I'm continually stupefied that movies with as much potential as something with a title like "Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem" can turn out to be so relentlessly underwhelming.
Maybe I'm expecting too much.
Neither franchise has been good since movies were shown projected onto the scraped hides of stegosaurs (just ask your parents). And really, who in their right mind would possibly think a movie with two species of lethal aliens fighting for supremacy with humans caught in the middle would be any fun at all. That is, other than fans of the "Alien" movies, the "Predator" movies, the "Alien vs. Predator" comics, horror fans in general, or anyone who hasn't been dead for longer than 72 hours. Excluding that small group, no one, that's who.
It's enough to make you want to nuke Hollywood from orbit. It's the only way to be sure. Sure that, when we return 1,000 years from now, ready once more to make agreeably dumb sci-fi horror movies, we just might remember, if our brains aren't too souped up with radiation to remember what food is for, let alone how to write and film big-budget productions, that even the most foolproof concepts need a decent script and direction around them, too.
In orbit above Earth, a predator ship infested with aliens and one predator-alien hybrid is sent crashing down in the forests of Colorado. Before the last predator is slaughtered, he beams out a distress signal calling in a cleanup man to eradicate the evidence.
This new predator rolls out for Earth like a consummate pro, but not before alien facehuggers take down a couple human locals and start an infestation. Meanwhile, people go about their lives -- pizza boy Johnny Lewis is embarrassed when he has to make a delivery to sexy love interest Kristen Hager, soldier Reiko Aylesworth comes back to her husband and kid after a tour in Iraq, etc. -- unaware of what's lurking in the forests around them.
The thing about the aliens, though, is they're not content to kick back, crack open a space-brew and congratulate each other over a few enemies well-chest-burst. Not satisfied with minor bloodshed, they take to the streets of the town and begin to overrun it as the predator pursues them and the townsfolk just tries to survive.
It was the characters that made "Alien" and "Aliens" special. Well, also the scary-gross aliens and insanely great suspense sequences. Those were important, too. But you can only watch slimy bug-monsters ripping apart soft humans for so long if none of those humans means anything to you (delicious though they may be), and in "Requiem," the human characters somehow have less personality than the creatures. Oh sure, the E.T.s may not have any lines, or even names, but the predator who's all business and that predator who's also an alien are a hell of a lot more memorable than that dude who wants to impress the chick and the small-town sheriff who just wants to help.
Perhaps that's in part because the directors, the Brothers Strause, go for old school physical effects rather than the computer-generated kind, making for the same kind of unsettlingly real-looking monsters that've been creeping the fluids out of people for the better part of three decades now.
Unfortunately, they don't seem to know what to do with those big nasty killers from beyond the stars. There sure is a lot of bloody murder, and don't think I don't appreciate that -- especially after the wimpy, PG-13 original "Alien vs. Predator" -- but there's almost zero suspense here. When the movie proves right off the bat it's not afraid of killing anyone and everyone, and there's not one but two types of ruthless xenomorphs running around slaughtering whatever gets in their way, you'd think there'd be a lot of tension about who's going to make it and who's going to get a projectile alien mouth through the eyesocket.
Not at all, though. Mostly it's a rote count of bodies (24, incidentally, not including several mass slaughters). Cool? Well, yeah, you got to love horror movies that are serious about mayhem, but much like Christmas, the anticipation of who's about to get killed is often better than the killing itself, and this one just doesn't deliver that antsy wait.
An OK sense of humor keeps it from being a grim exercise, and a few subversive moments prove its fun isn't entirely brainless. But yet again, a welcome concept is squandered by a weak script and mediocre direction.
Horror fans will appreciate "Requiem" for its no-holds-barred approach to violence. Just don't expect much more.