‘Prey’ is a Bloody Trophy for the ‘Predator’ Franchise

A risk-taking prequel pays off

It’s been 32 years since a good Predator film. Much like the in-story cycle of the titular alien creature coming to Earth for a tussle, the last three decades gave us a couple of disappointing attempts spread out over the years.

Amber Midthunder gives a breakout performance in ‘Prey.’

The franchise has run the full gamut of concept versus execution. It all started with a good idea executed well — Predator (1987). Then, a bad idea executed well — Predator 2 (1990). You’ve got your good idea executed poorly — Predators (2010). Finally, most recently we had the unfortunate bad idea executed poorly — The Predator (2018). We won’t even get into the Alien vs. Predator series.

If it weren’t for a consistently good series of Dark Horse comics over the years, many horror sci-fi nerds might have given up. But those of us who stuck around reaped rewards this year. The franchise finally has its second good idea executed well in Prey, directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane).

PREY ★★★★(4/5 stars)
Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg
Written by: Patrick Aison, Dan Trachtenberg, based on characters by Jim Thomas
Starring: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro
Running time: 99 min

Whereas many horror prequels tend to get bogged down in explaining origins or checking boxes of fan service, Prey boldly changes the formula by setting its story in the early 18th-century Northern Great Plains, focusing on a Comanche tribe’s encounter with the hunter beast.

The story follows Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young Comanche woman with aspirations of being the best hunter in her tribe, even as she watches her older brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers) slowly ascend to the role of war chief. Naru’s world is very hunter-and-gatherer with pressured emphasis on the gatherer part, but that doesn’t deter her. She plans to undertake Kühtaamia, a ritual rite of passage in which the hunter must take down a great beast one-on-one and bring it home to the tribe. She goes out on hunts of her own, accompanied only by her faithful dog Sarii, hoping to hone her skills until she’s ready. Then, she sees fire in the sky.

One of the hallmarks of the Predator franchise is its lore and well-established rules. Predators are trophy hunters. They hunt for sport and honor, and like Naru they hunt the best game they can find as a rite of passage. Prey’s story expertly sets Naru on a collision course with a Predator with the same motivations. And it does so with plenty of reverence for the great battles that have come before. Echoes of the tactical use of mud, intercut montages of the Predator and main character repairing wounds at the same time, and a need for smarter-not-harder ingenuity all get callouts here. There’s even an “If it bleeds, we can kill it” homage.

Prey is both engaging and stylish, reveling in every opportunity to show you a gruesome kill. Its true strength, however, is an underdog performance for the ages by Midthunder. I can’t be the only one who anticipated her breakout performance after her noteworthy turn on Legion as a kick-ass mutant.

The only lamentation is that it’s exclusively streaming on Hulu. This is a film that would’ve played well on the big screen in the theater, especially once word of mouth spread. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another 30 years to experience that.

 You May Also Like

Pablo Gallaga

Pablo Gallaga is a former video blogger and recapper for Television Without Pity (RIP). You can probably find him at an Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas. He will thwart your alien invasion by uploading a rudimentary computer virus to your mothership using a 1996 Apple Powerbook and no Wi-Fi.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *