Hi all.

Thanks to one of our forum regulars, CEMartin2 (some of you may remember his Mythical project), for bringing back the reader review for Thursday.

Today he’s taking our 9 questions structure and seeing if one of the version of the Predator script can make the grade.

For those of you NOT in the know:

Predator by Jim and John Thomas

Logline – A team of commandos, on a mission in a Central American jungle, find themselves hunted by an extra-terrestrial warrior.

ENJOY!

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HUNTER (PREDATOR)

Before I begin my review of this script, I want to point out that I went in with a lot of
preconceptions: Predator is my all-time favorite movie. I can watch it over and over and
over again- despite its technical flaws, continuity errors and excessive cursing.

I had never read the script before, as I could never find the Shane Black-polished
version that was used to shoot the movie. I could only find the original concept, titled
Hunter , with it’s chameleon-like lizard with a spear from another planet, rather than
everyone’s favorite shoulder-cannon-equipped alien with a cloaking device.

So I downloaded, I believe, the 7th version, from the internet. And was horrified at what I
read.

Hunter is chock-full of errors. Typos are supporting characters they are in such
abundance. Then there’s the head-scratching errors, like guns that change names part
way through. There’s also some formatting choices I question. For example, using a
character as a “Location” in a slugline; e.g.

HAWKINS – BACK TO SCENE

The Hunter’s ARM and SPUR hook into Hawkins’ leg, and he is dragged
into the jungle.

Can you do that? Is that proper format? Was it, back in the 1980s?

The technical errors were so prevalent in this script, I had to force myself to stop taking
notes on them by page 45.

For example, when the team is inserted into the jungle, there is a mention of a radar
screen in their helicopter. UH-1s don’t have radar to the best of my knowledge. And
even if they did, they wouldn’t want it on, sending out massive EM broadcasts,
announcing their presence when they’re covertly inserting a team in a foreign country.

Hunter is just brimming with technical errors like that. It seems to me that Hunter’s
writers did most of their research by watching other movies. As there was no wikipedia
back then, I guess that makes sense. Although I’m pretty sure libraries were around at
the time.

Then there are the weird writing choices… like the laternating use of Forest and Jungle.
Is it a jungle? Or a forest? Or weird “military slang”, like when Mac condemns a noisy
Dillon for “ghosting” them. Uh… if he’s being too loud, why is that “ghosting”? Wouldn’t
ghosting mean he was being quiet?

Or my favorite, the description of a human face with the skin removed. That’s like a
saying a tire with the rubber removed. Or the phrase “outline in lumonous aureoles” ?!
All in all, the writing is horrible. Mind-numbingly bad. Worse than scripts I got suckered
into reviewing over at Amazon Studios. In fact, I’d have stopped reading this script by
page 20 or so if I didn’t know how it actually turned out.

And I guess that’s Hunter’s saving grace. The story.

I think it’s genius. You have two stories, thinly connected to each other. The first is
about a military rescue unit, tricked into going behind enemy lines so a Soviet-led
invasion of a neighboring country can be uncovered. That alone is enough to make a
movie. But Hunter is more clever than that. It does a switch up on you. Instead of the
elite unite getting stuck behind enemy lines and having to fight their way back to
freedom (ala Behind Enemy Lines), a new twist comes in. An alien.

The movie abruptly takes a ninety-degree turn. An alien comes in and hunts men for
sport. And it wants to turn Allen “Dutch” Schaefer and his team into magnificent
trophies.

Again, that’s an idea that could stand on its own. A military unit in the jungle being
hunted. Hunter combines these two, radically different ideas so beautifully- even if it is
poorly written.

But where does Hunter stand using the Hank&Roy Script Review System (HRSRS)?

1. Can “we see” the description? A.) Are the images clear and appropriate? B.) Are the
sentences free of typos and grammatical errors? (each part worth 5 points)

A.) The descriptions in Hunter are passable. To me- because I regularly watch war and
scifi movies. I’d wager a producer or prospective buyer would understand a lot of it as
well. A lay person wouldn’t know what the different weapons were, wouldn’t understand
what “aureoles” were- but screenplays aren’t meant for lay persons.

3 of 5 Points.

B) Free of Typos and grammatical errors?! Not in the least! I actually feel better as a
writer seeing such a prized script being so absolutely terrible. Maybe Hunter was
hammered out on a typewriter, before word processing would allow for spell checks and
quick and easy corrections.

