This Halloween, I decided to rewatch a classic horror film known as The Predator. Hold on, that movie is actually a science fiction/action movie, right? Technically yes, but I actually have a different take on it. It’s put under the science fiction genre because there’s an alien with highly advanced technology hunting a group of soldiers led by Arnold Schwarzenegger. When Arnold is involved, you know there’s going to be some intense action happening. That’s normally the case with almost all of his movies, but there’s something about The Predator that separates it from the rest of his filmography. Arnold is often the biggest and toughest guy in the room when he’s in a movie and he can always overpower the bad guys. Well, not this bad guy, and he barely managed to survive. The action was there, but that’s not what made this movie special.
What I love most about The Predator is that you don’t see the actual Predator right away. That’s a normal routine for many horror movies, especially when the monster is, well, an actual monster. It hides and stalks the protagonists from the shadows, then picks them of one by one. It’s when the main character has to confront it, does it reveal itself and the true horror is seen. How many classic horror movies are like this? Halloween, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the list is almost a bottomless pit. If we want to move to The Predator’s level, the best horror movie that can rival it is Alien. I mean, they’re both aliens, but the Alien is more like the typical horror movie monsters.
What’s the Alien’s goal? It wants to ultimately kill anything that isn’t its own kind so the hive can grow and thrive. Basically, it has no goal but to roam around and kill. It doesn’t think or feel because it’s ultimately a mindless beast. That’s what Jason is, that’s what Michael Myers is, and that’s pretty much what Leatherface is. They’re technically more human than the Alien, but underneath, they’re anything but. The Predator, on the other hand, is much more than a mindless beast. Out of all the monsters in horror films, he’s by far the smartest.
So what’s the goal of The Predator? It ultimately is to kill, but unlike the other horror movie monsters, he doesn’t kill just to kill. When he came to Earth, he simply wanted to hunt. He didn’t want to kill Arnold’s team just because he was a mindless beast, but because he witnessed what they could do. The Predator kills for sport and he and his kind travel the galaxy to find game worthy of their skill. In this Predator’s case, he decided to travel to Earth and just so happen to come across Arnold and his team. After skinning one team alive, he needed a new challenge. Once he saw Arnold’s team wipe out that rebel base, he found his new game. Good for him, bad news for Arnold.
I’ll never forget when I saw the first glimpse of The Predator. You saw it through his perspective and through his infrared vision, but the moment he picked up that dead scorpion, you saw that alien hand. The threat wasn’t human, but it wasn’t a total monster either. The Predator meticulously stalked his prey and waited for the prefect opportunity to kill them. His strategy was simple: divide and conquer. He killed all of them until the last man standing was Arnold himself. This final confrontation forced Arnold to not rely on a direct assault and use his wits, intelligence, survival skills.
In the beginning of their final battle, Arnold was winning. He used the mud to camouflage himself and his environment to hurt The Predator and even disable his cloaking system. Once the mud was gone, however, Arnold was exposed and he was at The Predator’s mercy. Instead of killing him, however, The Predator removed his mask and revealed his true face. He gave Arnold one last chance to prove that he was a worthy game. That was The Predator’s last mistake. Arnold narrowly defeated him, but rather than die a slow death, The Predator initiated the countdown on his wrist bomb. The creepy laugh came, Arnold escaped the blast radius, and he was rescued by the chopper. However, there was no smile on Arnold’s face as he flew away and no victorious pose. Arnold was just speechless.
How many of Arnold’s foes get the best of him in his movies? The Predator is probably the only one. If that doesn’t make him superior to the other horror movie monsters, then I don’t know what does. But I’m not just giving the movie itself props just for being a fun watch. It’s a fun action movie, but it’s a much better horror film. In fact, it sets a standard for what every horror movie should be today. I’ll admit, I’m not the biggest fan of horror movies. Call me biased, but it’s just not my favorite genre. That’s probably because most of the horror movies that come out today follow the same formula.
A good example is a 2009 horror movie called Paranormal Activity. At the time, it was one of those horror movies that scared everyone. The problem is, a lot of horror movies followed it (not just the sequels) that did the same thing. There was some sort of demonic monster terrorizing a family for no reason and it did it by using jump scares. Jump scares, jump scares, and more jump scares. I won’t lie, there are some jump scares in horror movies that really made me jump. The problem I have with them is that many horror movies rely on the overuse of them and that gets old really fast.
The Predator didn’t use a single jump scare to scare us. It relied entirely on suspense and not showing the monster until the very right moment. The Predator is not a demon, but an alien, but he’s an alien that can think and strategize to kill his prey. What’s scarier than a monster that can actually outthink you? The fact that you actually got to see things through his infrared perspective was something that we never get in other horror movies. We got to see firsthand how The Predator thinks and observes his prey to plan his hunting strategy. If he has time to think, he’s practically unstoppable. If that doesn’t scare you, then you probably haven’t seen the movie.
Seriously, if you’ve never seen The Predator, you’re missing out. In my opinion, it’s a true horror classic that modern horror films should follow. For real, tone it down on the jump scares and remember why suspense is much scarier.
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