If there’s one movie that can get me of the proverbial couch to board the chopper (that is my blog) then it’s Prey. For years, a period centric Predator film has been on the cards, and it’s so surreal that it’s finally here. Does it work? Before I get to my brief thoughts after the jump, have you seen Prey? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.
The Predator franchise has always felt shackled in a perpetual cycle of being one-note. Conceptually, the franchise is about humankind embracing its primal side to combat a creature, who finds our race prey in the grand scheme of things. However, because its origin is rooted in the machismo of an eighties action film, the execution of this premise has never had complete lift off. With its unique emphasis, minimalist approach and patient filmmaking, Prey comes closest to fulfilling the promise of the Predator franchise.
Prey is about a Comanche woman, Naru (Amber Midthunder), who aspires to be a great hunter. However, she’s discouraged by her older brother, who believes she hesitates too much. But when a series of grisly murders start appearing near Naru’s home, the young woman’s curiosity and hunting are put to the test, when she comes face to face with the Predator (Dane DiLiegro).
Despite existing in a franchise that’s prided itself on action, Prey instead plays like an exacting and rich documentary that depicts the Comanche life style and the wider activities of the surrounding wilderness. This quality imbues the already known elements of the franchise with a newfound freshness that feels immediate and terrifying. One example is an early scene where Naru sees the cloaked Predator ship. It’s hidden behind clouds that are swirling in the sky akin to the rhino in the clouds, featured in Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. This quality of the central creature being given mythical weight is further reinforced when Naru refers to what she saw as a Thunderbird, a creature of legend she heard from childhood stories.
This aspect is coupled with the notion of Naru being a nascent hunter. With this choice, there’s an inherent tension as Naru is challenged in many ways before she faces the Predator. The most memorable being an extended sequence that involves an encounter with a bear. At the same time, there’s some scenes dedicated to placing the central creature in the existing food chain, which seeks to use the nature documentary esque style to establish something we’ve seen in a unique way.
In her performance as Naru, Amber Midthunder is impressive. These are not only in the moments where she holds her own, but also in instances where she hesitates or gives subtle hints of frustration. Likewise, Dane DiLiegro’s precise and dominant physicality make the Predator a formidable presence.
Sarah Schachner’s score prove to be bombastic with its use of percussive elements and experimental with some electronic strings that provide some sharpness for some of the fight sequences. And in his second feature, Dan Trachtenberg shows promise with subtle camera moves, whether it’s a deep focus shot to establish a foreboding atmosphere or a use of 180s degrees shot to create a subdued sense of immersion.