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Dan Trachtenberg's 'Prey': No Prior Predator Experience Needed

A girl stands with her back against a tree
[L-R] Dan DiLiegro as PREDATOR, Amber Midthunder as NARU in PREY

"We have him."
"No, he has us."
Depending on the delivery, these kinds of quotes can either make a movie seem badass or ridiculous. Luckily, Prey saves up enough coolness capital that the words have the intended chilling effect. 20th Century Studio follows the pack of movie franchises to release a prequel to the Predator franchise, entitled Prey. Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), with screenplay written by Patrick Aison, Prey takes place in 1719, on the Northern Great Plain, over 250 years before Dutch and his team enter Central America.

A teen girl with dark hair shoots a bow and arrow
Amber Midthunder as NARU in PREY

In the Predator franchise, an alien hunter invades other species living on Earth using a strict code of honor and an advanced arsenal of tools, most famously a plasma cannon. While it's never explained why the Predator shows up, each film features an elaborate cat and mouse game, where the Predator kills off its opponents, one by one, until only the strongest survive. The Predators emulate a strange kind of humanity. While they aren't kind, these creatures feel respect towards the right kind of foe. And we certainly don't want any Predators falling into the hands of the many scientific corporations who are greedy to do experiments on them.

In Prey, Naru (Amber Midthunder), a teen girl of the Comanche people, wants to prove she can hunt as well, or even better than her brother, Taabe (Dakota Beavers). She longs for a chance to prove her mettle in a Kuhtaamia (hunter's rite of passage). She's known as a skilled herbalist and healer amongst her people, but Naru wants something more. While the men of her tribe seek out a lion that has attacked a young man from her tribe, Naru begins to sense something more dangerous lies in wait in the jungle.

Dakota Beavers as TAABE in PREY

Prey asks what the Predator species would be like before the plasma cannon became their weapon of choice. This Predator still owns advanced tools of destruction but also carries weapons for hand-to-hand combat. Also, in a world where authentic representations of Indigenous characters are still few and far between, getting to see the Predator vs. the Comanche Nation is a refreshing idea. Trachtenberg and crew collaborated with the Comanche people of Oklahoma to ensure the portrayal rose above stereotypes.

Prey pays homage to the original series with a focus on using the camera and editing to capture a strong sense of space. This movie about the hunt shows the perspective of both the hunter and the hunted to build suspense and maintain an unsettling tone. And, naturally, a few Easter eggs pop up for OG fans to enjoy.   

Amber Midthunder as NARU in PREY

For a person with no prior knowledge of the series, I had no trouble entering into the story. Like me, Naru and her tribespeople learn what makes the Predator tick as they go along. Although the story oozes of predictability, the action sequences feel fresh and suspenseful. We know Naru will be eventually get her chance. Naru must encounter and overcome myriad challenges along the way, and she uses every one of those experiences to be the final girl who can outlast the Predator where others fail.

Initially, the character of Naru grated on my nerves. Stories in which a girl wants to prove she's "as good as the guys" are a dime a dozen, and the beginning part of the story is just Naru sulking. Once they got past this angst and into the heart of the story, however, I was along for the ride with Naru and her trusty canine, Sarii.

Release info: Coming to Hulu on August 5, 2022

Final score: 3.5 out of 5