Movie Review: ‘Prey’

Director: Dan Trachtenberg

Cast: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro, Michelle Thrush, Stormee Kipp

Plot: Naru, a Comanche woman living in the 1700s, seeks a chance to prove her abilities by hunting a mountain lion or bear. Instead she must face off against a dangerous alien predator who has been making short work of her tribemates.

Review: You’d think that a movie like Predator wouldn’t need much effort in the way of a successful sequel, yet achieving this goal has eluded a surprising number of film-makers. Take a group of colourful characters, demonstrate their capacity for violence, and then isolate them with a powerful hunter who’ll pick them off one by one. Predator 2 had the right idea but stumbled with a setting to broad to built tension. Predators managed the formula with a solid upgrade to the alien hunters, but The Predator took several steps back with a perplexing plot point about autism being the key to evolution. Then there’s the Alien VS Predator spin-off movies that squander the premise with a cartoony interpretation of the creatures.

The best idea from Predator 2 finally gets capitalised on with the fourth and most unique sequel to the Arnie driven original, that being the appearance of alien hunters throughout our history. A flintlock pistol is given from a predator to that film’s lead, played by Danny Glover, suggesting that they’ve been hunting dangerous humans for hundreds of years. Whether a hit or a miss, each subsequent Predator film threw more guys with assault rifles at the hunter, and the idea of a fight between a predator hunter and pirates went unused. Prey finally uses this idea and drops a predator into the early 1700s, pitching it up against a group of Comanche warriors utilising much simpler technology.

Our point of view character is Naru (Midthunder), trained as a healer but wanting to be a hunter like her brother Taabe (Beavers). Her chance comes with a hunt for a mountain lion who attacked one of their tribe, and whilst Naru winds up unconscious and returned to the village Taabe is able to defeat the animal user her strategy. Meanwhile, an alien hunter has been getting to know the environment by taking out increasingly stronger predators from a snake to a grizzly bear, the latter being where it crosses paths with Naru once again. From here, the predator picks his way through a team of Comanche warriors and a group of better armed French Canadian explorers. Eventually Naru and her excellent dog Sarii.

With a different level of technology at the disposal of the humans, you’d think this would be a short experience. As we discover, the playing field is slightly evened out by the predator packing a lower level of technology than usual…still enough to make short work out of any number of foes. There’s a greater focus on the learning curve of our hero. Typically they rely on survival skills and brute force, while Naru is observant of her opponent and crafts ways to fight back using her environment and limisted resources. The director has done a good job of showing this process, as Naru learns from each encounter and ultimately turns some of the predator’s weapons against him.

This has more of a single character focus than other films in the series, and we can really enjoy the over-the-top badasses these movies serve up. The arrogant, bulging commandos of Predator and collection of immoral killers from Predators make the movies more memorable. Not to say that there isn’t some fun supporting characters, but we don’t have that gang of misfits aspect of the franchise.

As sequels go, this is a fantastic concept to take the franchise a new direction and it’s extremely well executed. It’s well paced and while lacking in character depth, the performances are solid and leads likeable. Make more Predator movies like this in different settings. This was rad.

Rating: NINE out of TEN