By Owen Quinn author of the Time Warriors and Zombie Blues
So here we go again in the ongoing debate between me and my buddy as to what is good and not so good in this sci fi and horror world we love so much.
We both love the Aliens and Predator franchises (mostly, yes I’m looking at you Covenant and The Predator) but the much anticipated crossovers are not held in the high regard they should be. I like the first one because anything with Lance Henriksen I love anyway but the second is usually dismissed as not very good. For the purposes of this article that’s the politest language I can use but the words of my buddy haunt me as I type those prophetic words. You know who you are you close minded heathens.
But I disagree completely. It’s a great movie!
AVP Requiem is by far the most realistic, gritty and terrifying of all the movies featuring our beloved Xenomorphs and Predators. Everything about these creatures especially the Xenomorphs is based on nightmares and Requiem takes full advantage of this. The bottom line is the question; what would happen if the Aliens reached Earth? The Predators are not a threat anywhere in the same league as the Xenomorphs because they operate on a hunter’s code of honour. Needless killing is not in their nature; the hunt is everything. The Xenomorphs are a different kettle of fish. There is no reasoning with them. They are driven by one instinct and one instinct only; to take as many hosts as possible to breed for their Queen. They have no conscience, no morals, no reasoning except to kill and gather hosts. They are stealthy and formidable enemies which is one of the reasons the Predators chose them to hunt. Earth had been used as a breeding ground by the Predators in the past and kept a Queen and her eggs in stasis in controlled environments for the purpose of controlled hunts. The one scene that did stand out for me in the first movie was that scene where hundreds of the Xenomorphs swarm from a pyramid temple. Even the Predators knew this was a doomsday situation and choose to detonate one of their nukes to stop the infestation. That very scene gripped the fanboy in me because even in Aliens we didn’t see so many of these creatures in a mass attack. Right there I wondered what would happen if they arrived on modern day Earth.
Shane Salemo obviously thought the same thing because requiem was born.
The greatest enemy is the one you don’t know exists so if these creatures got a hold on Earth, the consequences would be devastating. We know the company has wanted embryos for biological warfare and we also know Ripley managed to stop the Aliens getting to Earth at the climax of Alien Resurrection so the very thought of these things walking our streets is the very stuff nightmares are made of.
This is what makes Requiem absolutely riveting stuff. The writer has taken the fear factor that is the Xenomorphs and amplified it tenfold against the background of the ton of Gunnison.
The first clever thing they did was cast no big names. Well, I had never heard or seen any of them which added to the realism of it for me. Nobody ran about muscle bound or armed to the teeth with every gadget the military had to give. There were no prisoners fuelled by killer instincts or cloned hybrids fighting alongside mercenaries.
Every last person was an ordinary citizen, a cast of every day Joe and Josephine Bloggs that you would know in your own lives. The waitress, the bad boy, the fighting brothers, old friends you no longer connect with, cute kids and the homeless people you walk by in the streets. There is nobody with super powers and special skills that will help them kill monsters. The biggest struggle these people face is paying the bills and keeping a roof over their family’s heads.
When the waitress, Carrie, is pinned by the Predalien and impregnated it is heartbreaking especially when her body is found. Real life murder of someone as innocent and harmless as Carrie is a shock to the system if you heard it reported on the news but her death here is much more tragic because of the nature of it.
Aside from a few instances the people have normal names we are again familiar with in real life. We meet Kelly, Robert, David, Molly, Carrie, Tom and Johnny to name but a few. I personally know people with these names, some of them friends of mine. On a psychological level this is where the movie connects with us. Some of us have been waiters or waitresses. There are no jobs here out of the ordinary and no space ships to work on. Everything is relatable to the audience consciously and subconsciously.
Even the Predators have underestimated the immensity of the threat the Xenomorphs pose to this town which is a great tragedy. They have bred faster than expected and now literally control the town.
Right from the get go this movie has balls and capitalises on part of the human psyche we preach in real life. A huge part of a town’s populace is children. We saw Newt stay alive despite a Xenomorph infestation in Aliens. In a deleted scene we saw her brother Timmy, with a face hugger wrapped round him but it never followed through to the chest bursting part.
In Requiem there is no such shying away from the reality of an alien invasion. Kids are very much at the fore front of the horror here in scenes I never thought they would be brave enough to do.
