Predators: The Scores
Anticipation mounts as the release of Shane Black’s The Predator looms closer. To mark this occasion, here are soundtrack reviews -- sprinkled with a little poetry -- of the previous films featuring this trophy-seeking monster. Please note: Only Alien Vs. Predator was excluded due to the lack of a CD release containing the whole score.
Predator (Alan Silvestri, 1987) ***** A disembodied voice rattles a bell of bones while the prey looks up and about. Predator unseen. Alan Silvestri moulded a symphony from alien shape, his task immense: discover the elusive inside the ordinary; make the jungle whistle with animalistic need. What we hear feels deeply tuned to the pitch such hunting would suggest. Of skull trophies and invisible lasers, he drops into the fray, heat seeker ready. Thus, paranormal drums echo the primordial, and the hunt has begun!
A poem among warriors:
Between space and earth
A bothersome birth.
Commandos and one deadly hunter
Tokens for the unsuspecting punter.
Themes we cannot see
As the secret bee,
Driven to engage
Ideas and more, prepare to disengage.
Predator 2 (Alan Silvestri, 1990) ***** A sequel must strive to be as good as the original if not better… or it has little reason to exist. Commenting on Hellraiser and its follow-up, composer Christopher Young believed “growth” was the key. On that front, Alan Silvestri’s Predator 2 expands the earlier vocabulary via insane orchestrations. Continuity prevails with everything from the seminal drums to a mournful trumpet returning.
Ever since boyhood, Predator 2 has struck me as a distinctive soundtrack. Long before the Deluxe Edition became available, I sensed the power and individuality behind Silvestri’s music. While most scores tend to be accepted merely as background, filling in moments as required, that’s not how Predator or its sequel operates. Such music captures the DNA of these pictures, its place front and center with the cinematography.
A vivid and surreal sequence where Harrigan (Danny Glover) investigates a railway line aches and pulses with mystery. Peter Levy’s camerawork holds back information, even at the scene’s conclusion. Meanwhile, Silvestri contributes an otherworldly, tribal ambience. It’s like a voice of the jungle calling our hero, while the latter’s fear beats in counterpoint.
Understandably, some listeners could be turned away by the stingers and prolonged feelings of dread. However, these elements distinguish Predator 2. Just as a new language might seem daunting, familiarity breeds acceptance. Personally, I couldn’t imagine either film without Silvestri’s accompaniment. So whether experienced on DVD or CD, the score remains a conquering force.
Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem (Brian Tyler, 2007) ** While not always accessible beyond the horror trappings, Brian Tyler’s Aliens Vs. Predator - Requiem will assault your ears. The late great Terry Plumeri confirmed that horror movies allow for fullest expression in music. To his credit, Tyler doesn’t bore the listener for a moment. However, the question remains: did I enjoy this score? As a soundtrack lover, absolutely not. I found his style abrasive and the action overwrought. If ever you felt trapped in hell’s corner, waiting for that demonic brute, that’s how Aliens Vs. Predator – Requiem comes across. Nevertheless, the technical proficiency behind Tyler’s madness remains impeccable. So, a stalemate exists.
Comparing Tyler’s effort to Alan Silvestri’s Predator and Predator 2 seems improper. The former isn’t crafting the same musical vocabulary. It’s a pure horror show, any gaps forming a prelude to the next onslaught. Emotionally, I felt outside this experience, picturing human beings on the run from unseen extra-terrestrials. This state of remove hinders the score. While there’s no denying the orchestral weight, expect a painful time.
The problem here boils down to anger. There’s considerable animosity from Tyler, his arrangements making this feel like a grind. Adding to which, Aliens Vs. Predator – Requiem loses momentum by heading into overdrive at every opportunity.
Predators (John Debney, 2010) ***** Let me stress the following very carefully: John Debney doesn’t hold credentials as a hack composer. He’s the imaginative kind who spun the roulette wheel and succeeded. Consider his ambitious work for pirates (Cutthroat Island), demonic power hour (End of Days) and fateful religion (The Passion of the Christ).
The demands on a new Predator film are enormous. In addition to pictorial and atmospheric considerations, several caveats exist. Firstly, a clear melodic line which Alan Silvestri delivered in spades. Secondly, bold supporting ideas. On many occasions, he would capitalize on a special encounter i.e. Billy awaiting the unseen monster. Thirdly, drums which seem to echo as a ghostly, inhuman heartbeat. There one minute, forever trapped in your subconscious. Lastly, the face-off. Here I would like to praise Debney’s Predators. The latter graces a musical legacy by marking clear foundations for new domains, and surpassing every expectation.
I wonder how Henry Jackman will fare on the 2018 film…