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Bursting Back onto the Big Screen: The return of sci-fi horror

“In space, no-one can hear you scream.”

That terrifying line, from the original poster for Ridley Scott’s Alien thirty seven years ago, remains one of the greatest tag lines from any movie poster. It set the tone for one of the scariest and greatest ventures into science fiction, followed up by James Cameron’s equally impressive sequel seven years later. The jet black Xenomorph was the unchallenged monster of deep space which plagued you with nightmares as you slept… because they mostly came at night. Mostly.

But in 1987, John McTiernan gave us a creation to rival it – the Predator. A towering humanoid who’s stockpile of weapons and gizmos only served to hide the savage monster hidden underneath the armour. It was strong, intelligent and also possessed a fascinating code of honour which perhaps makes it, as a creature, more interesting than the Xenomorph. A brutal killing machine and ritualistic trophy collector, the Predator sent a chill up your newly-severed spine. A monster. A hunter. An ugly mother… well, you know.

Alien and Predator remain esteemed cult classics and represent the best of sci-fi horror, but attempts to re-invigorate interest in them since then haven’t really worked. Two more Alien films followed, neither of which evoked the terror and acclaim of their predecessors, while Predator 2 is mocked far and wide as “sequel syndrome” at its most acute.

And for all the excitement surrounding 2004’s Alien vs Predator, it was a largely dull gentlemen’s boxing match that didn’t do either being justice. Its 2007 sequel was equally poor, lacking any real imagination or detail. If there was any joy in seeing these two creatures slug it out, it was overshadowed by dull action and forgettable characters. It looked like game over.

Things got better, but only slightly. Robert Rodriguez’ Predators was fun to watch but had nothing on the original. Prometheus, if seen as a prequel to the Alien franchise, asked more questions than it answered. Despite a backlog of unused material and ideas, a real return to the big screen seemed in doubt for some time.

Until now. Those who have missed looking up at space in fear, the screech of the Alien and the familiar basting sounds of the Predator’s cannon are about to be rewarded for their patience… or at least everyone hopes so.

Alien: Covenant will be released next year. It’s officially a sequel to 2012’s Prometheus, which frustratingly dithered between being part of the Alien franchise and carving its own path. The fact that ‘Alien’ is now in the title would suggest a greater desire for Ridley Scott to involve himself in that universe once again. He has confirmed that the classic Xenomorph will be back to terrify audiences in this new movie, signifying that the storyline is moving back towards the original Alien.

And whatever the Xenomorph does, the Predator must copy. A new film, simply titled The Predator is in the works and scheduled for release in 2018. Shane Black (Hawkins in the original film) is directing, so we can expect high octane action, slick humour and clever scriptwriting, if the likes of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and The Nice Guys are recent examples to go by. Black’s distinct directorial style, combined with the traditional tone and narrative of the Predator trilogy, should be a combination to savour.

Black has said that he wants to pay homage to the original film, and in one crucial way he already has. The title tells us that unlike Predators six years ago, there will only be one hunter, rather than a trio or mob, so we should have a good old fashioned hunt on our hands. As Black himself has put it, he wants to make the Predator an “event” again. Make it something worth savouring, and relishing in the rich mythology which has been developed over the last thirty years.

And we should be very excited. Unlike most blockbusters, very little has been revealed about these films. We have not been blasted with comic-con clips which satisfy the lust for details and spoilers. Almost everything said about these movies is in whispers, said with great hesitation, and coated with secrecy… much like what is said about the creatures themselves. Shane Black is right. Both the Alien and the Predator are being made “events” again.

However, both films are already on the back foot in an industry which has grown substantially since their predecessors made their mark on cinema’s glorious timeline. Much like 1979’s original, Alien: Covenant is coming out amongst the hype of other hugely successful movies, such as Star Wars: Episode VIII and Justice League. The Predator will clash with James Cameron’s highly anticipated sequel to Avatar and the first part of Avengers: Infinity War. This makes the need for fantastic and refreshing new entries all the more important, lest they be forgotten and ignored.

And there is a genuine fear and trepidation about rebooting such classic films. The pessimist would say that the Alien and Predator are only being let loose again now because there is money to be made, so just how loyal and complimentary these films will be is still up in the air. There has always been nervousness surrounding reboots – Star Wars is the best recent example, another being Independence Day 2: Resurgence. And yet both of these worked well with their originals and showed no symptoms of the fatal “sequel syndrome.” We can only hope that the two scariest aliens ever committed to screen are not left gasping for their final breath by a return to the cinema.

High quality sequels which we can relish are long overdue. With both films promising to tie in closer with their originals, the Alien and the Predator will perhaps for the first time be realised in their full glory as they once again get us screaming in terror. By now you may be afraid of the commentator’s curse, but if these films live up to the legacy, and rise above the mediocracy which has smothered these two legendary cinematic monsters for too long, then there will be far greater things to be scared of.

 

Image: TheEspartan31; youtube.com

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