I can't imagine anyone on the planet received a bigger present this Christmas morning than Paul W.S. Anderson. While his profoundly sullied name hasn't been rescued from the pits of directorial reputation hell, he can now take comfort in the knowledge that he hasn't directed the worst film to feature Aliens and Predators.
When an Alien/Predator hybrid crashes his spaceship in small town Colorado, it kicks off a series of deaths that trigger the attention of the Predator home world. Sending off a top hunter, the Predator comes to Earth on the trail of the Aliens, following them into the community, where they've gone about their business slaughtering the locals and sending Facehuggers out to boost the population numbers. When a band of survivors team up to search for safety, they find not only must they elude the extraterrestrial infestation, but the government as well, who wants to contain the outbreak for study.
It boggles the mind to even contemplate how dreadful "Requiem" is. The map leading to quality was clearly laid out by Anderson's moronic work with his 2004 installment "AVP," and any filmmaker with half a brain could've manufactured something that restores a little of the glossy ferociousness that marked both the "Alien" and "Predator" franchise over the last three decades with minimal effort. Instead, we meet directorial newcomers Colin and Greg Strause (billed as "The Brothers Strause"), two random FX flunkies who turn this sequel into a vile, joyless, murky, moronic, amateurish, contemptuous, numbing, unintentionally hilarious, and thoroughly diseased motion picture. It's a perfect film for the Scrooges out there who like their multiplex fodder crude and unrelentingly insulting.
I bashed Anderson's take on the material for the cartoon directions it turned. After all, reimagining Predators as stubby football linebackers and staging the flaccid action in a series of cheap-looking sets wasn't exactly an invitation to view filmmaking ingenuity. However, Anderson is Welles compared to the Brothers Strause, who tear through the film without the slightest clue what they're doing, blindly foraging through the script for the nastiest bits of bodily harm to exploit for the marketing. The boys have no idea how to instruct actors, stage action, explore visual effects, or tell a story. Their function is primarily to oversee madness and somehow pull 80-minutes of tripe together for 20th Century Fox to sell to lenient fanboys flush with holiday cash.
As much derision as the Brothers Strause deserve, there are several components faulty with "Requiem," starting with the cinematography by Daniel Pearl, who prefers to light his frame with all the illumination power of a birthday candle. If "Requiem" wasn't horrible enough of a picture to start with, it's also impossible to view, with entire chunks of the narrative and action lost to total darkness that seems to defeat the purpose of the shiny new R-rating. Instead, the audience has to squint to see the bloodshed or decipher the expressions (and I use that term ironically) on the actors. It's also futile to figure out what the Aliens and Predators are doing at any given moment of the film. Call me a snob, but I actually enjoying the luxury of watching a movie, not sitting with a black screen listening to a tiresome symphony of hacky sound effects. After shooting "Captivity" and "Pathfinder" this year to equally exasperating results, Daniel Pearl should be run out of the business.
Shane Salerno's screenplay is another deadly tool of "Requiem," placing an interstellar war in the middle of a "Saved by the Bell" episode, as one of our "heroes" deals with a bland high school crush and persistent teen bullies. The script is really a patchwork quilt of clichés, with every single human merely a bookmark for later monster consumption. It doesn't help matters to have bottom-of-the-barrel actors running around the film, but that doesn't excuse the script's stupidity and bottom-feeding nature. Oh, Salerno not only uses adults as Alien/Predator prey, but little kids, pregnant women strapped to hospital beds, and even throws in threatened newborns to satisfy his black heart.
Hey, I was as openly hostile as anyone toward the neutered PG-13 rating of "AVP," but "Requiem" rides its R-rating to bleak horizons, replacing the escapism of the scares with puzzling hostility. The anger culminates in a conclusion that's as reckless, cynical, and spineless as anything put onscreen this year; a middle-finger to the paying crowd.
The initial wave of "Alien" films and the first "Predator" were mighty classics of cinema; scrappy gorefests that took immense care building characterization and treated dramatic payoff like the ultimate dessert. "Requiem" is nothing more than a glorified Sci-Fi Channel Original, teeming with bargain-basement production values, tiring waves of stupidity, and a promise (or threat) of another installment to come. My word, haven't the faithful suffered enough?
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