The ‘90s often get a bad rap with horror fans. After the numerous successful slashers and creature effects films of ‘80s, the ‘90s offered a different variety of horror fare. Though there were plenty of hits, hidden gems, and misunderstood classics, the ‘90s usually don’t get the kind of love that other decades get when it comes to horror. It’s time to change that.
Predator is one of the best action/horror/sci-fi films ever made. It’s a lean, polished, and propulsive machine that delivers exactly what you want while continuing to surprise you. Making a sequel to Predator felt like a no-brainer. There were so many fascinating avenues that the first movie opened up. And when it comes to expanding the mythology of the Predator, Predator 2 is a definite win.
Changing the setting to a big city like Los Angeles was an obvious but welcome move. It feels like a natural progression of where the Predator should hunt next. The best scenes in Predator 2 often have to do with how the Predator interacts with this new environment. An extended sequence on a subway or a menacing shot of the Predator on the side of a building gives us a cool aesthetic to stick the Predator into. It’s even used for some effective comedy when the Predator smashes into a bathroom and the tenants think there’s a prowler in the house. As far as making use of the urban locale, Predator 2 does a fine job.
The film’s best asset is director Stephen Hopkins. Fresh off the kaleidoscopic A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Hopkins discards former director John McTiernan’s grounded sensibilities and gets wacky. There is a kineticism to Predator 2 in the shot choices that makes the whole film feel bonkers in the best way. Even the editing has a sense of humor to it, with a character’s unexpected decapitation turning into a bit of gallows humor. And Hopkins is clearly a fan of effects because every gag in the film gets plenty of attention. A tracking shot of the Predator walking through a puddle and its camouflage malfunctioning is made awesome thanks to Hopkins’ direction. Not to mention the numerous additions to the Predator’s weapons and the delightfully gory results they produce. The best one has to be the razor wire net.
And the best part of Predator 2 is how it adds to the Predator mythology without taking away from what happened in the first film. It doesn’t try to explain or justify certain unsaid things from Predator. Instead, it simply expands upon natural ideas the first film implied. For example, the first film never suggests that the Predator has been to Earth before. For all we know, this is the first time they’ve ever visited our planet. Predator 2 is able to suggest a larger history just by showing us a certain item that the Predators have in their possession. We also get to see a skull trophy case that implies the Predators have hunted species all across the universe. And sticking in an Alien skull is a wonderful bit of fan-service that also makes the audience realize just how formidable the Predators really are.
But, in all honesty, Predator 2 is as frustrating as it is fun. Turning the story into another mystery surrounding what the Predator is makes the sequel retread too much familiar ground. That’s made doubly disappointing as the plot involves government agents with prior knowledge of the Predator. Why the movie didn’t make one of these agents the perspective character is a baffling choice. Instead, we get Danny Glover as a foul-mouthed loose cannon cop. Glover isn’t bad in the role — in fact, the casting of this movie is downright excellent — but none of the characters are as cartoonishly enjoyable as they should be. And I’m not even going to touch the over-the-top racially insensitive sub-villains in this flick.
Still, Predator 2 is worth the price of admission. Between the strong effects work, direction, and clever expansion of the Predator lore, this is a sequel that puts in the work and reaps the benefits. It’s a clunky movie but succeeds at keeping the title monster fascinating and awesome. And we’re clearly still clamoring for more.