WITHOUT WARNING. Science fiction horror without which there would be no “Predator”

“Predator” is “Without Warning” on steroids.

Maciej Kaczmarski

9 March 2024

withour warning

What would happen if you combined “Invasion of the Mars Invaders” with “Friday the 13th”? Probably something like “Without Warning.” And what if you combined “Without Warning” and “Commando”? That’s simple: “Predator.”

Two hunters traverse wooded mountain trails in the American countryside and encounter bloodthirsty flying creatures that kill them both. The same fate befalls the leader of the scout group and a couple of teenagers who, along with two friends, decided to camp by the nearby lake—defying the warnings of Joe Taylor, the gas station owner. Greg and Sandy, the only survivors, seek help at a local bar, where they encounter the semi-crazed war veteran Sarge. He and Taylor are the only ones who believe the teenagers’ story; the latter concludes that the deadly flying creatures are tools of a humanoid alien who hunts humans just like humans hunt animals. Meanwhile, the paranoid Sarge sees Greg and Sandy as alien beings who killed the real teenagers and took their place. Meanwhile, the alien continues its bloody hunt.

withour warning

“Without Warning” (originally “It Came Without Warning,” bravo to the translators!) was made in just three weeks for a ridiculously low sum of $150,000. Most of the money went to Jack Palance (Taylor) and Martin Landau (Sarge); another $19,000 was spent on the alien head made by Rick Baker. The rest went to special effects prepared in the director Greydon Clark’s garage and probably to gallons of ketchup and mustard, which abundantly bleed human and alien bodies in “Without Warning.” The only building constructed specifically for the film was a shed where the alien keeps human corpses as trophies. Interestingly, the makeup artist Greg Cannom, who worked on this film, later rose to Hollywood’s top league and even won several Oscars, including for “Dracula” (1992), “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1994), and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2009).

The film, though undoubtedly cheap, is much better than one might expect from the above description. There is no shortage of idiocies and clichés typical of horror films: first, the crude hunter, his hippie son, the stupid scout leader, and teenagers having sex die; there’s the local lunatic, the tough guy, and the innocent virgin who survives the pandemonium. The characters constantly flee into the forest, although that’s where the dangerous alien lurks. The alien, with its big angular head and menacing eyes, looks like something out of cheap 1950s SF productions. However, “Without Warning” defends itself with a tense atmosphere, Dean Cundey’s cinematography [including “The Thing” (1982), “Back to the Future” (1985), and “Jurassic Park” (1994)], and the solid acting of veterans Palance and Landau. On the other hand, the teenage actors (including a young David Caruso) are more wooden than the aforementioned shed.

withour warning

If you overlook its imperfections and focus on its strengths, the film becomes very entertaining. Its value also lies in the influence it had on “Predator” (1987) by John McTiernan. Allegedly, even Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, the star of that film, admitted in interviews that he was aware of the similarities between the two titles. The starting point is identical in both: an extraterrestrial predator lands on Earth and hunts humans, except in Clark’s film, the action mainly takes place in the forest, and the monster’s opponents are elderly and teenagers, while in McTiernan’s film, the hunter faces a group of commandos in the Central American jungle. But that’s not all: the alien in “Warning” was played by the later performer of Predator, the 7’2″ tall Kevin Peter Hall. So it’s hard to speak of coincidence here, but easy to make a playful reflection that “Predator” is “Without Warning” on steroids.