Directed by Dan Trachtenberg.
Starring Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro, Stefany Mathias, and Michelle Thrush.
A skilled Comanche warrior must protect her tribe from a technologically advanced alien entity, that hunts humans for sport.
Shane Black’s The Predator was the proverbial nail on the coffin of the Predator franchise. There I’ve said it. I had such high hopes for the flick, with Black’s involvement with the original and his skill as a writer/director. But no, all my hopes were crushed with the same violent ferocity a Yautja would rip off a victim’s spine. It was bad, and I had pretty much given up on the franchise, when rumors started swirling of a potential prequel flick directed by none other than Dan Trachtenberg.
Now, Trachtenberg was a director whose career trajectory had kept my eye on, ever since he delivered the brilliant genre piece 10 Cloverfield Lane back in 2016. Things were pretty quiet the next couple of years, then rumors started swirling around that Trachtenberg was cooking up a new project, going by the name of Skulls, which was revealed to be the working title for the fifth installment of the Predator franchise.
Suffice to say, my excitement for the film was off the charts, simply because of Trachtenberg’s involvement and what he could potentially achieve with a property involving such an iconic character like the Predator. But did he deliver? Read on to find out.
Prey follows the journey of Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young female Comanche warrior who possesses lofty dreams of becoming a skilled hunter like her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers). But most of the tribesmen aren’t too supportive of Naru’s progressive way of thinking, instead relegating her to more traditional duties accepted in their way of life. Taabe, however, being sympathetic to her sister’s predicament takes her on a search party to locate the cougar who had attacked one of the hunters in their tribe. While tracking their quarry Naru becomes keenly aware, that what they are actually going after maybe a much dangerous adversary, one with otherworldly origins.
From the get go, what became quite obvious to me was that Trachtenberg clearly has a love for the original Predator film, and knew what elements he had to include if he were to successfully jump start the franchise again. Going back to basics is a brilliant move in itself, but Trachtenberg and screenwriter Patrick Aison have done something more than that. The duo have crafted a script that really makes us give a damn about the two main leads Naru and Taabe, played by Amber Midthunder and Dakota Beavers respectively, and therein lies the real magic of what makes this a compelling watch.
Sure, the Predator kills are boatloads of fun but the beating heart of the movie is the relationship that Naru and Taabe have as siblings. The rivalry between them is at times playful and at times serious, but never feels inauthentic or phoned-in.
I cannot praise Midthunder’s performance enough, ‘cos damn, she really sells the role of a badass Comanche warrior. A pumped-up Arnie is always a good to have around when an intergalactic boogieman is on your trail, but Midthunder’s Naru would definitely come a close second. Like a female Bear Grylls on crack, she uses all her strength, instincts and wit to best her formidable opponent. And to me, it’s believable as hell. Just like Arnie used sticks and stones to break the Yautja’s bones, so does Naru.
Dakota Beavers is the other standout in this sci-fi actioner. In a movie that has you rooting for its charismatic protagonist hook, line and sinker, Beavers does a damn fine job as Naru’s brother delivering a performance that is both believable and heartfelt. The chemistry between Midthunder and Beavers is out-of-this-world, and if either party were miscast the movie wouldn’t have worked, period.
Now a tidbit about our new feral Predator brought to life by former basketball player turned actor Dane DiLiegro. This is a Predator iteration that can only be described as primal. Everything from its archaic weaponry, to its sheer brutality, this is a creature you don’t wanna mess around with. Whilst previous versions of the character had more bulk and heft, this one is bloody lean and very mean- a stealthy son-of-a-bitch who won’t stop until your scalp is part of its trophy collection. The moustache twirling, two-dimensional villainy of the French fur trappers is a bit of a disappointing inclusion, but hey, they do serve their short-lived purpose quite well.
I do miss Alan Silvestri’s iconic score, but I must say, composer Sarah Schachner blew me away with her contribution for the film. Gone are Silvestri’s familiar tribal drums and brassy bombast, this… is a different beast altogether. And one that works effortlessly within the confines of the movie. DOP Jeff Cutter’s stunning cinematography captures the lonely vastness of the Great Plains, and the claustrophobic mist smothered pines; making full use of the breathtaking exterior locales of Alberta, Canada. The night scenes, in particular, shot by Cutter are exquisite to behold.
Prey is the exhilarating back-to-basics action thriller that the franchise sorely needs. Headlined by a captivating Amber Midthunder the movie is everything a die-hard Predator fan could ever wish for. Trachtenberg & company clearly have a firm grasp of what made the original work, so here’s hoping we will see more Predator related outputs from them in the near future.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Hasitha Fernando is a part-time medical practitioner and full-time cinephile. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.