NB: The following contains spoilers for Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem and other films of an Alien or Predator persuasion.
Everything gets worse. It’s one of the basic, fundamental laws that governs the cosmos. According to scientific-type people, all systems degrade over time: a bowl of fresh fruit will soon disintegrate into a puddle of hideous goo. A shiny new car will one day collapse into a heap of rust. The sun will eventually run out of energy and shrivel up.
You can see entropy at work in film franchises – not least 20th Century Fox’s Alien. The first film arrived like a shrieking demon in 1979, frightening the life out of audiences with its haunted-house-in-space fear and loathing. Aliens followed it in 1986, increasing the threat and turning the original film’s creeping terror into a survival-horror rollercoaster. Then came Alien 3 in 1992, a baroque, atmospheric muddle rushed for a predefined release date.
By the time Alien: Resurrection arrived in 1997, the aliens were swimming, Ellen Ripley was playing basketball and the fear factor had long gone. Likewise Alien Vs Predator, the 2004 film that brought the Alien and Predator universes together in a murky comic book adventure set in an ancient temple. Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem trudged after it three years later, attempted to bring back the gore of the earlier films, but also added ill-advised elements of teen soap operatics and questionable B-movie schlock.
Of all the films in the Alien and Predator franchises, Requiem was the worst received by critics, and adjusted for inflation, it was also the least successful at the box-office. But while Requiem is widely regarded as a low point in the series, it’s not hard to find a few remarkable things tucked away in the film if you look hard enough. Things like these:
1. Everything happens on fast-forward
Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem picks up immediately after the previous film, which might confuse people who either didn’t see 2004’s AVP, or were extremely drunk when they did see it three years before (which we weren’t – honest). Aboard a spaceship leaving Earth, a chestburster emerges from the body of the Predator from the last film. The alien swiftly grows up, murders the remaining occupants, leaving the craft to tumble back to terra firma and crash into the town of Gunnison, Colorado.
Now, you could pick all sorts of holes even at this early stage. Don’t the Predators, with all their incredible technology, have some sort of airport scanner which can locate unborn alien foetuses as each Predator boards the ship? If the Predator ship was leaving Earth, why did it circle back on itself?
Directors Colin and Greg Strause leave us little time to ponder these questions, as the plot hurtles along like an express train. It’s a bit like a father reading a bedtime story to his child, except he’s reading it really quickly because he wants to go to the pub.
The important thing to glean is that the creature born from the dead Predator is a new, more terrifying kind of xenomorph – one that merges the characteristics of both an Alien and a Predator. It’s the Pred-Alien – a towering, screeching ghoul with the same haircut as the Predators. Here he is:
This opening sequence is essentially the entire plot of alien compressed into approximately five minutes: creature explodes from victim, grows to spectacular size (in a few seconds, as presented here), and kills the crew one by one. Then, in a departure from Ridley Scott’s film, the ship crashes into a forest in the middle of Colorado. There goes the neighbourhood.
2. A small boy watches his father’s arm drop off
If Alien Vs Predator‘s staccato PG-13 violence irked you, Requiem’s first act sends out a clear message: we’re in R-rated territory here.
A huntsman father and his wide-eyed son are about to gun down an equally wide-eyed deer when they spot the crashed Predator vessel. An army of facehuggers escapes from the craft’s shattered hull, and attacks the father and son from among the undergrowth.
Now, most films would probably have the kid escape this encounter, and maybe run back to his hometown and tell everyone about the aliens in the woods. If this were a 1950s B-movie, none of the townsfolk would believe him. But this is a 2000s B-movie, so the child watches as his father’s arm is dowsed with acid and falls to the ground with a plop. As if this wasn’t traumatic enough, both father and son are subdued and impregnated by facehuggers. Remarkably, this isn’t even the worst bad-taste moment in the movie.
While the Pred-Alien and its retinue of facehuggers moves out into the Colorado countryside, the action shifts back to the Predator home planet. This should, in theory, be a monumental moment for the series, since it’s our first glimpse of the alien hunters’ world on the big screen. But because the plot’s all unfolding so quickly, it barely even registers.