1 of 5 Points

2. Does the writer use proper format?

I don’t think so. I recently learned that SOUNDS are given in all caps in some scripts, as
are PROPS. But somebody went a little berserk with the CAPS LOCK in Hunter:

Like when a character is SEEING the outline of something. Or when the SOUNDS of
the FOREST are mentioned. Or when the jungle GROWS SILENT (why not JUNGLE).
Or when a rifle lets loose a LONG BURST.

And my favorite: a mention of the FULL MOON. I’d like to see how the prop department
would get that to location…

Then there’s the camera directions we (new writers) are lectured not to give out. I know
they’re crucial to Hunter, but the script keeps talking about an Observer’s point of view,
rather than the Hunter seeing by means of thermal vision (or “heat-seeking vision” as
the writers call it).

3 of 10 points

3. Is the dialogue (a) free of exposition and (b) rich in subtext? This will include (c)
unique voices for each character.

A.) I happen to think exposition is necessary in many scripts, to keep the length of the
film down and to preserve pacing. Hunter’s exposition is just enough to convey things
we don’t need to film and slow things down. And people do use exposition on a daily
basis in conversations with one another.

B) I think the subtext is great- the audience clearly figures out something is up long
before Dutch finds the documents to confirm this wasn’t a rescue mission but a raid on
a secret Soviet base. And the whole unspoken point of the third act is that experience
and cunning outweigh technology: Dutch, with not much more than caveman weaponry
defeats a being that can travel from star to star.

C.) Unique voices…? Well, I recently read on a novel writing forum that there shouldn’t
be a need for “he said” or “she said”. That every character should sound unique enough
that you know who they are by what they’re saying. That is so Hemingway, and I totally
disagree.

However, I think Hunter’s characters are all unique. They aren’t a homogenous band of
cookie-cutter soldiers, with one or two unique characters, like in most movies. No red
shirts work for Dutch. They are all unique soldiers, with their own personalities, and that
helps hide who is going to die first.

10 or 10 points.

4. Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium in
which he’s chosen to tell his story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a
play?

I’d argue yes- in fact, the whole Observer-point-of-view and the Hunter’s ability to
change color prove this is a concept that would never work on stage. The writers
absolutely had a vision of a cinematic experience. Plus the pacing is right on for an
action movie, with characters conveniently suspending their own disbelief so the plot
can progress.

10 of 10 points.

5. Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Basically, do I have to hire THIS
writer in order to get his original take on things? Are the rest of the writer’s ideas, based
on this sample, likely to be original?

Well, I would like to think this was an original idea- or rather, a mashup of two tried-andtrue
ideas in a new, and unique way. But clearly the original writers were replaced- with
Shane Black, and the finished product was far, far superior.

7.5 of 10 points (averaging my rank of 10, but history’s rank of 5, what with Black being
brought in)

6. Do we have a hook (the first 2 pages)?

Not really. I mean, we open with something from another planet falling to earth, but we
never see what it was. Instead, we cut to a standard special ops adventure movie intro,
with Dutch and his team flying in. The first time I saw this movie, I went solely because
Arnold was in it. I didn’t know anything about the Predator’s alieness and I forgot about
the spaceship intro.

If I wrote this, I would have started with one of those men Anna talks about later in the
film- being found, skinned alive in the jungle, or maybe being taken by the Predator.
THEN go to Dutch and his team coming in.

However, I like action adventure, spec ops movies, so Dutch and his team’s arrival is
very formula and cool. I would have been happy watching an entire movie based on
Dutch and his team in the jungle, sans the Predator.

10 of 15 points.

7. Is the hook effective (the next 8 pages)?

Again, Hunter is two stories in one. And while the first 8 pages do very little to show us
how awesome the last half of the movie is going to be, they do set up for a great story.
Dutch’s team are likable, and clearly not the regular kind of soldiers one would expect in
a movie like this.

I think the only improvement would have been to have the downed helo they are
investigating happen by page 8, rather than page 10. Let the audience know earlier
something isn’t right just a couple of pages sooner. Far too much time (nearly two
pages) is spent on the ride to the insertion point, in the helicopters.

Don’t get me wrong- I like that extended scene. It shows us the personality of the
characters working for Dutch, but it isn’t as cool as all the fighting later in the film.
Sometimes, when I’m watching Predator for the hundredth or so time, I’m tempted to
fast forward past the whole insertion ride. Cause I already know the team and their
personalities.

12.5 of 15 points

8. Are there enough reveals to maintain the initial hook?

Yes. Hunter gives us bits and pieces, making us want to know what’s happening,
almost like a murder mystery.

