Prey is available to stream on Disney+ from 5th August.
Ironically, for a franchise about the world’s deadliest hunter, Predator has been surprisingly docile since its initial rumble in the jungle. While many directors have tried and failed to resurrect the series, including Shane Black’s maligned The Predator – Dan Trachtenberg is different from most directors. Given his critical acclaim for arguably the best Cloverfield title, alongside his careful project choice, it seemed that this would be a last stand for the Predator franchise – it would either re-emerge triumphantly or finally surrender to a mediocre death knoll.
What sets Prey apart from all other Predator titles is its setting. Rather than looking forward, Trachtenberg and screenwriter Patrick Aison travel back to America in the 1700s, focusing on the Comanche Native Americans. It’s a clever way to reinvigorate the franchise by thrusting humanity back hundreds of years, placing the already-advanced Predator species aeons ahead in technology and fighting ability. It also allows Trachtenberg to strip everything back to John McTiernan’s basic premise: man vs myth. With a lack of any potential ‘predator-killer’ suits or re-discovery of alien technology, Trachtenberg ignites a burning spark of fascination.
READ MORE: WHAT JOSIAH SAW
This fight for survival is led by the commanding Amber Midthunder as Naru, a young warrior determined to prove her strength and might not only in a male-dominated tribe but in herself. Midthunder’s sharpest weapon is undeniably her piercing stares and careful, rhythmic movements as she stalks her prey. Midthunder’s centrality in a Predator film allows Trachtenberg once more to pay homage to the thematics of McTiernan’s original. Here Midthunder is forced to endure patriarchal and hyper-inflated male egos similar to those found in Schwarznegger’s platoon, which ultimately marks them for execution and places the tribe at risk.
There’s a curious thematic harmony between hunter and hunted, as both Naru and the Predator’s discoveries and education of one another’s worlds imply a fundamental connection between the pair. Trachtenberg seems to suggest that perhaps the violent delights of the Predators are not so different from the internal animalism of the humans it encounters; this seems especially apt as the greatest horrors come not from the 9ft tusked space hunter but a group of French colonisers who ensnare Naru into their own designs on the Predator. While they soon receive their comeuppance, the mutterings and occasional escaped word of English tease a potentially horrific end for Naru at the hands of these sinister pot-bellied poachers.
READ MORE: ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME
What’s critical to Trachtenberg’s vision is that Prey never loses its focus on Naru vs Predator, constantly teasing their final battle through brief encounters and watchful observations of the other. A constant lurking dread permeates every moment that Naru appears to be alone. Here Prey’s sound design employs small, cunning sonic tricks to knock you off-balance as you wonder if the Predator is right behind her. By manipulating the viewer’s imagination and cranking up what could be in the frame, the horror of the Predator re-ignites itself and leaves your brow sweaty and your heart pounding as to where he could strike next.
By returning to simplicity, Dan Trachtenberg has revitalised the Predator name. Prey is a brutal, primal hunt conducted by its captivating lead whose curious harmony with the very foe she’s hunting elevates the sci-fi thriller to a devilishly fun watch. It’s the most thrilling battle since the original.
By returning to simplicity, Dan Trachtenberg has revitalised the Predator name. Prey is a brutal, primal hunt conducted by its captivating lead whose curious harmony with the very foe she’s hunting elevates the sci-fi thriller to a devilishly fun watch.