We’re introduced to another Predator, who doesn’t have a proper name in the film, so we’ll call him Alan. Here he is:
Alan’s a kind of cleaner, evidence remover and alien detective, like a taller version of Harvey Keitel’s character in Pulp Fiction, or Jean Reno in La Femme Nikita and Leon. Having received a distress signal from the crashed ship on Earth, he packs up all his high-tech stuff, clambers in his ultra-fast Predator vessel, and heads off to investigate. Go, Alan!
3. There are hobos and sewers
Like entropy, there’s a law that governs all B-movies: terrible things always happen in sewers. In a combined seven entries, the Alien, Predator and AVP movies all managed to steer clear of them. Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem plunges into the effluent with relish, as the Pred-Alien and its scuttling army of facehuggers sets up a temporary dwelling in a drainage system.
Cheerfully sowing their evil seeds inside a group of homeless people, the facehuggers and their Pred-Alien leader build up their ranks of soldiers, ready to take over the sleepy town and its fleshy, unwary inhabitants. Weirdly, none of the aliens emerge with bits of loo paper stuck to them or anything.
4. Most of the film takes place in complete darkness
The dimly-lit locations in Alien Vs Predator were a common cause for complaint back in 2004. But compared to Requiem, Paul WS Anderson’s AVP was positively glowing – a riot of colour, like Disney’s Fantasia.
We get the vague impression that some of the set designs might be quite good in Requiem, but it’s almost impossible to tell – every scene takes place in almost total darkness, from the murky moments in the Colorado sewers near the beginning to the chaotic action at the end.
When Alan descends to Earth and follows a trail of acid to Gunnison’s sewers, he shows off a range of different settings on his night vision goggles: he has heat vision, acid vision, aerial map vision, green vision, and blue x-ray vision. Not one of these settings makes it clear what’s going on as he’s trudging through the sewers and fighting aliens. For all the superior technology at his disposal, Alan would have been better off carrying a decent torch and a few spare sets of batteries.
5. A character (possibly) wears Ripley’s dressing gown
Requiem’s rapid-fire opening half introduces a bewildering array of characters. There’s Dallas (his name being one of many, many Alien references), who’s an ex-convict who’s returned to his home town after four years in jail. There’s Ricky, his pizza-delivering younger brother. There’s Jessie, Ricky’s love interest who has a horrible jock boyfriend, Dale, who in turn has at least three equally obnoxious sidekicks. Then we have former military helicopter pilot Kelly (played by 24′s Reiko Aylesworth), her husband Tim, their young offspring Molly, who plays with night vision goggles and screams a lot. Plus there’s Sheriff Eddie (John Ortiz), a waitress and a cook at a local diner whose names I’ve forgotten, plus assorted gun shop owners, military types and panicky men with guns.
Requiem introduces so many characters so quickly that it becomes difficult to mentally tag who all of them are. By the mid-point, Requiem’s ushering in new characters a such a pace, they’re not even named until after they’ve been killed. Rather than even bother with names, it’s far easier to simply file all these characters away under two lists: those who are certain to die and those who aren’t. Kelly, pictured above, belongs in the second category, and that’s partly because she’s this film’s Ellen Ripley stand-in (with Molly as her wailing Newt analogue) – how can we tell? Because she’s wearing Ripley’s dressing gown from Aliens. Look:
Disappointingly, she doesn’t get to wear this while she’s shooting aliens later in the film. [NB: Thanks to reader and Geek chum David Bullock for pointing out the Aliens dressing gown reference!]
6. Shane Black’s character from Predator has a cameo – sort of
Okay, this one’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s a fun Predator nerd fact. In the scene illustrated above, you can clearly see a gravestone with Hawkins engraved into it. This is a reference to the character of the same name from Predator, played by Shane Black before he became a Hollywood screenwriting celebrity and the director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man 3. Here he is, bless him.
Well, we thought it was interesting.
7. Alan makes a swimming pool full of water vanish
During the course of his investigations, Alan occasionally pulls out a flask of blue liquid, which he pours on assorted dead aliens, facehuggers and their victims. Like a kind of magic acid, it causes them to disappear, implying that Alan’s intent on covering up all evidence of the xenomorphs’ existence for some reason. But weirdly, he has a habit of leaving other bits of evidence behind himself; when he’s spotted by a local cop in the woods, Alan quickly kills the luckless lawman and leaves his skinned body hanging in a tree.
