PREY – Review by Brandy McDonnell

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

The long-running Predator film franchise goes back in time and gets back to basics with its lean, mean and thrilling new prequel, Prey.

Set in 1719 on the Northern Great Plains of the Comanche Nation, the latest installment of the bloody sci-fi series introduces a hero worth rooting for in Naru (Amber Midthunder, Netflix’s The Ice Road, The CW’s Roswell, New Mexico), a would-be Comanche warrior.

A skilled healer and tracker, Naru’s is determined to prove herself a capable hunter like her male peers. Her widowed mother, Aruka (Michelle Thrush, The Journey Home), would prefer that Naru stick to the safer, more traditional path of gathering. When Aruka wonders why becoming a warrior is so important to her daughter, Naru defiantly replies “because you all think that I can’t.”

Surprisingly, Naru’s older brother, Taabe (newcomer Dakota Beavers), a revered young hunter and leader in their tribe, respects his sister’s skills and supports her aims. He knows she has a sharp, strategic mind and has long trained for combat in solitude, with her loyal dog Sarii as her only companion.

So, when an aggressive mountain lion seems to be threatening Comanche hunting parties, Taabe invites Naru to help track the marauding cat and take part in the tribal coming-of-age ritual of hunting something that hunts her back.

Naru’s plan to kill the cougar is thwarted when she is distracted by mysterious lights in the sky. Of course, no one believes her claims about seeing an unidentified flying object – or pays any heed to her concerns about a viciously skinned snake or a gruesomely mutilated bison herd.

But Naru persists and discovers that a spacefaring Predator, one of the universe’s fiercest and ugliest trophy hunters, has arrived on Earth for the first time. Boasting the species’ signature cloaking armor and early versions of their brutally advanced weapons, the alien huntsman (Dane DiLiegro, American Horror Stories) is on a mission to hunt and kill the planet’s fiercest apex predators.

And that means Naru, her tribe and a pack of interloping French trappers are all in danger of becoming his prey.

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) and written by Patrick Aison (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan), Prey is the best movie in the beleaguered Predator series since the 1987 original starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers.

Despite the vastly differences in time frame and technology, the new installment gets back to the basics of what made Predator so enjoyable in the first place: the cat-and-mouse suspense of the hunter on the prowl, the horror movie thrills of the creatively gory kills and the final display of human ingenuity that allows our protagonist to ultimately defeat the more powerful alien foe.

Filmed in the Stoney Nakoda Nation near Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Prey boasts several pulse-pounding action sequences, from a chase through the waving wheatgrass and a savage smackdown between the Predator and a massive bear to a precariously sticky situation in a mud pit and a tense showdown cloaked in fog and smoke.

Midthunder, who is Sahiya Nakoda, is tasked with practically carrying the film – and arguably the future of the franchise – on her shoulders, and she rises to the challenge with aplomb. She’s a standout addition to the small but growing number of female cinematic action heroes.

With the film’s tight focus on Naru, the prequel’s supporting characters are thinly drawn and underdeveloped, but they aren’t boxed into the usual overused stereotypes of Native Americans we’re so used to seeing on screen.

Prey marks another step in the right direction in film and television representation of Indigenous peoples. Produced by Jhane Myers, a Comanche and Blackfeet artist, dancer and filmmaker who hails from Oklahoma, the movie boasts a cheer-worthy Indigenous hero, authentically recreates 18th-century Comanche culture and celebrates the warrior spirit and fighting style of Native Americans.

The film even incorporates several Comanche words – the characters mostly speak English, and the mix of languages sometimes gets a bit tricky – and a dubbed version of the movie entirely in Comanche is available on Hulu.

Although that’s a trailblazing moment made possible by streaming – Myers said it’s the first time for viewers to have the option to watch a new movie totally dubbed in Comanche –  one of biggest weaknesses of Prey is that it is out exclusively on Hulu. An action movie this entertaining deserves a chance to be seen in theaters on the big screen.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 0 Flares ×

Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell writes features and reviews movies, music, events and the arts for The Oklahoman, Oklahoma's statewide newspaper, and NewsOK.com, the state's largest news Web site. Raised on a farm near Lindsay, Okla., she started her journalism career in seventh grade, when she was elected reporter for her school's 4-H Club. Taking her duties seriously, she began submitting stories to The Lindsay News, and worked for the local weekly through high school. She attended Oklahoma State University, where she worked for The Daily O'Collegian and earned her journalism degree with honors. She worked for three years at small Oklahoma dailies The Edmond Sun and Shawnee News-Star. In 2002, she joined The Oklahoman as a features reporter, writing about movies, the arts, events, families and nonprofits. She moved to The Oklahoman's entertainment desk in 2007. In 2004, she won a prestigious Journalism Fellowship in Child & Family Policy from the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Along with her membership in AWFJ, she also is a founding member of the Oklahoma Film Critics Circle. Brandy writes The Week In Women blog for AWFJ.org.