Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem

Starring Steven Pasquale and Reiko Aylesworth. Rated 18A.

There was a time when aliens were scary to people other than right-wing governments. In 1979, director Ridley Scott's second feature, Alien, became a breakout hit for himself, Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm, and Harry Dean Stanton. Propelled by the moist and repellent design work of Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger, Alien was a standout horror movie that made the cover of Newsweek. The sequel, Aliens, created a star action director out of James Cameron, and film critic Roger Ebert confessed himself wrung-out and drained after a viewing.

But after a couple of lesser efforts, the series fell to the level of a gimmicky pairing with another horror–science-fiction franchise. Predator is the most elegant of Arnold Schwarzenegger flicks, but the face-off between the extraterrestrial thrill killer and Giger's hideous parasite seems too on-the-nose. If you're going to merge sequel concepts, why not something interesting, like Before Sunrise vs. Predator, Aliens vs. Legally Blonde, et cetera?

The studio thinks there's juice in these series yet, but Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem's aliens are only allowed to mill around in a small town (clearly Vancouver), feeding on no-name actors who are soon replaced with torso dummies. The dummies are excellent, however.

Though providing neither fear nor suspense, the movie does show some nice kills. After the first couple, my notes looked like this: "6, 7, ha ha. 8, ok. More, more."

If there is a key image of this movie, it would be the predator melting various mangled bodies with a powerful, glowing corrosive. If only the characterizations, dialogue, and scenario of the film could be so tidily renovated.