No, not Alien vs Predator.
Fighting it out for supremacy in the league of best horror films. Clash of the frightens!
Now I’m not so idiotic to think I have anything original to say about either of these amazing, much-discussed films.
The idea actually comes from my husband. He was quite disgusted by my Deadgirl v The Corpse of Anna Fritz blog, and asked why I didn’t do Alien versus Predator like ‘a normal woman’. He loves his idea and won’t shut up until I’ve done it.
So for all the people out there who hate the idea of necrophilia but love the idea of fighting a hostile, overwhelmingly superior extra-terrestrial, here you go.
WHAT'S THE SAME…
Both Alien and Predator feature a tight-knit team poisoned by one member who puts orders above human life – Ash in the former, Dillon in the latter.
Both teams have a mission which they resent – checking out signs of intelligent life in Alien, and rescuing hostages in Predator. In both cases the mission is not what it seems – it’s a set-up.
Both the spaceship and the jungle are toweringly claustrophobic. Both have terrifying, unknowable depths. Both are essentially characters in their own right.
The monster fights one-on-one with the alpha character and loses – to Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in Alien, to Dutch (Arnie) in Predator.
… AND WHAT'S DIFFERENT
Amongst Predator’s mercenaries we have a bespectacled geek, a womanising hick, a super-tough black dude, and a Native American tracking expert. Different yes, but all rough diamonds - admirable people, excellent at what they do.
Nostromo’s crew are genuinely mixed - some are venal and uninspiring, some are creepy and obsessive, some are conflicted, some are hard to read. After coming out of stasis they have breakfast and squabble like a family. And it doesn’t stop with character – the relationships between them are set out with astonishing clarity.
Throughout Predator, Dutch remains front and centre as the alpha human. Whereas Ripley slithers out of the background gradually and reluctantly. Seeing her develop into the alpha is like watching another painful birth.
Predator is an action-horror, of course. But even so there’s something surprisingly jaunty about it. Its soundtrack is reminiscent of ET or Indiana Jones. The dialogue is stacked with one-liners, reminding us that this is entertainment. Dutch’s one liners in particular (“Stick around” etc) are really quite silly. The colours are bright, the girl is beautiful. Dutch treats the girl with old-fashioned chivalry and there’s a hint of a fairytale ending – the kind that produces cute babies - when we see her smile at his safe return.
Alien is much less reassuring. There’s a fairytale moment at the beginning when the crew awakes from stasis – everything sparkles, Kane (John Hurt) lifts his hand balletically, and the soundtrack is pure Christmas magic. But from then it’s dark, dreary, and fingernails-on-chalkboard tense. The dialogue is documentary-realistic, there are no signals that what you’re seeing isn’t real. Ripley ends up with her cat, mother to nobody.
Inside and outside
The predator invades the men in strange ways before it kills them. It sees inside their bodies with thermal imaging. It steals their voices, mimicking Mac, for example, to trick Dillon. This is powerful stuff.
However, Alien takes it further.
There’s the obvious fact that the alien grows inside Kane. But consider this – it is allowed on board because of company orders. There’s actually “a survivor, unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality” present right from the start of the film – the company.
Company orders are carried out by members of the crew – Dallas and Ash. In that sense the alien is on board from the beginning. It’s part of the crew already. It’s inside the crew before they ever answer that distress call.
WHICH FILM IS BETTER?
They’re both wonderful, but Predator feels a little less radical. Alien, on the other hand, unravels everything. So it’s Alien all the way for me.
But I’d still love to hear other people’s thoughts. If Chris Stuckman thinks Predator is better so must lots of people. I'm curious - why?
Comments are open below.