There’s a lot of trash been talked about the Alien Vs Predator films and.. yeah, I’m not going to argue, they’re not the greatest thing in the universe, let alone the canon. But at least the second film, given the appropriate subheading Requiem, had the decency to actually be R rated and go for broke with gore, violence and ooze as we are accustomed to from each respective franchise and, as dutiful fans, no doubt deserve. While the first film was a lore-heavy, multidimensional Antarctic set SciFi horror with a ton of exposition, this one ditches all of that for a lush Canadian Pacific Northwest setting and a very thinly plotted slasher aesthetic wherein the residents of a quiet Vancouver suburb encounter both species when a predator research spacecraft carrying a bunch of alien face-huggers crash lands nearby. I won’t go too much into detail regarding the characters because they are just beyond cliched. Hot dumb blonde dating the asshole jock, underdog pizza delivery boy hopelessly in love with her, cue violent altercations blah blah who honestly cares, the writers literally put less than no effort into that arena. Tough guy town sheriff (John Ortiz) rallying the troops to fight these beasties and a mysterious army colonel (Robert Joy, adding the film’s only recognizable horror pedigree as far as cast goes) who has some egregious agenda connected to the Yutani corporation. Much of the film is shot in dim or dark settings like the first, so the action isn’t always discernible or legible, but there are a whole parade of Xenomorphs just crawling all over the place which is fun. One way this one succeeds is in its gruesome viciousness; the gore, kills, splatter and deaths here are an absolutely spectacular array of surprisingly nasty (we see kids and a pregnant mother in a hospital butchered by the marauding Aliens) set pieces and carnage, and when it comes time for the two species to have their WWE Smackdown the series of fights between them are brutal and not disappointing. The film has zero mythology and strips down all of that world building for a simple tale of one Canadian town being decimated by these two warring species as they beat each other senseless, and that’s pretty much it. I didn’t hate this film, and I didn’t love it but I sure as hell admired its willingness to go full on hard R like these franchises were always meant to be, unlike its pansy ass predecessor. And one more thing: this is the only film on record in either canon to feature an Alien/Predator crossbreed creature that seems to show up out of nowhere, and while that probably just means it was created in a lab by the Predator species who appear to be busy bees as far as experimentation goes here, I’d fondly like to think that at some point two of them fucked and had gnarly acid-lubed intergalactic alien sexy time, and I’ll leave you with whatever lovely mental image that may conjure up. Good bloody fun.
A demon angel. A Badass Denzel Washington. Tony Soprano singing the Rolling Stones. Creeping psychological dread. Browned, burnished production design. A deliciously mean spirited, ballsy twist ending. All this and more can be found in Gregory Hoblit’s Fallen, an atmospheric spook-house of a flick that gets tone, fright and suspense just right. Nestled in that sweet spot of the 90’s where detective stories often had a neat supernatural twist (The Prophecy is another dope one), it’s a film that demonstrates the power of storytelling and atmosphere done right, like a campfire tale that cops tell their youngsters. Denzel is Hobbs, a detective who oversees the graphic execution of serial killer Edgar Reese (Elias Koteas, terror incarnate), a monster he once caught. Case closed, right? Not so much. Soon after he kicks the bucket, one or more copycat killers show up, and once again the crimes happen under Hobb’s watch. Coincidence? Paranormal? It’s a neat, eerie game of cat and mouse with an antagonist who possesses a few unearthly methods of skulking around in the dark. Hobbs is helped by his two colleagues, salt of the earth John Goodman and hothead James Gandolfini, bumps heads with the obstinate police captain (Donald Sutherland), and runs into his foe at every turn, each time in a new vessel which gives the actors, right down to extras, an opportunity to have some devilish fun. Embeth Davidz is her usual withdrawn self as a woman with ties to the killer’s past, and watch for Robert Joy and Gabriel Casseus as well. Composer Dun Tan’s unearthly drone of a score compliments the drab shadows, oppressive nocturnes and threatening frames of the film eerily as well, creating a mood-scape that drips ambience. The end is an acidic kick in the nuts, and I admire a film that has the stones to chuck in such a shock tactic, embracing the dread that has been built up to that point with one last sardonic, hopeless cackle. Film noir to it’s roots, subtly mystical, a perfect one to settle down with as we move into the Halloween season.
I don’t get the hate for Waterworld, and I can’t wrap my head around the fact that it was was a ginormous flop at the box office. I suppose there has to be one incredibly underrated gem of an adventure film every generation (John Carter comes to mind), and I’m ok with such films becoming cult classics years later, or loved by a small, loyal faction of people, but I still can’t see how such a creative, entertaining piece of cinema was so ignored. The best way I can describe my impression of it is Mad Max set adrift at sea. And what a premise. Kevin Costner and team craft an earthy steam punk dystopia where nearly all of our planet has been covered in oceans, hundreds of years in the future. Costner plays a lone adventurer called the Mariner, a humanoid who has evolved to the point where he sports gills, and can breathe underwater. He’s on a quest to find dry land, and is hindered at every turn by a one eyed tyrannical warlord called Deacon (the one, the only Dennis Hopper), who is on a mad hunt for oil of any kind, laying waste to anything in his way. He runs his empire off of a giant, dilapidated freighter ship, and commands a gnarly army of scoundrels. If they made a post apocalyptic super villain mortal kombat, he would probably face off against Fury Road’s Immortan Joe. Costner is a dysfunctional beast who somewhat befriends a lost woman (Jeanne Tripplehorn) and her plucky daughter (Tina Majorino in what should have been a star making turn), venturing forth into the vast blue on a rickety raft, meeting all sorts of sea bound weirdos on their journey. Kim Coates shows up with a whoville hairdo and an indecipherable accent as a sunbaked pervert who’s probably been afloat for a decade. The film is pure adventure, and loves it’s target audience unconditionally, which begs me to question why the masses savagely bit the hand that graciously feeds them. No matter, it’s a winner regardless of how it was received, and has probably gained a following that they never thought they’d arrive with when they made it. The cast extends further with work from Costner regulars and newcomers alike, including Michael Jeter, Robert Joy, Jack Black, Robert Lasardo, Sean Whalen, Lee Arenberg and R.D. Call. No one who loves a good old adventure can turn this down, and I’m still pissed that my knowledge of its reputation held me back from watching it for so many years. Let that happen no more. Either you’re won over by an inventive, balls out adventure epic like this, or you’re not.