Movie News & Reviews

"Requiem" monsters have more character than humans

I'm continually stupefied that movies with as much potential assomething with a title like "Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem" can turnout 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 theonly 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 justmight remember, if our brains aren't too souped up with radiation toremember what food is for, let alone how to write and film big-budgetproductions, that even the most foolproof concepts need a decentscript and direction around them, too.

In orbit above Earth, a predator ship infested with aliens and onepredator-alien hybrid is sent crashing down in the forests ofColorado. Before the last predator is slaughtered, he beams out adistress signal calling in a cleanup man to eradicate the evidence.

This new predator rolls out for Earth like a consummate pro, but notbefore alien facehuggers take down a couple human locals and start aninfestation. Meanwhile, people go about their lives -- pizza boy JohnnyLewis is embarrassed when he has to make a delivery to sexy loveinterest Kristen Hager, soldier Reiko Aylesworth comes back to herhusband and kid after a tour in Iraq, etc. -- unaware of what's lurkingin the forests around them.

The thing about the aliens, though, is they're not content to kickback, crack open a space-brew and congratulate each other over a fewenemies well-chest-burst. Not satisfied with minor bloodshed, theytake to the streets of the town and begin to overrun it as thepredator 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-monstersripping apart soft humans for so long if none of those humans meansanything to you (delicious though they may be), and in "Requiem," thehuman characters somehow have less personality than the creatures. Ohsure, the E.T.s may not have any lines, or even names, but thepredator who's all business and that predator who's also an alien area hell of a lot more memorable than that dude who wants to impress thechick and the small-town sheriff who just wants to help.

Perhaps that's in part because the directors, the Brothers Strause, gofor old school physical effects rather than the computer-generatedkind, making for the same kind of unsettlingly real-looking monstersthat've been creeping the fluids out of people for the better part ofthree decades now.

Unfortunately, they don't seem to know what to do with those big nastykillers 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 suspensehere. When the movie proves right off the bat it's not afraid ofkilling anyone and everyone, and there's not one but two types ofruthless xenomorphs running around slaughtering whatever gets in theirway, you'd think there'd be a lot of tension about who's going to makeit and who's going to get a projectile alien mouth through theeyesocket.

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, butmuch like Christmas, the anticipation of who's about to get killed isoften better than the killing itself, and this one just doesn'tdeliver that antsy wait.

An OK sense of humor keeps it from being a grim exercise, and a fewsubversive moments prove its fun isn't entirely brainless. But yetagain, a welcome concept is squandered by a weak script and mediocredirection.

Horror fans will appreciate "Requiem" for its no-holds-barredapproach to violence. Just don't expect much more.

Grade: C+