Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Starring: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Michelle Thrush, Stormee Kipp, Julian Black Antelope, Bennett Taylor, Dane DiLiegro
Run Time: 100 mins
Prey is the latest instalment of the Predator series. The series has experienced a tough life, with the Arnold Schwarzenegger original leaving a lasting impression on critics and audiences. However, none of the sequels have managed to capture audience and critics to the same extent. Director Shane Black tried to reinvigorate the franchise with The Predator in 2018 but it unfortunately achieved negative reviews. My experience of the franchise has been quite the opposite however, and Predator 2 and Predators are both highly underrated.
Prey is directed by Dan Trachtenberg, his second major film after 10 Cloverfield Lane, which left a barnstorming impression. The film is strangely heading straight to Hulu or Disney+ in the UK, foregoing a traditional theatrical release.
Trachtenberg smartly takes the series back to its roots, positioning the film as a prequel. The film is set in 1719 in the Northern Great Plains and centres around Naru (Amber Midthunder), a skilled Comanche warrior in a tribe. She dreams of becoming a great hunter like her brother, Taabe (Dakota Beavers). When a Predator makes its way to Earth and the tribe believe a lion or bear to have caused destruction amongst the local fauna, Naru knows from her experience the creature causing carnage is no lion or bear. What follows is an intense cat-and-mouse chase between the Predator and its prey.
Prey is an excellent prequel and is just the gut-punch the series needs. Trachtenberg directs with flair and the film features some terrific performance among its almost exclusively Native American cast. The very fact Trachtenberg has opted to centre the film around an underrepresented community is to be commended, too, with the only exception to the rule being a group of French fur trappers Naru encounters.
Amber Midthunder makes for a formidable screen presence and it’s great the film focusses on her humanity. She is portrayed as both a skilled hunter but also an individual who makes mistakes. Trachtenberg’s mirroring of smaller animals hunting each other and the Predator and anything that steps in its way is also an excellent creative stroke.
Prey features a rousing score by newcomer Sarah Schachner, at times reminiscent of the sound of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis but not quite as memorable. It is a shame she doesn’t revisit Alan Silvestri’s iconic original themes, though.
The film is very well-shot by Jeff Cutter, who beautifully captures the Great Plain landscape. All of the action sequences are exciting and kinetic and Cutter doesn’t resort to quick cuts. The final climax is particularly gripping, as is an altercation between the Comanche, French fur trappers and the Predator.
Prey is an absolute blast and it’s a real shame the film isn’t being released theatrically. I’ll need to rewatch it but it’s certainly up there with Predator 2 and Predators as the best in the series for me. Trachtenberg is two-for-two and I can’t wait to see both what he directs next and how this franchise continues to evolve, now that it’s been granted a well-needed breath of fresh air.