Friday 12 August 2022


When Prey was first announced as a straight-to-streaming prequel to Predator on Hulu and Star on Disney+, I had serious reservations!

The franchise has spawned middling sequels (I still have a soft spot for Predator 2) and crossovers with Twentieth Century Fox stablemate Alien. All of which failed to recapture the high-octane thrills of the original Predator from director John McTiernan (Die Hard).

Nick Smith, our resident US-based streaming guru, goes back to a time before Arnold Schwarzenegger got lost in the jungle in search of an alien hunter stalking the wilds of British Columbia, which is where my late maternal grandmother was born and raised.

Guest post by Nick Smith

On the first weekend of August, two movies were released that both featured young women who are overlooked by their fathers and set out to prove their worth.

In the hyperactive fight comedy Bullet Train, The Prince (Dad wanted a boy) is driven, resourceful, evil and crafty.

In the Predator prequel Prey, Naru (Amber Midthunder) is driven, resourceful, good and crafty (we know she’s good because she shares her food with her dog, Sarii).

While Bullet Train is intentionally throwaway fun, Prey is an exciting, well-made film with much more weight. For one thing, it takes imagery from previous Predator films and melds it with North American cultural history, giving Naru’s escapades an air of realism that a menagerie of dodgy CGI wildlife can’t spoil.

The original Predator was a delight. With its exotic jungle locale, it was a pastiche of Rambo and other macho ‘80s flicks, preying on fears of a lawless, dangerous Central America. At the time, producer Joel Silver described the style as ‘exaggerated realism.’ Writers Jim and John Thomas threw an evil E.T. into the mix. Legend has it, that the concept was inspired by a joke about Rocky fighting an alien.

‘The film is basically three movie genres in one,’ Silver told Starlog in 1987. ‘It starts out as a solid war story that, suddenly, turns into a horror film along the lines of the original Alien. There are also some definite science fiction elements as well.’ Thanks to a suspenseful script and John ‘Die Hard’ McTiernan’s direction, the medley works.

At a time when Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator) ruled action cinema, Predator was exciting and innovative, locked and loaded with over-the-top, big dumb fun. Its quotable dialogue ranged from the daft (‘Knock knock!’ says Schwarzenegger after he crashes through a door) to the ludicrous (‘I ain’t got time to bleed’) and the apt (Arnie calls the alien one ugly mother...).

The concept was diluted over the years by sequels and spin-offs. Predator 2 (1990) had another great setup – it could have been called Predator: Big in the City – but lacked any real depth. Predators (2010) and The Predator (2018) were completely forgettable. In 2004, Alien vs. Predator‘s budget did not match its ideas and expectations.

In an attempt to recapture the magic of the original movie, 20th Century Studios has gone back to basics. It’s a trick that has been tried with the Alien and Terminator franchises, with mixed results. However, while Arnie’s vehicle was fuelled with testosterone (Elpidia Carrillo was a strong but supporting character), Prey injects some serious oestrogen into the franchise.

Although Prey tells the story of one woman against an alien hunter, the monster’s identity takes a back seat to Naru’s personal journey. She believes that she can excel as a hunter like her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), and also that she is capable of more than one skill – for example, she is gifted in medicine as well.

Naru sets out to prove herself and slay the mysterious beast she tracks.

The fact that the beast is a Predator adds an extra layer to the film but unlike its recent predecessors, Prey doesn’t focus on alien tech or mythology; it focuses on character. Its attention to detail depicting Comanche culture roots the film in a reality that never seems forced or didactic.

The concept seems fresh simply because there are not many period movies that feature extra-terrestrials, even though they’re a long-lived sci-fi TV trope. Before Prey, the best example of an ‘alien in the past’ film is 2001: A Space Odyssey (way back in 1968), where the visitor guides and inspires us rather than viciously hunting us for sport.

While Prey deserves to be seen on the big screen, its success will likely lead to more sequels that will get a theatrical release. According to TimeOut, director Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) says additional instalments are being discussed, to ‘do things that have not been done before.’

Prey doesn’t move the franchise forward, but it’s a delightfully well-crafted, bare bones-and-arrows homage to a classic action flick.

Have you seen Prey on Hulu or Star on Disney+? Is it your favourite Predator movie? Let me know in the comments below.

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