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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.