First, the alien object comes to earth.

Then it becomes a special ops, action movie.

Then we see the team aren’t red shirts.

Then we learn the “cabinet minister” and his staff were in fact riding around in a spy
copter.

Then we see what happened to Jim Hopper/Jim Davis (his name changes in the script)

The enemy encampment is not a rebel base, but the staging point for an invasion.
Something is watching the men.

The team find out they are being hunted- but by what.

By the time we get to that third act, where we know what is what, and most of Dutch’s
team is dead, we are firmly invested in Hunter. We have to know how it’s going to turn
out.

10 of 10 points

9. Does the script recognize the size of its most likely audience, and deliver a story with
a realizable profit?

Well, this movie came out in 1985. It was the time for guys like Chuck Norris, Arnold,
Stallone, etc to make big, flashy movies with explosions and ass-kicking galore. History
shows those movies were successful.

Hunter didn’t just stick to pure formula though- it offered a unique spin on the genre by
throwing in a twist the average action movie would never even come close to: a space
alien.

Brilliant. And four sequels later, I think it’s a proven fact that yes, the screenplay,
despite its terrible format, typos and technical errors, worked fantastically.

10 out of 10 points.

FINAL SCORE: 77 out of 100 points.

CONCLUSION

Hunter was an okay screenplay that had an original, at-the-time, non-cheesy idea. It
could have easily ended up being complete crap, and something we’d have a hard time
finding even in Walmart’s DVD bargain bins today. But the producers brought in Shane
Black to polish it up, and they put in some first-class special effects for the time.
Predator is a classic action film that I think holds up even to this day, but which could
have gone very, very wrong.

Sure, there are plot problems… A surveillance helicopter? Awfully loud, and low-flying.
Jim Hopper-Davis’ men wearing their dog tags on a secret mission in enemy territory?
Dutch and his team flying from who-knows-where, something that takes hours or days,
then having to rush into the jungle.

At its core though, Hunter tells a unique story, with unique characters and adheres to
rapid pacing to keep the viewer, or reader, from losing interest. Clearly the producers
thought it was good enough, so I won’t bitch too much more about it, and will just go
back to loving this movie.

3 COMMENTS

  1. back in the day you were either an Alien fan or a Predator fan. like the whole beatles vs the stones. i was a Predator fan all the way, still am. every time i watch it, i always start with saying “i’m gonna have me some fun, i’m gonna have me some fun”.

    i kind of hated this script though, not sure if it was because i love the film so much or because it was written really oddly. i actually gave up reading it a few times.

    i liked at the end you actually get to see the spaceship. in the movie they don’t even touch on the subject. like how the hell did he get here? so i liked that, though it did seem like the ending to Predator 2.

    i can look past the whole name changes, the chameleon thing and no cool shoulder cannon. but one thing that really got under my skin was the fact that under his skin was orange blood. what?! why?

    i’ve been watching a lot of cinema snob review videos over the past few weeks so maybe that’s the reason this version of the script comes off as one of those really bad Bruno Mattei knockoff movies like Jaws 5.

  2. First off, massive thanks to CE for suggesting this script AND for agreeing to write a review. We do appreciate it.

    Here are my impressions:

    Today’s review is likely to be a bit choppier than usual as I have been off the grid all week. In other words, I read the script and took notes, but I can’t check my notes for accuracy or look up other quotes to use in support of my answers to the questions. Unfortunately, I was unable to save the script from the link in our forums to my hard drive.

    That said, I intend to allow myself more leeway in my responses. I usually try and be analytical in my approach. Somewhere I even said that the overarching goal of our site was to take our PERSONAL reactions out of our reviews. It would not be sufficient, according to our goals, to just say we liked something. We would answer our questions based on the script not a reader preference. Today I will be okay with saying I liked something or I didn’t.

    I should also note that I’ve never seen Predator the movie. I’m not sure exactly how I missed seeing this over the course of my decades. I like sci-fi and I like action, so it would seem like a natural fit. I can only conclude, from the number of years I have known about the movie, combined with the fact that it is in a genre that appeals to me, that I must have decided sometime ago that it wasn’t very good.

    I have to say, I was surprised by the script. There are a few things I think should have been done differently but, overall, I liked the story. It’s told with a fair amount of suspense. The techniques used to create this suspense are universal and are worth studying.

    Let’s see how Predator fares against the 9 questions.

