Prey is the latest in the Predator film franchise and it premiered recently on Hulu to well-deserved praise. The film stands out from the previous Predator films in many ways, such as not having Predator in the title, taking place in our distant past, and having a different kind of protagonist. Yet, despite these changes, Prey still has the core elements of a classic Predator film, while bringing forth a fresh, new take for the franchise.
Amber Midthunder stars as Naru, a young Comanche woman in North America during the early 1700s, who is a healer but wants to become a brave hunter like her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers). While tracking prey with her dog, Sarii, she spots an alien ship entering Earth’s atmosphere, which she interprets as a sign to prove herself as a hunter. After Taabe allows her to join his hunting party, Naru comes across tracks and signs of an unusual creature lurking in the wilderness near her tribe’s location. This nearly invisible creature is revealed to be a Predator who systematically hunts predatory animals until it works its way up to its most formidable targeted prey: humans. Before long, the paths of the Predator and Naru cross as she faces her ultimate test as a hunter while armed only with ancient tools and her wits.
Based on the premise, Prey differs from the typical Predator film not just with it taking place in the past but more importantly with its protagonist. Unlike the other films, the main hero in Prey is a young woman who does not have any modern weapons or any concept of dealing with extra-terrestrials. In fact, the people in the film think the Predator is some kind of demonic entity. Getting back to Naru, what made her situation more meaningful is that she is much more vulnerable to the Predator unlike the bulked-up action heroes brandishing modern weapons in previous films who had some kind of chance against the formidable alien hunter. However, Naru shares the same trait that the previous heroes had in that she uses her wits and physical skills to go up against the Predator, which evens the odds when the two confront each other.
So much of the film relies on the character of Naru, as she not only has to fight the Predato,r but prove to herself and her tribe that she is a brave warrior. Amber Midthunder brilliantly brings her character to life and makes her a sympathetic underdog whose braveness and cunning makes her an underestimated prey for the alien.
As for the Predator itself, despite four previous films (not counting the Alien Vs. Predator films), the creature is still a terrifying killing machine with nasty alien weapons. What is interesting about the weapons is that although they are advanced, they are not as high tech as the ones used by other Predators. This makes sense since this film takes place hundreds of years in the past.
Having the film take place in the distant past was a brillaint idea and something that was long overdue. Ever since the end of Predator 2 hinted that the Predators have visited Earth for a long time, this revelation opened up so many possibilities, but the following Predator films failed to take advantage of this, unlike the Dark Horse Comics series. Having Predator films take place at different times and locations should be fully explored. Who would not want to see a Predator film taking place in feudal Japan? Or having the alien hunter face off against Vikings? Hopefully, if there are more films, they could go in this direction.
On a technical level, Prey is topnotch with beautiful outdoor cinematography (credit goes to Jeff Cutter), tight editing, and minimal use of CG. Director Dan Tractenberg, follows up his 10 Cloverfield Lane with another suspenseful yarn with thrilling fight scenes and genuine moments of tension. To his credit, the director uses his limited amount of screen time to infuse the film with organic character moments, which embellish the humans onscreen.
As mentioned before, it would be great to see more Predator films in this vein. After the previous dismal film, The Predator, it seemed that the franchise was creatively extinct. Thankfully, Prey invigorates it with a simple, tight and innovative film that emphasizes the tenuous relationship between predator and prey.