So I’ve been thinking about the movie Predator a bit recently. This is mainly due to having watched it the other night. I have seen it lots of times and have it on DVD (with an excellent director commentary) but this was the first time for some while that I’ve sat down and watched it all from start to finish.
I love this movie. It has great atmosphere and music, as well as engaging characters and intense action. But the thing I had forgotten a bit was how much of a horror movie this is.
First, let’s be clear. Predator is a scifi action movie. But it is also part horror. Possibly it is more horror than action, as the action itself is restricted to a few sections. Most of the film is this group of soldiers prowling through the jungle, going deeper and deeper into dangerous territory, growing more uneasy as things develop, before they find themselves being outright hunted. There is a lot of talk of the jungle, of the jungle coming alive to claim Hawkins, of how dense and tough to get through the jungle is. The environment is a threat to them.
Predator follows the classic horror steps. A group of characters enter into a situation, often not that unnatural to them, but exciting nonetheless. These characters soon see warnings that things are not as they seem. Soon the threats and warnings escalate. There is often a moment when they realise that they’ve been deceived or lured. Then things get really bad as the monster/killer/threat comes for them. Often the characters are offed, one by one.
This is a broad sweep of horror steps, I admit. Still, Predator follows them along when you look at it. We also have that horror classic of one character losing his mind a bit, even predicting their deaths.
Another good point to make about Predator is that we don’t see the alien itself much at all. It remains a shimmer against the jungle, stalking them, waiting to strike. Because of this, it is always malevolent. This creature could be a demon or something. It is also fun to note how quick and lithe the alien is while this way. Once the disguise is removed and we see this big hulking thing, it becomes slow and clunky, especially in later movies. Put simply, a big man in a big costume can’t leap around the trees.
That brings to me one criticism I have, or perhaps just a wish that would have improved the film for me. If they hadn’t started with the ship in Earth’s orbit, possibly toned down a couple of other scifi things, this film could have been much more ambiguous about what is after them. The characters themselves have no idea and often talk in supernatural terms. The audience could have been sat there wondering if a demon hunted them or a ghost or … ahem … an alien. I just think that would have made the plot more intriguing and the revelation more important.
So yes, I would consider Predator a horror. It is still scifi and action, though. It is all three. It has gory scenes, characters breaking under the stress, and doesn’t really go into the science of the Predator. It could easily have been a demon using magic to disguise itself while casting fireballs. We don’t get an analysis of the alien or the science behind it. Dutch’s team stand little chance against it too. It might as well be a monster hunting normal people for all they can do to stop it.
Alien is a great horror scifi. So is the Thing, one of my favourite movies of all time and currently on tv right now. Cool, huh? I don’t see the need to separate them into one thing or the other. Aliens is more action scifi. But again, it has the horror elements. It is a great thing to watch different genres be combined by talented directors, giving us a cohesive story to enjoy.