Today: July 24, 2024

Man Against Beast

We’ve seen the set up a million times before. A crack squad of Hooah! military guys up against it. Whether ‘it’ be slavering xenomorphs, nuclear powered lizards or something alien in the air ducts.

We’ve
seen the set up a million times before. A crack squad of Hooah! military guys
up against it. Whether ‘it’ be slavering xenomorphs, nuclear powered lizards or
something alien in the air ducts.
Paula Hammond takes a
look at ten of best and the worst soldiers verses ‘something’ movies. Argue
amongst yourselves at home …

Predator
(1987)

With its soldiers versus ‘something’ scenario
Predator, arguably, set the template for every film since. Although there’s
always something awesomely silly about Schwarzenegger’s
over pumped posturing, in Predator he’s perfectly cast. The film starts out
like a typical ‘80s war flick – with tons of testosterone and manly hooah. But,
as it progresses, it becomes clear that something just ain’t right. It was this
slow burn which apparently appealed to Arnie, who was also responsible for the
decision to make the film an ensemble piece rather than another Commando style, one-man mission. But
it’s Stan Winston’s
iconic predator design which steals the show.
Best
Moment
: When Bill
Duke’s
Mac mows down half the jungle with a hand-held M134 Mini gun in
pursuit of the predator.
Memorable
Quote
: “If it bleeds we can kill it”. (Dutch)

Doom (2005)
Fans hated it, but come on, what were we really
expecting? It’s the film of the computer game and, as such, this great little
shoot ‘em up does exactly what it says on the tin. In fact, it’s a surprisingly
well-crafted film. Compare the opening scene in the barracks, where we’re
introduced to the characters, with the set-up scene in the helicopter in
Predator. Both films are tightly written with broad-brush strokes characters,
deliberately designed to elicit sympathy, empathy or distrust. It’s a film in
the classic late night, B movie mould. Which is a good thing. Plus, it’s got
monsters, Karl Urban (who’s rapidly
becoming a sci-fi stalwart) and BFGs. Put your brain in neutral, sit back and
enjoy the ride.
Best
Moment
: When the film goes into first person shoot ‘em
up mode. Oooh yes.
Memorable
Quote
: “Semper Fi, Motherf*cker!” (Sarge)

Aliens
(1986)

There are two types of film -lovers. Those who
like Alien and those who prefer Aliens. Both are great films, but apart
from the titular monster they’ve really little in common. Alien is a terse,
dark, monster movie. Aliens is a gung ho action-adventure. It has all the
archetypes too – the reluctant hero (Hicks), the consummate soldier (Vasquez),
the chicken shit mouthy one (Hudson) and, of course, a great alien. Possibly
The Great Alien – although, to help the plot along, it’s considerably easier to
kill than in the first film. That fact that Sigourney Weaver was nominated for an Oscar, in a genre usually
ignored by award ceremonies, proved that the Alien franchise had finally
entered mainstream consciousness.
Best
Moment
:
Where Ripley and Newt are attacked by face huggers while they sleep.
Memorable
Quote
:
“I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only
way to be sure.” (Ripley)

Dog
Soldiers (2002)
(Main Picture)
This superbly scripted British flick really
deserves to be better known. When compared with bigger budget films, it lacks a
certain gloss. But that’s more than made up for by its superlative cast of
down-to-earth squaddies (led by Sean
Pertwee’s
grizzled Sergeant) who find themselves up against something
horrible in the Highlands. Perhaps it’s the isolated set. Or perhaps a real
world setting makes the unnatural more unnerving. Whatever the secret, Dog
Soldiers well deserves its accolades. Let’s hope that much talked about sequel
finally materialises.
Best
Moment
: A dead, half eaten cow falls into the
squaddies camp.
Memorable
Quote
:
“If Little Red Riding Hood should show up with a bazooka and a bad
attitude, I expect you to chin the bitch.” (Sarge)

Predators
(2010)

