Looking back at PREDATOR - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Looking back at PREDATOR

Tom Pheby goes back to the jungle for a showdown with the original Predator.

Just the other day I was thumbing through my DVD collection, which is an eclectic assortment encompassing everything from Toy Story to Jarhead, when I stumbled across Predator. The 1987 movie directed by John McTiernan, written by Jim Thomas and (try not to laugh) John Thomas (if that's not funny ask someone why it should be).

For those not familiar with the film (I doubt there's many) it's a Science Fiction /Horror flick starring Arnold Schwarzenegger many years prior to his Governor of California days. It focuses on a group of mercenaries sent on a top secret 'secret' mission to recover hostages from the sprawling South American jungle (before it was re-badged as a rainforest), and you just know that it's going to lead to trouble.

In a testosterone filled helicopter on route to the 'secret drop' we get the first glimpse of assorted muscle and stereotypes. Apart for Dutch, the Ginger haired, bicep bulging leader (Schwarzenegger), we have Billy the beefcake American Indian (Sonny Landham), Blaine (Jesse Ventura) a Tobacco chewing redneck and steroid muncher, Mac (Bill Duke) an African American so big he looks like twins, and Poncho (Richard Chaves) who is obviously the runt of the litter as he has glasses and no muscles at all.

After a brief lull in the action, and in between body building competitions, they are joined by Dillon (Carl Weathers) who is another heaving example of manhood. Dillon is on the payroll of the CIA and has his own agenda. When it becomes clear that he and Dutch are not singing from the same song sheet Arnie declares "I don't do this sort of Verk" (ah the morality of the mercenary). There follows a lot of shouting and shooting as they upend a camp full of extras in moustaches. At one point Blaine, upon noticing he had been winged by a stray bullet, states manfully "I ain't got time to bleed" - this very much sets the tone for the entire film.

There's no love interest, no distractions and so it quickly becomes a full on gore fest with stripped bodies hanging from trees, much like the meat counter at Morrisons. These carcasses belong to Jim Hopper and his crew, the last unfortunates to drop into the jungle unannounced.

After Poncho all but disappears, leaving only the odd pile of entrails, and Blaine gets a hole the size of a coconut in his sizable chest, Billy fears that they face something 'not of this world'. It's then we get our first glimpse at the Predator in the form of a wavy series of lines, like those hiding the identity of someone that has declined to be filmed. When we do get to see him in his full glory, courtesy of special effects genius Stan Winston, we are not disappointed in the slightest. The make up and animatronics are brilliant, even by today's standards.

The Late Kevin Peter Hall played the snarling blood thirsty alien with great gusto, zapping the opposition and throwing them around the jungle before dry cleaning their skulls in a nearby tree top, and he cuts an imposing figure at seven feet tall. We know as an audience that everyone is going to bite the dust apart from Schwarzenegger, his large pay check ensuring his survival until the end credits and this sets the stage for the final epic confrontation.

After all this time it remains a great film of its type, almost without aging and almost without equal. The effects are superb and apart from the odd cliche and 'stiff combat trouser acting' it's a joy to revisit over a cup of tea and a Hobnob.

Schwarzenegger has served up some cinematic tripe in his time but 'Predator', and also 'Terminator', are enough to make you forgive him for 'Twins' and 'Kindergarten Cop', which as far as I'm concerned both shone as brightly as a fossilised dinosaur turd!

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