After an alien bursts from the chest of a dead Predator, its spacecraft crashes into the woods outside a small American town. When a number of facehuggers emerge from the wreckage and begin impregnating the humans, another Predator arrives to clean up the mess. For the unsuspecting humans in Gunnison, Colorado, it means a long night of violence and terror as they run around like panicky kittens trying to survive.
After Paul W.S. Anderson directed Alien vs Predator and earned 20th Century Fox a tidy profit, it seemed as if the studio had a pulp B-grade movie franchise on its hands. After one sequel directed by visual effects specialists Colin and Greg Strause Alien vs Predator was stone-cold dead, with each property splitting back off into its respective franchise. It was not a matter of money: Alien vs Predator: Requiem turned a reasonable profit. It is simply as if the relevant executives at Fox saw where their combined film series was headed and simply broke it up before too much damage was done.
Alien³ and Alien Resurrection both came out on the receiving end of fairly harsh criticism, but at the same time both had their respective fans. The same came be said of Alien vs Predator to a large extent. It cannot be said of Alien vs Predator: Requiem. At the time of writing the critics of Rotten Tomatoes have given it an aggregated score of 12%. General viewers, usually more forgiving, still only rate it at 30% – that’s while giving AvP and Resurrection 39%. No Alien film is less popular than Requiem. Whether a critic, a fan, or a disinterested bystander, nothing in the franchise is as bad as this.
Alien vs Predator: Requiem (often shortened to AVPR) is not a good film. There is no hidden under-appreciated gem to be found. There’s no curate’s egg. It is a failure for two pretty obvious reasons. Firstly, and more than any other film of the ten, it works as a haphazard greatest hits package of scenes, dialogue, action beats and camera angles from Alien, Aliens and Predator. There is very little at work that is original to the franchise in any way.
I wrote ‘very little’, and that leads to the second critical flaw of the film: what few new elements that are introduced are very poorly considered. For one thing the film relocates the action for the first time to a small town in contemporary America. The aliens in particular do not work in this sort of environment. They come across as silly and vaguely ridiculous. It might almost work if the film attempted a sort of self-aware, light-hearted tone, but instead the Brothers Strause go for a deadly serious vibe from beginning to end. Not only have they made something audiences cannot enjoy, they do not even allow audiences to laugh at it.
The other main creation for the film is what was referred to as the “Predalien”, an alien burst from the chest of a Predator. It’s taller than the average alien, which is sort of cool. It has larger claws, and Predator-like mandibles, which also works quite well. It retains the Predators’ dreadlock-like tentacles, which look ridiculous and pretty much spoil the design of the whole creature. It also impregnates victims directly, latching onto their faces with its mandibles and pumping alien embryos into their stomachs with a big hollow tongue. That concept has a disgusting sort of potential, but the Brothers only employ the attack on women in the film – and in all but one case on pregnant women, which makes it all feel like a vile kind of deliberately gendered violence.
There is a lot of violence in the film. Earlier Alien and Predator films did not ignore blood and gore, but it was used rather sparingly with more shocks and scares based around dark creepy corridors and barely glimpsed monsters. AVPR goes to town with blood effects, including acid blood melting off faces, chests and stomachs bursting open, arms being dismembered and heads exploding. It is excessive enough to simply feel sensationalistic and tacky. As with the small town setting, it could potentially work with a more self-aware tone but we fail to get it.
The characters are uniformly generic and dull, akin to the teenage cast of an average Friday the 13th movie. They die one by one, in a variety of sudden and violent manners. In a slasher flick this sort of violence forms part of the package, but here the film lacks an entertaining slasher like a Jason Voorhees or a Freddy Krueger. A mob of insectoid monsters simply does not suffice.
Once the action picks up the film remains so ridiculously boring that the best thing to do is play ‘spot the homage’. One character urges another to “get to the chopper”. The Predator gets wounded and has to use a field medicine kit. The aliens all shriek like the ones in Aliens. There’s an escape from a nuclear explosion in a helicopter. One action sequence sees a group of marines get torn to shreds by a group of aliens that is effectively a shot-to-shot remake of Aliens. It even has the armoured personnel carrier, the banks of shoulder-mounted camera feeds, and James Horner’s score sewn in.
The film is 94 minutes long. It has half-decent scene at the very end, that foreshadows a vastly superior sequel we never got to see. Future Alien and Predator films never managed to capture the appeal of the originals, but they were at least more watchable than this. AVPR is without question the worst that these franchises ever got.