It’s tough to be a fan of the Predator franchise. Although Predator 2 and Predators have their defenders, the only thing we in the fandom can unanimously agree on are the facts that the original 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger film is the only truly better-than-average film of the bunch, and that the less said about 2018’s The Predator the better. To me, it is truly a series of diminishing returns, each entry being at least a little worse than the last (I don’t count the Alien vs. Predator crossover movies, which are schlocky fun at best).
It is perhaps for this reason that Disney/Twentieth Century Studios opted to release Prey on Hulu rather than the big screen, which is a darned shame, because the latest film in the franchise has turned out to be by far the best sequel (well, technically prequel) of the entire lot and may even be better than the original when adjusted for nostalgia.
In Prey we see a member of the extraterrestrial Predator species, the Yautja, menace a Comanche tribe in 1719. But the line between who is prey and who is predator is thrown into a constant flux when Naru, a young warrior from the same tribe, takes it upon herself to end the creature’s hunt once and for all.
It is a back-to-basics approach to the franchise that I greatly appreciated after the bigger-yet-dumber escalation of the rest of the sequels, and the film is all the better for it (you don’t need to know anything about the previous movies going in as well, which is a nice change of pace from the universe-building that most films lean into these days). The action is fluid, well-choreographed and predictably brutal, and there is a frightening menace to the Predator that has not been present since the original. The soundtrack is creative and a joy to listen to, a sentiment that I do not often express when it comes to horror/suspense films.
Perhaps the coolest moments are those where there is no soundtrack at all, however, and we are left to sit there in suspense as we wait for the tranquil sounds of nature to be interrupted by the iconic clicking growl of the beast that has haunted many nightmares since its 1987 debut.
Director Dan Trachtenburg of 10 Cloverfield Lane fame brings a cinematographic flair to Prey that often creates an interesting juxtaposition between the beauty of the setting and the carnage that happens there, whether it be alien-made or man-made. This director’s eye for detail is greatly helped by the hopefully star-making performance by Amber Midthunder, the actor who plays Naru, as well as a thoughtful story that actually has something to say other than “monster kills people, people try to kill monster.”
I racked my brain trying to find faults in this movie and couldn’t really find any big ones beyond the fact that it 100% should have been enjoyed in theaters rather than on the small screen. I don’t know if it was this format that sometimes made the nighttime scenes sometimes extremely difficult to see or if it was a problem with my T.V. in particular, but all the same Prey would have been a blast to see in theaters. Regardless, you should definitely check it out if you’re a Predator enthusiast, and even if you’re just a fan of action/suspense/horror films in general you could still do much, much worse.
Prey is now available on Hulu.