Unless you’re asking the writer of a certain Vogue.com article that riled up the community last month, it’s pretty much a unanimous agreement among horror fans that 2018 was a damn fine year for the genre. Hereditary and Suspiria, in particular, reminded that horror movies can be as worthy of awards season recognition as dramas, but some of the year’s best horror offerings were just plain fun. On that note, Overlord made Brad’s list of the Best Films of 2018, right alongside Hereditary and Suspiria, as did another 2018 favorite of mine: The Predator.
Mind you, Brad and I are somewhat alone on an island when it comes to the film I’m here to write about today, as Shane Black‘s sequel to the 1987 classic was largely reviled by horror fans – even the biggest fans of the franchise. In fact, based on what I’ve seen on social media these last several months, The Predator is easily the most hated horror movie of 2018.
Naturally, Brad has been catching some flack for putting The Predator in the #9 spot on his list, so I probably shouldn’t even be telling you that it’s much higher on my own list.
But I suppose it’s too late for that, eh?
Yes, I absolutely loved The Predator (saw it twice in theaters!), a big budget action-horror hybrid that’s easily the franchise’s best film since the Arnold Schwarzenegger-led original. Co-written by Shane Black and ’80s horror favorite Fred Dekker (The Monster Squad, Night of the Creeps), the Halloween-set sequel picks up many years after the events of the original two films, and it puts a timely spin on the franchise’s mythology. When the full story is finally revealed, it becomes clear that the Predators are intending on wiping out humanity and taking over Earth as their new home; climate change, after all, will render our planet uninhabitable in the future, which will make it perfect for the titular beasts, who prefer warmer climates.
In the meantime, Black and Dekker’s fun script informs us, the Predators have been making pit stops on Earth (once in 1987 and later in the ’90s) to scoop up DNA from humanity’s finest while human beings are still around to snatch up DNA from. No, our spinal columns haven’t been mere trophies for the creatures, but rather a means for them to hybridize. They’ve also been collecting DNA from the top specimens on other planets, which is a crazy cool concept.
The ambitious new take on the franchise’s lore introduces the jacked up, massively tall “Ultimate Predator,” an upgraded beast who comes down to Earth to stop a lone “Fugitive Predator” from delivering ass-kicking alien technology that’ll allow humanity to fend off the eventual invasion. Caught up in the middle of this war between monsters is a rag tag group of emotionally unstable veterans, led by Boyd Holbrook’s Quinn McKenna, as well as a scientist played by Olivia Munn and Quinn’s highly intelligent young son Rory, played by Jacob Tremblay.
Easily the biggest strong suit of The Predator is Black and Dekker’s script, which is loaded with the witty dialogue that Black in particular has become known for – fun fact, Black actually wrote some of the jokes for the original Predator script, and he also starred in the film as the Predator’s very first on-screen victim! Talk about being destined for the job, eh?
Of course, punchy dialogue is nothing without the right actors to deliver it, and The Predator is an embarrassment of riches in the casting department. The so-called “Loonies” are made up of Thomas Jane’s Baxley, Keegan Michael-Key’s Coyle, Trevante Rhodes’ Nebraska, Augusto Aguilera’s Nettles and Alfie Allen’s Lynch, and they come together to form one of the most fun ensemble casts in years. The banter between the characters, again in large part thanks to Black and Dekker’s dialogue, is often laugh out loud hilarious, and there’s enough development to each of the individual characters that you genuinely care when they’re inevitably killed off. As the primary (human) antagonist, Sterling K. Brown is a total scene stealer in his own right.
I can pinpoint the exact moment I decided The Predator was my kinda movie. In the opening sequence, Boyd Holbrook’s Quinn McKenna fires a bladed disk out of a Predator arm gauntlet, accidentally cutting one of the beast’s human victims in half. The already mutilated body had been hanging upside down from a tree, and the disk also knocks the cloaked Predator to the ground… directly beneath the body it cut in half. The unfortunate victim’s blood drips down onto the Predator, revealing its face to Quinn; he’s only able to see the unmasked monster because its face is completely soaked in human blood. It’s such a cool moment that if you were sitting right next to me in my local theater, you would’ve seen me smiling ear to ear.
For me, The Predator is absolutely loaded with those crazy cool moments, whether we’re talking about the scene where young Jacob Tremblay accidentally obliterates a bully with Predator technology; the totally badass moment where the brand new Ultimate Predator rips off the head of a classic Predator; the Ultimate Predator munching down on an unlucky human’s head up in the trees; or the final stinger wherein Black introduces the “Predator Killer” and teases a sequel that the movie’s box office under-performance surely killed off before he and Dekker ever had the chance to put pen to paper. A damn shame there, because Black and Dekker proved with this one that they’re the perfect architects for this particular franchise.
First and foremost, those dudes know how to make a fun movie.
Brutally violent (sure, much of the blood is computer-generated, but that’s horror in 2018 for ya), funnier than most comedies this year and just plain FUN above all else, The Predator is exactly the kind of movie that the genre unfortunately hasn’t been giving us all that much of in recent years. In that sense, it’s a film more in tune with the ’80s than 2018, and that’s really why I love it so much. Mind you, we’re all incredibly lucky to be living in a time where downright brilliant, Oscar-worthy horror films are becoming the norm, but it’s also nice to be fed the kinds of movies that made us fall in love with horror movies in the first place. And for me, with all its silliness and over the top insanity, The Predator was the only movie of that kind in 2018.
What’s *not* to love about The Predator? That’s a question I’m certainly not the right person to answer, but there’s been a lot of talk about the film being a nonsensical mess. I can’t help but wonder if much of that criticism is linked to the fact that we all went into the film well aware of its production issues (in particular, the final act was heavily re-shot pretty late in the game), but honestly, even armed with this information, I found no real issue with the movie from a construction standpoint. Granted, I was having so much fun that I admittedly probably would’ve overlooked some glaring stuff, but I’ve now revisited the film twice and I still think it all works incredibly well. That reshot final act, in particular, is a total winner in my book.
(Okay, so if I *had* to tweak one thing about the final act, and really about the movie as a whole, I’d give Will Traeger a better, easier to process death scene. But that’s all!)
There were a lot of really great horror movies in 2018, but for me personally, none as downright entertaining as The Predator. And that’s why, alone on an island or not, it’s my #1.
Horror movies these days are rarely this fun. And I personally want more like this one.