With horror industry heavy hitters already in place from the 1970s, the 1980s built upon that with the rise of brilliant minds in makeup and effects artists, as well as advances in technology. Artists like Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff Jr., Tom Savini, Stan Winston, and countless other artists that delivered groundbreaking, mind-blowing practical effects that ushered in the pre-CGI Golden Age of Cinema. Which meant a glorious glut of creatures in horror. More than just a technical marvel, the creatures on display in ‘80s horror meant tangible texture that still holds up decades later. Grotesque slimy skin to brutal transformation sequences, there wasn’t anything the artists couldn’t create. It Came From the ‘80s is a series that will pay homage to the monstrous, deadly, and often slimy creatures that made the ‘80s such a fantastic decade in horror.
Throughout most of 1987’s Predator, the title creature hunts the elite military rescue team in stealth, using its tech and the jungle as camouflage. It isn’t until his final battle against Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger) that the alien’s true face is revealed, and it’s glorious. That design became iconic, and Predator spawned three sequels and two crossover films. But when development and production began on Predator, the bloodthirsty hunter had a very different look.
Originally, visual effects company Boss Films Studios was tapped to create the creature effects. In an early meeting between the team and the film’s executives, Boss Films was presented with designs that had already been handled by a production designer, with the instruction by director John McTiernan that this was the alien he wanted the effects team to create. Reptilian with backward bending legs, tall, and gaunt, but with a much, much different head that was almost canine in its shape. The design of the head was awful, but it was the backward legs that the effects team was concerned about considering this was to be filmed in the actual jungle.
By now, the story is well told about the first actor to fill the Predator’s shoes; Jean-Claude Van Damme, eager to show off his martial arts prowess. The only problem is that he had no idea what he’d actually signed up for. His first day on set had him gearing up in the creature’s suit, a matte red version to offset the greenery of the jungle so the effects team could render the invisibility effect later. Van Damme didn’t know this aspect about the creature and believed the red suit was the actual design. He also didn’t know that his face would never be revealed. Needless to say, he wasn’t a fan in the slightest.
More importantly, it quickly became apparent that this iteration of the character simply wasn’t working. Logistical issues aside, the smaller, leaner creature going up against a team of heavyweight bodybuilders just wasn’t very scary. Schwarzenegger recommended his friend Stan Winston to design and create a new Predator. Winston had a good feeling about the longevity of the character and didn’t want to let his friend down, so he accepted. But it was by no means an easy road for his team; production was stalled and waiting on the new iteration of the creature and time was extremely short.
Winston found inspiration from a painting in producer Joel Silver’s office of a Rastafarian warrior. While working on a sketch of the creature on a flight to Japan for Aliens, director James Cameron suggested adding mandibles. It was this great concept and design that allowed for the rest of the creature to have a humanoid appearance. The last piece of the puzzle? Seven-foot-four-inch actor Kevin Peter Hall to portray this version of the Predator. Now Dutch and team had a serious reason to fear for their lives. A great design, a fully animatronic face, and a giant of an actor all came together within a span of 6 weeks with Stan Winston Studio crews working around the clock, seven days a week, to deliver one of horror and sci-fi’s most iconic characters of all time.