‘Prey’ (2022) : Kult-Zilla Review

‘A long time ago it is said … a monster came here!’

And so opens Prey, the beautifully shot prequel to the Predator films, which takes the alien hunter back down to Earth, but this time in native America, and into the forests of The Great Northern Plains some 300 years ago. Written and directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) the movie was released worldwide on Friday 5th August, and is available to stream via Hulu and on Disney Plus.

We meet Naru (Amber Midthunder Legion) who lives in the shadow of her renowned hunter brother Taabe (played by musician Dakota Beavers) and desperate to prove herself. She feels she’s ready to take the ultimate test of ‘hunting something that’s hunting her’. She feels this is her time to step up, which in her world would usually mean going to battle by hunting a lion or a bear, however we know what is coming of course, and from this very first scene the movie is pretty much mapped out for the viewer.

Naru faces opposition from every corner of her family who want her to follow the traditional female path. She is mocked when she joins her brother and his friends in the forest, and asked ‘why do you want to hunt?’ by her mother, who would much rather see her stay behind and make medicine … ‘because you all think I can’t!’ she replies. This film certainly leaves no ambiguity here as the script peppers us with the ideology of this strong female character who will defy conventions. We know from the off that she’s somehow going to kick The Predators ass, but to be honest it looks like it’s going to be a fun ride.

Before too long we see The Predator’s spaceship land close by, and the translucent killing machine emerge from its craft. And in an interestingly shot but rather un-convoluted scene to introduce The Predators place in the food chain, we are shown a deadly looking CGI spider spinning a web, captured and eaten by a rodent. The rodent is then gobbled up by a rattlesnake emerging from the shadows, before the snake itself is speared by The Predator. As the hunting pack move through the forest, they come across various animal kills and believe that they are tracking a lion. But Naru keeps warning them that this is the work of no lion. ‘It could be bear tracks’ she is told. ‘Maybe … but it would have to be a big bear, and what skins a snake like that!?’

As a character Naru is smart, brave and her mind is open to possibilities that the male characters around her are unable to fathom. She knows this is not a normal animal they are hunting, But she is continuously mocked and told she should go home. Then without warning their hunting pack is indeed attacked by a lion, while we hear the roar of The Predator in the background. Naru wakes up back at camp with her mother tending to her injuries, having been carried back by her brother who himself has returned with the lion killed, and the tribe celebrate.

This is a set back for Naru, but she insists their prize lion is not the only Predator out there and they must go back out to hunt, but she is again belittled by the men of her tribe. The next morning she takes her dog and heads back out into the forest. The Predator is close, and we see it take down a wolf who’s is hunting a hare (in another scene symbolising the pecking order of nature), decapitating it and raising its head as a trophy. As Naru journeys she comes across a field of buffalo that have all been skinned, she is appalled and fearful of what she is going to find when she comes face to face with the unknown threat.

Next she is ambushed by a bear and is forced to take refuge in the roots of a tree. But while the bear tries to get to her it’s distracted, and she witnesses The Predator for the first time in all its glory, as it easily destroys the animal before her eyes. She flees jumping into the river and The Predator watches as it lets her escape. Her brother and the other hunters find her and she describes what she has seen, which she likens to a demon from a story of their childhood.

One of the men starts attacking her and she fights back, holding her own, while The Predator watches them from the trees, stalking and observing. We see what it sees from its own eyes, in a scene reminiscent of its original movie introduction way back in the jungles of Central America in 1987. Finally it lets itself be known and with some incredibly inventive weapons, it starts to take out the tribe of hunters. We clearly see The Predator in moments, and it’s design is visually more primitive than in previous films, fitting in stylistically with the tone of Prey.

It ruthlessly takes out all of the previously unbelieving males, while Naru once again makes a break for it. However she stumbles into the path of a group of French speaking white men, and is taken captive. She is kept in a cage where she is asked what she knows about The Predator as they have found one of its weapons, before her brother is presented to her having also been kidnapped. They are both then tied to a tree and left as bait while their captives wait in hiding, however we know that you cannot hide from the beast who has heat sensing vision and it soon ambushes the men.

They try and trap it, but are absolutely no match for its advanced weaponry and it goes on a killing spree while Naru and her brother can only watch on. Some of the inventive kills it’s able to execute during this scene will be aesthetically pleasing for even the most discerning of gore-hound viewers, and the ensuing battle gives Naru and her brother the opportunity to work themselves free from their bounds.

Again it is Naru here who is able to mastermind their escape, proving herself to be the smarter one of the pair. The Predator tracks them eventually killing her brother after initially being bested and having to resort to its invisibility, but not before he delivers the classic line from the first film, ‘It it bleeds, we can kill it’. Naru yet again escapes, taking one of the white men hostage and turning the tables by using him as bait proclaiming ‘You didn’t think I was a hunter, you didn’t see me as a threat … and that’s what makes me dangerous!’ The Predator butchers her captive and she sneaks up behind it, shooting it point blank in the back of the head with a pistol she has procured, although this merely wounds it.

She stalks the wounded beast with the help of her dog, peppering with short sharp attacks while it is stunned. It fights back but she is of course highly cunning as we have already been shown, and despite her petit size is able to keep it at bay before finding the ability to destroy it with one of its own weapons. She returns to her village with The Predator’s severed head, and its luminous green blood spread like war paint across her face, and the movie along with her predictable yet engaging story arc, is complete.

Prey is undoubtedly a breath of fresh air for The Predator franchise which steadily declined in quality following the release of the brilliant original movie Predator. The 1987 film was directed by John McTiernan (Die Hard), starred of course a certain Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator) and is widely considered to be one of the finest Action / Sci-Fi films of the Eighties. Predator 2 (1990) was a decent enough follow up starring Danny Glover (Lethal Weapon), bringing the story into the city blocks of a dystopian LA, while multiplying the alien threat. However from there a couple of forgettably absurd Alien Vs Predator movies have been followed up with two further reboot style movies Predators (2010) and The Predator (2018), both of which were rather run of the mill CGI heavy action flicks, with both failing to live up to the high standard set 35 years ago.

Prey however is at its heart a period character driven story, shot against a background of beautiful natural cinematography, where the action, when prominent is finely executed. It is fast paced and flows perfectly as it takes Naru’s story from start to finish, never allowing the narrative to meander or get boring at any point. And the concept is an interesting one as we learn that the hunter has been coming to Earth for hundreds of years, no doubt opening up the opportunity for further movies if this is considered a success, Overall Prey is well worth a watch and is easily the second best Predator movie out there, providing an engaging new way to tell the story of one of Sci-Fi’s most well known visitors of Earth ! KZ

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