: I love and hate this movie.
(First published on Fear Zone on 12/31/07)
© Copyright 2007 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares