Sunday 7 August 2022

Prey (Movie Review)

Following an amazing feature film directorial debut with 10 Cloverfield Lane, Dan Trachtenberg returns to direct Prey. His latest film is set in the Predator universe, taking place nearly 300 years before the original film. And while that movie remains one of the most iconic sci-fi releases from the 1980s, its various sequels have struggled to match its thrills and overall inventiveness. So my hope going into this prequel was that we would finally get an entry that was worthy of the Predator name.

The film follows the exploits of a young Native American woman named Naru, as she prepares to undergo a rite of passage that involves hunting one of the indigenous predators in the forest near her home. But she feels both overshadowed and undermined by the men in her tribe, who believe she has no place on the hunting grounds. Determined to prove her worth as a skilled hunter, she sets off with her dog to investigate some strange tracks she had spotted during their last hunt. But little does she know that the predator she is tracking is of an alien origin.

To say that Prey is a marked improvement over all the other Predator movies that came before it is an understatement. From its opening frames, you can pretty much tell that this one is a class above the others. The film is at once beautiful to look at, with sweeping shots of the vast forest landscape that serves as its setting. And that setting is used to great effect throughout the film, to create a heightened sense of dread as the cloaked predator moves around unseen.

These are old tricks from the previous films and the wider sci-fi horror genre, to be sure, but never have they looked this good, or worked this well. And the same thing can be said about the special effects, which strike a nice balance between looking retro and modern. I particularly enjoy films where most of the effects are achieved through practical means, and it was nice to see the same reflected here.

The film is not just about the predator of course, which brings us to Amber Midthunder as our lead, Naru. I am not familiar with much of her prior work, so it was indeed a pleasant surprise to see her anchor the film with a strong, heartfelt performance. Dog lovers are bound to be instantly endeared to her through the depictions of her interactions with her canine partner. I had my reservations about the character when I first saw the trailers but I'm pleased to say she had won me over by the end of the film.

Speaking of reservations, it is worth noting that the film is a bit on the graphic side, with some cool-looking gore effects. Fans of the franchise shouldn't be surprised to hear this of course, but casual viewers or the more squeamish among us might find some of it a bit excessive. It also takes a while for things to really kick into gear, as the filmmakers take the requisite time needed to set the stage. But once they do, you'll be cheering along in what is one of the most satisfying showdowns I have seen all year.

Prey infuses the Predator franchise with some much-needed class. But even more than that, it is a great standalone movie in its own right, making effective use of its limited scope and bag of old tricks. It is anybody's guess why, despite being solidly crafted, it has wound up on a streaming service instead of playing in theaters like it deserves. But here's hoping that it signals a fresh, new direction for subsequent films in the franchise to emulate or follow.


  1. Agree completely! It should have been a major theater release. Excellent film and cinematography was stunning. Setting it three hundred years ago was a brilliant idea. I'd seen Amber in Legion and was also impressed all of the main characters were indeed Natives. Very well done! As my wife said, great film that just happened to have a Predator in it.

    1. Precisely. The film works on its own merits. Glad to hear that you both enjoyed it as well.

  2. I just finished watching it and was very impressed. The visuals and effects surpass the original and without Ahhhnold's cheesy quips it does make it in many ways the best of the series. Like Alex I saw Amber Midthunder on Legion and she was great in that. Maybe she'll get more starring roles.

    And yeah, not sure why they didn't put this in theaters for at least a few weeks before going to streaming. Not quite as stupid as HBO cancelling Batgirl after they'd shot and spent $90M on it, but still kinda dumb.

    1. Nice. Glad you had a great time watching it. I have vague recollections of the first season of Legion but don't seem to remember seeing her in it. I definitely hope we get to see her in more stuff going forward. And the Batgirl situation certainly sucks, but I suspect the film might resurface in some form sometime down the line.