He’s My Friend
It’s always a sign of a great composer when they can inject compassionate warmth where you least expect it. Predator has a reputation for placing macho bluster above everything else, so kudos to Silvestri for humanising our imperilled characters with the noble brass theme for Mac’s (Bill Duke) friendship with dearly departed friend Blain (Jesse Ventura). It’s a brief moment but an impactful one, and varies up the texture of the score.
Building a Trap
If any cue on this soundtrack can make you grow muscles, this is it. Underpinned by the composer’s signature rumbling piano this is a seriously badass piece that contrapuntally plays off the timpani and brass of Dutch’s theme against the encroaching threat of the Predator’s high register strings, anticipating the battle to come. It’s unashamedly manly and thrilling, and singlehandedly helps reinforce why the movie remains a favourite of the beer and pizza crowd three decades later.
The Chase/Get to the Chopper
A brief but explosive cue, transitioning us from the moment where Dutch is fighting as a team to when he’s forced to go it alone. Surging strings, rumbling piano and Silvestri’s intuitive knack for brassy tension have us on the edge of our seat as he’s wounded by the creature and is forced to escape down a waterfall.
The timpani takes on added dimensions in this masterclass of musical tension. Mirroring the insistent nature of a heartbeat, and subtly getting our own racing as a result, the track demonstrates Silvestri’s excellent use of repetitious chords and structures to hammer away at our nerves. Although frequent bursts of the Predator’s theme are interwoven it’s never fully realised, alluding to the eventual battle between it and Dutch whilst denying us proper catharsis. And that brassy finish, coinciding with Arnie’s war cry, is pure spine-tingling material.
The moment where the ugly motherfucker’s face is revealed for the first time demands the same sense of eye-widening, pulse-quickening terror in the music. Silvestri duly responds: teasing us with more of that distant heartbeat timpani, the piece steadily builds a sense of anticipation as the strings mesh beautifully with the Predator lifting off its helmet. The heavy brass chords during the reveal itself are as gnarly and murky as we’d expect, imbuing Kevin Peter Hall’s brilliantly physical performance with added life.
It all comes to a head as Dutch and the Predator face off, the music similarly ramping up the tension as piano and timpani reinforce the brutality of seeing Arnie getting his ass handed to him. (This material would later be reprised in Silvestri’s Predator 2 score.) Tantalising strings tease at the mystery of the creature before the full symphony orchestra rises in majestic fashion to signal the countdown of the self-destruct sequence, a fitting and powerful resolution for one of the greatest screen villains of all time.
Predator is back on the big screen in UK and Irish cinemas from November 9th for its 30th Anniversary.
Sean Wilson is a writer, journalist and soundtrack enthusiast and can be found on Twitter here.