It may have been the fifth film in the
franchise, but it’s been the only one to really capture the spirit of the
original, right down to the score. Set a band of Earth’s biggest badasses
against a planet full of skilled predators and strap yourself in for an
adrenaline-fuelled ride that reminds you just how much potential Predator could
have had in the right hands. In this case, the man to give the franchise a good
old reboot up the jacksie was Robert
Rodriguez
, whose original script formed the basis for the film. What gives
this sequel the edge, though, is that finally the predators are faced with
opponents as ruthless as themselves. It’s a film in which the hunters become
the hunted and the ‘humans’ who survive may actually be more monstrous than the
‘creatures’ they’re fighting.
Best
Moment
: When Stans takes on the predator crying: “Die,
you space faggot!”
Memorable
Quote
: “There is no hunting like the hunting of
a man. And those who’ve hunted armed men long enough, and like it, never really
care for anything else thereafter.” (Royce quoting Hemingway)

The
Thing From Another World (1951)

Almost 30 years separate Howard Hawks’ Thing from John
Carpenter’s
– and it’s actually the 1982 version which is closer to the
original novella, Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell, Jr. However, this black and white fifties
flick is a class act. In fact, back in the day, its box office takings beat
every other science fiction film that year. No mean feat when one of them was The Day The Earth Stood Still. Although
it still it tends to be overshadowed by its grosser big brother, Thing From
Another World’s appeal lies in its snappy dialogue and well rounded characters.
OK, so the monster is a sentient super carrot but this a classic from the
golden age of sci-fi for a reason.
Best
Moment
: The ‘ racy’ (for the time) scene in Nikki’s
room where she feeds Hendry booze, while his hands are tied.
Memorable
Quote
: “Watch the skies, everywhere! Keep looking.
Keep watching the skies!” (Scotty)

Outlander
(2008)

Outlander is that rare thing these days – an
intelligent, tightly scripted sci-fi ride. For soldiers, we have Viking warriors. Instead of guns, we
have axes and swords, but this is still a classic monster versus man encounter,
going right back to its origins with a tale based on the legends of Beowulf and
Grendel. Kainan is the Beowulf style hero – the Outlander – who, is really an
alien solider whose ship has crashed in Medieval Norway. Only on board is the
deadly Moorwen – a dragon-like
beast who slaughtered Kainan’s family. What gives Outlander the edge is the
Moorwen, who, like its ‘victims’ is only
fighting for its survival.
Best
Moment
: When the Moorwen appears outside the stockade,
all fire, brimstone and wrath.
Memorable
Quote
: “If you truly believe that you write the tale
of your life, then the end is up to you.” (Freya)

And some of the worst …

Godzilla
(1998)

You’d imagine that a big budget take on Japan’s
most famous export – Godzilla – would be a sure fire hit. Sadly when it came to
it, even the spectacular effects couldn’t beat the charm of a guy in a monster
suit. This has to be one of the most idiotic blockbusters of all time. Just how
do you lose a giant lizard on an island anyway? It’s only Jean Reno’s wonderfully self-depreciating squad of French Secret
Service commandos, who are dispatched to take out the beastie and her brood,
that saves this film from total disaster.

It!
The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)

If the premise of an hostile alien creature
hunting a spaceship’s crew as it returns to Earth sounds familiar, then that’s
because it is. This clunky 1950s feature was the inspiration for Dan
O’Bannon’s
script for the 1979 film Alien. Although to be honest that’s
really about all there is to save this men versus monsters flick from the
bargain bucket of obscurity.

AVP
(2004)

It cost $60 million and it brought together the
two biggest modern day movie monsters. So why did AVP fail so spectacularly to
deliver the goods? Could it be that no one could actually see what was going on in all that
atmospheric gloom and doom? Or was it that none of the characters were fleshed
out enough for us to care about? A film with all the clichés and none of the
charm.

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email: writerpaula@icloud.com

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