How do you breathe new life into a film series that has become lazy and gluttonous? Returning to the core, the answer from director Dan Trachtenberg, who prey dared to bring out the old movie monster Predator again.
That monster, a bloodthirsty alien fighter, has been popping up in blockbusters since 1987, with rather mixed results. Low point were the two films in which the Predator took on the ghastly creature from the Alien films: alien vs. predator and aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. But the other three sequels also couldn’t match the level of the original, which is much loved in certain circles. Starless Arnold Schwarzenegger (“Get to ze choppa!”) and director John McTiernan (Die Hard) there simply wasn’t much to it. More action, more humor, it didn’t help at all.
In prey, seen on streaming service Disney Plus, it seems as if all those noisy predecessors never existed. This is because the film is a kind of prequel, set in the distant past, but also because Trachtenberg’s film exudes a wonderful calm. There are no movie stars, a rugged and untouched landscape plays an important role, and the action scenes are filmed almost with restraint. That is, until the first people die and the brakes are released.
It is relatively easy with those deaths: according to film website Screenrant, that kept countTo fall in prey 23 human casualties, less than in most other Predator movies. However, the monster also hunts animals, including a large brown bear, so that the horror factor is still high.
The hunt, that’s where it comes in prey revolves around. Trachtenberg reduces the duel between the Predator and his opponents to a purely instinctive game between hunter and prey. The protagonist is Naru (Amber Midthunder), who belongs to the Comanche people. She is a trained and avid hunter, but as a woman she should focus on other pursuits. That she is constantly underestimated turns out to be an advantage when she runs into the Predator (often invisible).
With its deadly serious tone and convincing actors, prey the B-movie qualities of previous Predator films. That poses a small new problem. Cleverly made or not, the content remains little uplifting – and the lack of perspective puts even more emphasis on this. Eventually turns prey to the shock effect of countless amputations, skinned alive and other torture practices. More stylish, but no less rancid than its predecessors.
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
With Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Mike Paterson
99 mins, available on Disney Plus.