Release Date: June 12th
Box Office: $59,735,548
Predator (1986) was one of those films that instantly achieved a cult status at school before it had even landed in the video stores.
This being the 80s the time between the cinema release and the home release was a good year but that didn’t stop the playground chatter.
The Terminator (1984) had made Arnie a hero to kids everywhere, and the poster for Predator would only cement that: Arnie, inside a big gun sight, holding a really really big gun.
Oh man. Guns.
I mean, yeah, the film was an 18 and a pretty solid one. These days it has dropped to a 15 but still has, according to the BBFC, “strong bloody violence, sex references and strong language”.
This, of course, makes it a perfect film for kids to watch illicitly.
Not that I’m condoning people watching films when they shouldn’t. Parents should find out as much information as possible in order to decide what their children can see. The main issue is that I grew up in a time when that was a bit more looser.
I’d like to say that my parents trusted me to be able to understand that the media I was watching was that, media. It still was a heightened time though, being as it was after the Video Nasty furore and not long after the Hungerford Rambo shootings. It was a time when Ninja Turtles were renamed Hero Turtles and the nunchucks were edited out of Enter The Dragon (1972).
It was a time of VHS copies of films being watched at other people’s houses, of playground tales of what was seen both real and imagined.
Predator slots into the time perfectly. Armed soldier marching into a jungle and having to fight a heavily armed alien warrior? Hell, take out the swearing and the gore and you’d have an episode of Action Force out of that.
Arnie’s popularity also cannot be underestimated when it comes to this. Predator is probably the first bona fide Arnie box office smash. Sure he had hits beforehand but this was the first big step in the march to Arnie being the biggest star in the world. It also looks like his first proper film. Everything before this feels like it has that 16mm sheen of low budget films, whereas this feels like a big budget Hollywood production.
The critical opinion at the time was muted at best but it didn’t matter. Word of mouth got this film over, tales of the handshake, Ol’ Painless, if it bleeds we can kill it. Eventually it would form the Holy Trinity of 80s Sci fi action alongside The Terminator and RoboCop (1988). And Aliens (1986). Holy Quadrinity?
The point is that Predator was a film almost laser focussed on enticing in people too young to watch it by just being as bombastically over the the top as possible. From the score to the cast to the shoulder mounted laser cannon, it demanded to be watched. And if that meant going round to that friends house who you weren’t really friends with but had a VHS machine in his bedroom? Then so be it.
Personally, my first watch was on a pirate copy my Dad got. By the time I’d finished with that tape you could barely see anything in it anymore. Didn’t matter though. It was the perfect way to watch it.