PREY -- A Solidly-Crafted, If Formulaic Origin Story for One of the Most Iconic Characters in Horror
Review by Sean Boelman
The Predator franchise may be the one that has experienced the most attempts to bring it back to life with the Robert Rodriguez-produced Predators in 2010 and Shane Black’s The Predator in 2018 both having not done the trick. Now we have Prey, a straight-to-streaming prequel that attempts to elevate the series but just ends up being a competent yet somewhat bland action-horror flick.
Supposedly following the Predator’s first ever hunt on Earth, the film takes place in the Comanche Nation hundreds of years ago as a young warrior sets out to protect her tribe from this intimidating extraterrestrial threat. In terms of plot beats, the movie follows the exact arc that you expect it to follow with very little deviation.
It’s really almost fitting that the film doesn’t have Predator in the title, because there’s very little Predator action in the movie. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when the other action that makes up a majority of the first hour is so generic in nature, it would have been nice to have more than a few seconds of Predator flash every ten minutes until the final third.
Admittedly, it is a gorgeous film. Even the CGI looks pretty dang good, which is surprising given that it’s a straight-to-streaming prequel in a series that isn’t exactly known for the quality of its CGI. However, the periodization in the movie does a lot of the heavy lifting and creates a solidly immersive and thoroughly entertaining atmosphere.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the film is that it is so straightforward. Setting the movie in colonial times gave the film the potential to address weighty issues of colonialism and racism. The parallelism between the Predator hunting the Comanche and the French taking the Comanche’s land is right there, but never explored.
It’s definitely awesome to have a strong female protagonist leading a movie in a series that, up to this point, has largely been about machismo. But it would have been even nicer for her to have any development that was not reliant on proving herself to men. It’s a step in the right direction, but still frustrating to be framed through a predominantly male lens.
Still, Amber Midthunder absolutely steals the show with her leading performance. Although it may not have been designed as an acting showcase for her, that’s what it ends up being due to the slow pacing of much of the first two-thirds of the film. And she really channels the action hero charisma of someone like Arnold Schwarzenneger in her debut.
Much of the praise for Prey has come from people hailing it as the “first good Predator sequel,” when, in reality, it’s just another good sequel — it's no better than the others. It’s a mostly fun time and is all-around well-made, but it’s probably not enough to kickstart a new franchise of Predator movies.
Prey streams on Hulu beginning August 5.