Amber Midthunder in Prey (2022)

‘Prey’ movie review: Predator prequel a thrilling Comanche hunt

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A Comanche warrior targets the wrong species to hunt during her rite of passage in Prey, an unexpectedly good and nearly great prequel to Predator now streaming on Disney+ in the Czech Republic and Hulu in the states. Tightly-scripted and efficiently crafted, this one washes the franchise palate after Shane Black’s 2018 misfire The Predator.

Only some sketchy plotting and questionable filmmaking choices keep this one from reaching the heights of the 1987 original. Chief among those is the decision to film Prey in modern American English despite being set among the Comanche Nation in the late 1700s, a choice that immediately feels jarring in early dialogue-heavy scenes.

Prey stars Amber Midthunder as Naru, a Comanche Nation adolescent who has been raised as a gatherer by her mother (Michelle Thrush) but trains to become a hunter like her big brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers).

When word of a dangerous mountain lion on the outskirts of the tribe’s village makes its way to the family, Taabe and a team of hunters go out looking for the beast. Despite big brother’s objections, Naru tags along, aiming to turn a successful hunt into a rite of passage that will elevate her status among the tribe.

Of course, there’s more than just the mountain lion out there, and Prey’s hunters soon become the hunted as they are unsuspectingly picked off one-by-one by another Predator that just happens to be out hunting in the area.

While the appeal of a cloaked Predator with alien technology hunting unsuspecting Comanche natives in the 18th century may be limited, Prey introduces another horde of potential victims to up the body count. French explorers moving through the area and slaughtering buffalo in their wake make for some particularly satisfying victims.

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), Prey is an especially tight thriller with no wasted scenes, though the Chekov’s gun logic occasionally fails to resonate; in climactic scenes, our hero seems to have a better understanding of the advanced alien technology than the Predator itself.

Only drawback: having the main cast speak (modern) English brings us out of the world that Prey so evocatively creates, especially when contrasted with the scenes of the authentic-feeling Frenchmen speaking French. There is a Comanche-language dub available to stream on Disney+, but it doesn’t quite recreate the authenticity we’re looking for.

Prey doesn’t reinvent the franchise formula, and sticks pretty close to the Most Dangerous Game plotting that most of these movies follow. But the change of time and place is truly a breath of fresh air; while 2010’s Predators was a particularly satisfying outing, Prey is easily the best film in the franchise since the 1987 original.

Prey

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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