    1. Can “we see” the description? A.) Are the images clear and appropriate? B.) Are the sentences free of typos and grammatical errors? (each part worth 5 points)

    Part A) For the most part I think the writing was clear and appropriate. For sure, the descriptions occasionally ran on too long. It’s possible that we can forgive some of that because the version we read is a shooting script.

    The writing was definitely visual. I could see the jungle environment clearly. I also thought that “the hunter” alien was well described. The scenes which involve his stalking of the soldiers had great energy and suspense.

    I took only one note about the description. It is from page 100 in the draft I read:

    Enveloped in the flash of intense light. CRIES of
    surprise fill the ship as the SHOCK-WAVE hits the
    chopper, heeling it hard over to one side.

    Below, the concentric waves of energy race outward
    from the center of the blast, an unearthly sight, like
    the miniature birth of a star.

    The helicopter suddenly regains control, its power
    restored.

    That is excellent writing. Not only is it visual, but it also uses its simile to great effect. I love the “unearthly sight, like the miniature birth of a star”. I especially like the word order here. How much less effective would this simile be if it were:

    Below, the concentric waves of energy race outward
    from the center of the blast, an unearthly sight, like
    the birth of a miniature star.

    In the original version, we are given all the spectacle and power of a star birth on a small scale.

    In the inverted order sentence, the spectacle and power are contained by the size of the star being born.

    Small choices lead to tremendous differences in the mental force your words end up with in your reader’s mind. It is in deference to the effect these small choices can have that I go on and on about being merciless in the revision of your description sentences.

    5 out of 5 points.

    Part B) Another week, another pro script in serious need of a meticulous proofread. It is hard to guess what the history behind this draft is, still:

    1 out of 5 points.

    2. Does the writer use proper format?

    Uh… no, not at all. I don’t have any idea what is going on with the sluglines in this script. Perhaps it is all a transcription error? I don’t know. Most all of the sluglines place us on the EXT of a character. If I’m charitable I can come up with a reason for why they might be done this way.

    I guess the important thing to take away from this version of this script is: DO NOT attempt to imitate anything you see in the sluglines.

    6 out of 10 points.

    3. Is the dialogue (a) free of exposition (4 points) and (b) rich in subtext (2 points)? This will include (c) unique voices for each character (4 points).

    Part A) This script is mostly free of exposition. Dillon gives us a little bit when he explains what he knows about the guerrilla camp and the first team of soldiers that tried to infiltrate it. Anna gives us a little about the nature of “the hunter” in relation to the story of her village. That’s it.

    4 out of 4 points.

    Part B) I also found some subtext. From early in the script:

    DILLON
    (icy)
    Man, that’s a real bad habit
    you’ve got.

    This is in response to tobacco being spit at his feet by a subordinate. So, literally, it is about the tobacco spitting. Of course, the bad habit he’s really referencing is being insubordinate to a superior.

    Another from our man:

    DILLON
    (stunned)
    Jesus…this is inhuman.
    (to Schaefer)
    Uh…I wasn’t told of any
    operations in this area. They
    shouldn’t have been here.

    I think, since we’re dealing with an alien, I’d almost call that on the nose subtext.

    Finally, from page 61:

    MAC
    (returning;
    angry)
    Those eyes…disappeared. But
    I know one thing, Major…
    (pause)
    …I drew down and fired
    right at it. Capped-off two
    hundred rounds and then the
    Mini-gun; the full pack.
    Nothin’…nothin’ on this
    earth could have lived…not
    at that range.

    Again, that’s on the nose for me.

    1 out of 2 points.

    Part C) I think if we removed the character’s names half way through the script we’d rezognize most of them if we kept in reading. Most of that effect, though, comes from having these characters repeat one dimensional response which fit their single dimension.

    Schaefer is ONLY concerned with the safety of his team.

    Dillon is only concerned with the success of the mission.

    Mac wants revenge.

    Billy has nearly supernatural senses.

    Anna has no weapons and is a bound prisoner for most of the script.

    Almost every line each character says is a variation on the single dimension their authors have allowed them.

    2 out of 4 points.

    4. Does the writer understand the challenges and rewards posed by the medium in which he’s chosen to tell his story? Shorthand version of this is: Is it a movie and not a play?

    Yes, this couldn’t be anything other than a movie. The texture is in the excellent range. It feels “cinematic” in every respect.

    10 out of 10 points.

    5. Is there anything unique in what the writer presents? Basically, do I have to hire THIS writer in order to get his original take on things? Are the rest of the writer’s ideas, based on this sample, likely to be original?

