The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Disney+] - PREY | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Disney+] - PREY

prey review
In 1719, a young Comanche girl faces off with an alien hunter.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg

Starring: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro, Stormee Kipp, Michelle Thrush, Julian Black Antelope

prey poster

I've always appreciated John McTiernan's Predator as an action movie, but much like James Cameron's Aliens, it never quite worked as a horror flick. In Ridley Scott's Alien, the heroes are an out of depth bunch of space truckers, which makes you fear for their safety in a way you don't for the space commandos of Cameron's jacked up sequel. Similarly, in Predator the protagonists are a crew of meathead mercenaries, some of whom are so 'roided up they even dwarf Arnie. Seeing a bodybuilder face off against a predator just doesn't have the same impact as a babysitter fighting Michael Myers. I've always felt a more effective version of Predator would have made Anna, the native girl played by Elpidia Carrillo, the protagonist, swapping out an action hero for a final girl.

prey review

With his Predator prequel, Prey, director Dan Trachtenberg takes the franchise back to something approaching horror and gives us that native final girl. Here the predator is pitted against a teenage girl. Okay, she's not just any teenage girl. Naru (instant star Amber Midthunder) is a Comanche wannabe warrior who knows the woods of her Great Plains home inside out and has mastered the art of making medicines from ingredients provided by the local fauna. But it's 1719 and her most powerful weapon is a throwing axe attached to a rope, far from the giant machine guns wielded by Arnie and his mates.

Naru is frustrated by her tribe's lack of faith in her skills as a warrior, and so she sets out to prove herself by heading into the woods with her dog Sarii, hoping to bring back the head of whatever creature is responsible for killing the wildlife in strange ways. That creature is of course the alien predator. Like a kid eating his peas first and saving his burger to savour, the predator has been killing the area's animals and collecting their skulls before he decides to move onto human prey. In Naru he faces a formidable foe.

prey review

Naru is the best type of final girl, one who is initially out of her depth but grows through her ordeal, outwitting her enemy through intellectual ingenuity rather than physical strength. The worst pseudo-feminist horror movies make the mistake of giving us a heroine who is a badass from the beginning, missing the point that it's a final girl's vulnerability that makes us fear for them. By any human metric Naru is a badass from the off, but not compared to an eight foot tall invader equipped with the weaponry of a far advanced civilisation. Naru spends the movie using her brain as she observes her foe (Midthunder possesses a pair of remarkably expressive eyes) and mentally charts its weaknesses, whereas those who rush in with physical attacks don’t fare so well. It's clear that she'll be required to outsmart the alien rather than outfight it. What a welcome narrative in this era of superheroes constantly punching their way through their problems!

Eschewing any of the distracting gimmickry that has dogged Hollywood action filmmaking in recent decades, Trachtenberg stages his action in a very classical style. There's no ADHD editing or showy slo-mo, just well constructed set-pieces that never confuse the audience with any messy geography. We always know where the participants are in relation to one another, even though one of them is often invisible. We get the sense that the film has been put together by an observant thinker like its young lead.

prey review

After several sequels that have attempted to expand the Predator lore, we finally get a successful one that does the opposite. Trachtenberg takes things back to basics – all you need is a girl and a monster after all. Prey never gets bogged down in needless "world building" exposition, and rather than setting up future instalments it happily focusses on the movie at hand. It reminds us throughout that this franchise has its roots in The Most Dangerous Game, and it pulls from the most successful imitators of that 1930s classic, with moments inspired by the likes of Deliverance, The Naked Prey and Southern Comfort. But in presenting us with a Native-American hero in a manner that never feels like it's trying to score political brownie points, it's a unique creation.

 is on Disney+ UK/ROI now.

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