20th Century Fox “Spooktacular” – 1980s: Predator

By Christina Pappous, Walt Disney Archives

This film is for mature audiences.

Halloween is just a couple weeks away and with it, all manner of spooky, scary creatures have begun haunting us… Among these ghouls and goblins, there may be a particularly scary creature lurking in the shadows of the jungle. Get to the chopper and join us in the 1980s as the hunters become the hunted in Predator (1987), the next installment of our 20th Century Fox “Spooktacular”!

Predator begins as a simple rescue mission for Major Dutch Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his team. Accompanied by CIA agent Al Dillon (Carl Weathers), an old friend of Dutch’s, the team ventures deep in the heart of jungle to a guerrilla encampment—but Dutch grows suspicious, especially after encountering the wreckage of a helicopter along the way. After defeating the forces at the encampment and capturing Anna (Elpidia Carillo), a young guerrilla fighter, Dillon reveals to Dutch and his men that the rescue mission was in fact a cover; their true purpose was to stop a rebel invasion backed by the Soviets. However, this quickly becomes the least of everyone’s concerns as it grows increasingly apparent a malevolent, unseen force is stalking the group. The team gets gruesomely picked off one by one by this invisible hunter, until only Anna and Dutch remain, fleeing to a waiting helicopter at the extraction point. Dutch realizes that his hidden nemesis is not hunting the unarmed Anna and screams “Get to the chopper!” to her, leaving only him as the extraterrestrial Predator’s target. After he realizes that the cold river mud renders him undetectable to the Predator’s infrared vision, Dutch prepares elaborate traps and weapons out of the raw materials of the jungle to defeat his foe. The final showdown between Dutch and the Predator is a chilling battle of wits and strength, with Dutch as the eventual victor.

Although it is unseen for most of the film, the Predator itself is a terrifying and believable enemy for Dutch, a man whom Schwarzenegger describes as someone “who is always in control of the situation… But all of a sudden, this unknown comes in, something I’ve never dealt with before in my life—then it becomes scary. And I become very vulnerable.” Legendary special make-up effects designer Stan Winston designed the Predator creature while Kevin Peter Hall, who stood at a towering 7’2”, portrayed the creature. Hall spent a considerable amount of time physically preparing for his role, undergoing a daily regimen of aerobics, weight-training, and gymnastics before the start of filming. To make the Predator an even more intimidating adversary, Hall noted that “an alien warrior wouldn’t come from outer space doing old Bruce Lee routines… I wanted something a little different from standard movie karate. Medieval combat seemed appropriate.”

Predator was a commercial success upon its release and has since become a science fiction classic. Its story has continued across sequels and even crossed over with another notable alien-themed science fiction franchise. Stick around and watch Predator if you dare!