In preparation for the May release of Alien: Covenant (Dir. Ridley Scott), CineFiles is looking back at the decades-spanning horror sci-fi franchise. In this installment, we look at the ill-received Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, the second film to pair the two horror monster heavyweights.
Directed by the Brothers Strauss (Colin and Greg), the film involves, like its immediate predecessor, a three-pronged struggle between humans, xenomorphs, and predators. As an added bonus, it also features a xenomorph-predator hybrid. So, you know, there’s that.
An action sequence involving a standoff in space between an alien and a crew of predators opens the film, and it comes off as cartoonish as one could expect. Video game-level visual HUD displays of the predators are less believable than in the ’80s.
Back on Earth, a father and son get attacked by facehuggers while out on a hunting trip, and, with hilarious gratuity, a child’s chest is ripped open from the inside. The same fate later befalls a number of homeless people. And some kid has bully issues.
This is about all the exposition the film provides for us. Aliens appear. Then predators appear. They start killing people. And, after 95 minutes, it ends. To be fair, a film of this nature does not require a whole lot of plot to get the ball rolling, but a couple of characters would have helped.
The visual display of AVP: Requiem can be rather appalling at times. There are one or two shots in which shadows and lights are used to good effect, as in one case where a predator is largely engulfed in shadow save for a few beaming white streams of light.
In almost every other scene, however, the lighting is impossibly flawed. Most shots feature ghastly shadows on people’s faces, even in the daytime. And the night scenes, in more than one instance, are undecipherable in their sheer blackness. It is understood that the horror genre needs its darkness, its shadows where things can be allowed to bump in the night. But when nothing on screen is visible, you know there is a problem.
The original Alien makes adept use of its contrast of light and dark. The shadowy corridors in both the 1979 film and Aliens make for wonderful moments of suspense. And the predator in Predator, given its camouflage ability, is terrifying even in the light. It is hard to be terrified or in suspense when you can’t see what is in the shadows waiting to say “Boo!”
Speaking of suspense, it is entirely absent in AVP: Requiem. With no character to root for and no situation in which a hierarchy of knowledge can be exploited, the film is largely people with forgettable names bumbling around waiting to be slaughtered.
In the absence of suspense, the film attempts for surprise. (Note as an aside that this can be said about the vast majority of modern horror films). But even these points where a xenomorph jumps out at the screen are not effective given the aforementioned lighting issues and the lack of narrative stakes that are involved with every scare.
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is crafted with an irresponsible level of laziness. Incoherence both visually and narratively denies the film from having any credibility. As a result, it is hard to even enjoy this film ironically or as a guilty pleasure.
Seemingly, the only thing this film did right was that it had aliens and predators in it. It is, quite simply, a mess.
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem: F
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)