It’s as though Alan has a job to do, but keeps getting distracted by his own hunting instincts. He’s like a soldier on a mission behind enemy lines who can’t resist stopping every so often to do a spot of fishing, or maybe shoot a squirrel.
In one exceedingly odd scene, horny teenagers Ricky and Jessie break into a swimming pool, and are about to indulge in a spot of skinny dipping when they’re attacked by swimming aliens. Alan then turns up, kills the aliens and pours his blue liquid into the pool, causing both the aliens and several gallons of water to disappear.
What’s Alan up to? Our best guess is that he’s worried about ruining the Alien series’ continuity. If the puny Earthlings get wind of the xenomorphs’ existence, then the crew of the Nostromo might be less likely to accidentally stumble on them when they visit LV-426 in several decades’ time. This means that everything that happened to Ripley and the rest of her crew was all a huge practical joke, with Alan no doubt chuckling at the thought of it.
8. The Pred-Alien kisses a pregnant woman
Throughout the second half of the film, the Pred-Alien and its soldiers pop up all over town. They attack a waitress in a diner, and it’s revealed that, for some reason, this particular breed of xenomorphs can leave several eggs in one victim. As the waitress’s torso bursts open, a litter of about four or five chestbursters issues forth. The most obvious explanation for this is that, in Requiem’s compressed story, these fecund facehuggers will provide more cannon fodder for the heroes to shoot at the end.
The greater question, though, is this: if all the aliens came scuttling out of the sewer, can’t people smell them before they see them? Sure, they’re quiet and stealthy, but you’d think someone would mention the hideous stench before they pounce. This could even have been a fun plot point in the final act: “If it stinks, shoot it.”
As the makers of Requiem gleefully probe at the outer reaches of bad taste, the xenomorphs advance on a hospital. In one grotesque scene, the floppy-haired Pred-Alien leans over a heavily pregnant woman, and gives her a huge and decidedly unwelcome French kiss. It’s an example of Requiem‘s tendency to go for cheap, button-pushing shocks rather than flesh-crawling horror. For example, a xenomorph emerging from a victim’s bottom would be something new for the Alien franchise, but it wouldn’t necessarily leave audiences quaking in fear.
Thinking about it, that’ll probably be something we can look forward to if AVP3 ever happens.
9. An alien menaces a little girl through a bedroom window
Aliens have always had a habit of leaping out of dark places, but never to such a comic effect as here. Newt stand-in Molly is at her bedroom window when she suddenly spots something toothsome in the trees outside. Hearing her screams, Molly’s mother and father (that’s Tim and former helicopter pilot Kelly, remember?) attempt to placate her.
“See?” Tim says, confidently. “No monster.” Before Molly has the chance to say, “Yes there sodding well is,” the ghoul’s already leapt through the window and eaten her father’s face. Molly and Kelly, understandably, leg it.
10. The heroes have to “get to the chopper”
The rest of Requiem unfolds like a combination of teen slasher flick and Dawn Of The Dead, as the town becomes overrun by smelly monsters and a dwindling group of humans tries to find a way out. It’s all pure B-movie nonsense, you’ve probably realised, but there are certain scenes that are quite enjoyable for their sheer tackiness. There are lots of exploding body parts, for one thing, including a bit where an argument over a cigarette leaves one chap without a head. Yet even as an exercise in juvenile schlock, Requiem‘s derailed not only by its muddled storytelling and identikit characters, but also its slavish devotion to the other, better films in the series.
Every major character has a tie to another one from an earlier movie. Shots, sequences and even individual sound effects are packed into the curiously short running time – there’s even a bit with a shower curtain that apes Alien 3. By the time someone yells, “Get to the chopper!”, a line once immortalised by one Arnold Schwarzenegger, Requiem simply becomes a reminder of how far the franchise had fallen since its height in the 1980s.
Like a bowl of fruit, a shiny car or the sun, the Alien and Predator franchises were the sad victims of entropy, dissolving like a corpse drizzled with Alan’s blue disappearing juice.
Mind you, Requiem does have a bit where a character says, “Are you looking at me or the clock?” And for that, we should probably be begrudgingly grateful.
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