Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg
Distributed by: Searchlight Pictures
Written by Nick McCann
It doesn’t get more iconic than 1987’s “Predator.” Initially seen as more of the usual action schlock of its day, the film only got better over time and is now a classic. Though we’ve had many sequels since then, nothing can quite match up to what John McTiernan blessed the world with 35 years ago. Either they stick to the first movie’s formula to a fault or they experiment with style too much. Now comes an actual new take that delivers a fresh perspective and delivers what it promises.
“Prey” brings an all-new setting and story. Right away, the movie delivers on being a period set adventure. Despite its TV-tailored scale, the frontier expanse is well captured and the atmosphere is as good as any Western you’ve seen. Aside from that, this is by far the most personal “Predator” story. Every new story beat is constantly setting up our lead character and the challenge ahead of her. This film also brings back the suspense that admittedly was largely lost after the first movie. Much like his previous “10 Cloverfield Lane,” Director Dan Trachtenberg has a solid understanding of how to build up the action. As well as many satisfying callbacks to other installments. “Prey” has equal amounts of heart and tension, which is interesting given the series it inhabits.
What makes a lot of the movie work is Amber Midthunder. At first, I was skeptical that a small Native American woman would be able to take on one of the most dangerous alien creatures in cinema. Yet her performance sold me on it through her equal amount of strength, resourcefulness, and slight desperation to prove herself in the tribe. Midthunder plays it just right by never making it look easy for her. Dakota Beavers also does a good job as her brother, not seeing her as incapable but reluctant to let her attempt such a quest. A special nod also to Dane DiLiegro as the Predator itself, displaying his own brand of character under the mask and in the monster suit. The rest of the cast doesn’t get too much screen time though, most of which show up briefly before getting eviscerated.
Speaking of evisceration, this is as violent and action-packed of a “Predator” movie as you’d expect. When you aren’t waiting with clenched fists, there’s carnage at most every turn as we see the Predator lay waste in classic fashion. We may not have a bunch of macho men with high-caliber weapons running around a jungle, but the action is shot and constructed with excellent brutality. Camera work as a whole is quite gorgeous and also fairly clever in parts, my favorite of which is a pseudo visual of the food chain. Special effects are excellent as well, with a great-looking practical Predator and more tech for him to play with. Some of the CGI could’ve used another pass, but it’s largely okay all the same.
Sound also comes into play excellently here. Hearing faint echoes of the iconic Predator clicking among the lush forest and wide mountain ranges definitely hit differently compared to the last few installments. There are some raw quiet moments of waiting where your ears are almost as perked as our characters. Then there’s Sarah Schachner’s score, which has a primal, unnerving quality that, like the rest of the movie, is enjoyably different. The more somber and emotional cues sound beautiful and add a lot of character. It would’ve been nice to hear Alan Silvestri’s iconic theme music in some fashion but that doesn’t diminish how great a job Schachner does.
“Prey” had a lot riding on it. Lots of elements could have spelled official doom, but the film came ready to prove itself. The new setting and character focus gives it a whole different flavor, further aided by an engaging lead performance and a director who can handle going outside the box. At the end of the day, it’s a straight up tense action-packed adventure that knows its goal and how to get there. Tension, violence, and spectacle have come together here the best since the original movie. Personally, I would’ve loved to see this in a theater, but it now stands as one of my favorite TV/streaming films.