There are so many nightmares scenes that have stayed with me to this day. Salemo goes for it to show what would happen warts and all if aliens infested a town. Even if the aliens landed in a city it would have made no difference. The same things would have happened. Within minutes of the movie starting we have a little boy not only see his father’s arm fall off in an acid burn but attacked by a face hugger. The scene is beautifully done and brimming with tension with that little sound the kid makes as the hugger wraps round his face hitting your senses like a hammer. It is subtle but there is no adult watching this scene did not instinctively want to help the kid.
As a parent you see your own child which kicks our protective natures into full throttle. But worse is to come as the kid gains consciousness only to see his father die as his chest explodes. Moments later the little boy suffers the same fate and again it is all in the reaction of the child actor. The second he clutches his chest we know what is coming and again that sticks in our heads because we picture our own kids in danger.
But it just escalates from there. Most movies that feature a kid dying under a supernatural or unnatural threat will end it there but not Requiem.
We tell our kids that there are no such things as monsters. We check under the bed and in the closet to prove to them there is no scary monster there before they will even think of going to sleep. It’s a double edged sword because as parents we fear something happening to our children. One of the most vulnerable times for all of us is when we are asleep. We lock the doors and windows double checking until we feel comfortable to go to sleep. That’s why we leave the door to our children’s rooms ajar so we can hear them in distress and leap straight away to protect them. Our homes are our castles and nothing should ever break that.
In the next shocking scene that is literally the stuff of nightmares, little Molly O’Brien’s bedroom is invaded when a Xenomorph smashes through her window and kills her father. So much for the assurance that there was no such thing as monsters. Molly manages to survive the apocalyptic ending along with her mother Kelly. God knows what those images of her father dying, the monster smashing its way into her room and mass slaughter will do to her as the years pass. It’s a nice touch because just because the movie ends for us doesn’t mean those characters end. Ripley herself is a good example of this.
What all great horror movies do is take what we consider as normality and twist it into something abhorrent and terrifying to the point you will never look at it the same way again. The swimming pool scene comes to mind. How many times as children did we think that there might be a shark or monster under the water? As a parent I often played at monster going underwater and grabbing my kid in mock scares. It’s a scare that ends in laughter and good memories. In Requiem in ends in a chlorine soaked death.
We all see hospitals as places of safety where usually our loved ones go to heal. Even if they do die in hospital they are treated with respect and dignity. However Salemo screws this completely in a way I again never saw coming. The sight of multiple Xenomorphs swarming all over the hospital exterior is a shocker. But the most shocking scene for me and the one that has stuck with me all these years more than any other horror movie is the maternity ward.
I remember very clearly the moment the Predalien entered the room full of mothers in labour. I thought that when it saw this it would withdraw and leave this sacred happy moment. But when it began to attack and impregnate every last one of them my jaw hit the floor. Being a father and having gone through the labour process with my wife, it really struck a cord with me. I said at the start of this that nothing was sacred and this movie had balls to go all the way with the horrors of Xenomorphs. This epitomises it for me. My morals and sense of reasoning double stepped me here because I thought it would show mercy like a Predator would do but to be kicked in the balls like that should have told me that this was not going to end well. At that point I would have happily kicked the crap out of the first smiling extraterrestrial I met on the way out of the cinema.
If anything, this movie shows that no matter what there is hope too as humans will prevail somehow against the odds and fight to live another day through the characters of Kelly, Molly, Ricky and Dallas. They are the lone survivors of the massacre. Gunnison’s last remaining citizens are tricked to go to the town centre and die at the hands of the government’s final solution. In reality the government killing its own citizens is unbelievable but in this situation understandable. Add to that this is not the first time we have seen this in movies for example Outbreak and The Crazies remake. It is a desperate final solution but there is no other option. It does follow the pattern of all the other movies with the entire cast bar a few dead at the hands of either Aliens or Predators.
Requiem gives us the most realistic view of a Xenomorph infestation. There is no happy ending and everyone from the young to the old is potential hosts for the embryos. It speaks to our most basic instincts as humans and more importantly parents on levels that shock us with images that stick with you. I have no doubt that even if you hate the movie and send me gifs with Simpsons characters typing worst movie ever, those images pop into your mind when you think of AVP Requiem.
So with all this in mind, the next time you happen to come across the movie on a night you have nothing else to watch, give it a second chance. You just might find it’s a much richer and layered movie than you first thought.