    Based on the level of suspense which permeates the script, yes. I also thought “the hunter” was an interesting take on the alien genre. Both of these elements kept the script accelerating toward its climax.

    Opposed to this, I found the conclusion to be a terrible letdown. The accidental (and, to me, contrived) way Dutch defeats “the hunter” reeked of only having two-thirds of a good story AND settling for the easy way out.

    7 out of 10 points.

    6. Do we have a hook (the first 2 pages)?

    The first two pages were pretty well done. We get a lot of standard issue military set-up, which is followed up with this line:

    MAN *
    He’s here.

    That is a GREAT technique. If you want to make us look forward to your character, if you want to make us think that the person your about to introduce as your protagonist is the ONLY person up to the challenges of the story you’re about to tell, introduce him/her by having other people LOOK FORWARD to their introduction into the story too. We will believe this second hand evidence. In our minds, we will award your protagonist the same respect the other characters are awarding him/her. Seriously, doing this works every time.

    The standard issue military set-up could, however, use some work:

    12 out of 15 points.

    7. Is the hook effective (the next 8 pages)?

    I thought the next 8 were moderately effective. There is some suspense in the secrecy surrounding the “rescue” mission that Dutch has been called in to orchestrate. The fact that Dillon is CIA and that he knows Dutch from some time in their past is also suspenseful. Characters with unrevealed mutual backstory are always interesting.

    The scene on the helicopter where we meet the rest of Dutch’s men doesn’t do much to advance the story. A small wedge is driven between Dillon and the rest of the group, but that’s about it.

    By page 10, the helicopter has not landed in the jungle yet. I think it needs to have landed by this point.
    10 out of 15 points.

    8. Are there enough reveals to maintain the initial hook?

    Another week and another pro script which is very light on reveals. I think the only thing we count as true reveals are:

    1. Dillon not being an actual good guy.
    2. The fact that Anna’s village has been terrorized by “the hunter” for some time before our story takes place.
    3. Covering oneself in mud fools the body heat recognition system of “the hunter”.

    One is completely abandoned by the story after its introduction. Dillon switches from being his Machiavellian self to being an altruistic good guy in a PAGE.

    Two is a good twist. It explains why Anna was so scared and why she won’t run away. It is also abandoned after its introduction. Not having seen the movie before reading I was convinces that Anna was going to relate a piece of village folklore about “the hunter” which would lead to its downfall. In other words, I thought the competence of Dutch was the ingredient that would be needed to fulfill the promise of an Achilles heel the folklore would point to. Instead, it was just a fact.

    Three was hard to accept. Added to this, was the further disappointment that THIS wasn’t even what led to “the hunter’s” death. A new fact was added at the last minute—explosions temporarily blind “the hunter”.

    As an audience, we knew this from the firefight at the beginning. Dutch LUCKS into this knowledge right at the exact moment he needs it.

    I do think the suspense in getting to these faulty reveals was first rate. The problem is you can’t deliver most of a well thought out story and hope to skate by:

    5 out of 10 points.

    9. Does the script recognize the size of its likely audience, and deliver a story with a realizable profit?

    Predator made 60 million (38 more overseas) on a budget of 15 million. That’s a very good return on investment, so it’s going to get all the points.

    I’ll also say that the movie is well designed as an action sci-fi. It has enough action to satisfy those that like to see the bullets fly. The sci-fi is interesting. It was a unique take on the alien genre.

    10 out of 10 points.

    Total Score: 73

    Conclusion:

    I have to offer up thanks to CE for suggesting this script. Without a doubt, I would never have made time to read this if not for his generous offer to read it and review it along with me. It turns out that I found the experience to be very rewarding. There are a lot of techniques for building and maintaining suspense on display. Writers of every level can profit from how these authors manipulate their words to cause their desired effects.

    Now I’m off to read CE’s review 🙂

  3. CE,

    Excellent review. I didn’t know you were going to use HRSRS, so thanks for that too. It makes for a great exercise in evaluating the questions themselves. I think they held up well.

    Our reviews are strikingly similar, in points awarded and in the areas we both saw for improvement. You also brought expertise to some of the questions that I did not have, which made for an interesting take on some of the questions (especially the first one).

    The only area where we differed to any significant degree was question 8. I have to say that I loved the concept, I just thought it was a reveal or two short of being a home run. Some of the things that build into the climax to make it work felt too convenient for me.

    Really enjoyed your review. Thanks again for your insight and for using HRSRS. That proved extremely valuable to me, personally.

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