When predator becomes prey

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I got to know who Dan Trachtenberg was, after watching 10 Cloverfield Lane. I ended up watching that movie marking an end of going down a long rabbit hole of psychological thrillers and after watching that, I was pleasantly surprised. Mainly as to how I’d never come across the movie before and also at the fact that Trachtenberg was such a good director, especially considering it was his feature film debut. Since then, I wanted more of him but sadly, except for an episode of a popular TV show here and there and his popular podcasts, his directorial brilliance was nowhere to be seen.

Finally, after breaking about five years of silence Trachtenberg is back at the director’s seat, calling shots on the set of another exciting Hulu thriller, Prey. The teaser trailer for the movie offered little to no insight the overall plot but managed to keep our curiosity piqued nonetheless. Once the release date drew near and more and more trailers were released revealing much about the movie, I had my fair share of doubts wondering even if Trachtenberg himself would be able to find something new in an idea that has been thrown around in Hollywood for 35 years.

Prey revolves around Naru, a wannabe warrior girl but resorted to play nurse. Always wanting to prove herself she finally gets her chance with her big break but little does she know that she is biting more than what she can chew as she is going against Predator, another warrior from a different planet, landed here with one true intent – to find other worthy predators and kill.

Since the first Predator movie in 1987 featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, there have been so many Predator movies as well as Alien vs Predator mash ups. It is hard to find something original in terms of finding different ways for the predator to kill, the climax of the movie when the Predator is defeated (given the limited weaknesses the Predator has), and the human relationships and connections made during the movie and the lengths they are realistically and believably carried to (since this is ultimately not a drama but a horror thriller).

And when I heard this movie is really a prequel that takes place about 300 years in the past with a female lead going up against perhaps the deadliest predator in the horror/thriller cinematic universe, I really had my reservations about the success of the movie. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with having a strong female lead in a movie and there are countless examples where such movies have excelled and went on to succeed both to make box office records and to win awards. However, recent flops have suggested that remakes of popular movies with female leads aren’t a guaranteed success.

While Trachtenberg’s Prey is completely immune to this female-remake flop syndrome, the existence of such a ‘syndrome’ should be mentioned because it only heightened how brilliantly Trachtenberg has pulled off directing Prey to quite possible go on to become a cult classic sci-fi/thriller movie. 

Personally, I feel like the secret to Trachtenberg’s success in Prey is that he didn’t stray from the basics. He didn’t try to overdo everything in the movie and while he did experiment with a female lead and a different time setting, he stuck to the basics, which is suspense, blood, gore, and excitement.

The plot is rather linear but not too linear because that would be too boring. Just when the viewer is beginning to lose interest with Naru’s battle with the tribe to prove herself and her battle with the Predator, a sub-plot is developed with the invention of some Frenchmen to keep the viewer freshly interested in the story.

In terms of acting, there weren’t really any Oscar-worthy performances but rather convincing performances all around. Naru’s character, for some reason, reminded me of April from Parks and Recreation but other than that, she too delivered a pretty convincing performance. One of the scenes of the movie where Naru gets stuck in a mud pit reminded me of this iconic scene of Apocalypto and another fight scene where the Predator gets one of his limbs cut off by his own weapon had some resemblance to a scene from Predator 2. Some could argue the fat cigar associated with the lead Frenchman is also homage to the Schwarzenegger’s character from the original movie but that might be a bit of a stretch.

What makes Prey better is how it killed, literally. The dull colour of blood and how it didn’t squirt out so prominently after each and every cut, actually made the gore-ness of kills even higher. It also made the scenes more believable. The movie arrives at a predictable end (Naru 1-0 Predator) but how Naru triamphs over the Predator is an ingenious plan which may have been inspired by some of the scenes of previous movies.

After watching Prey and as a person who has watched all the previous Predator movies I think I am not the only one who feels like this is the best movie so far to have come out of the Predator franchise. Too bad it is released exclusively on Hulu and the typical cinemagoer is deprived of this unique excitement inside a cinema. Since it is a prequel to the other Predator movies one does not require watching previous movies to watch this and can enjoy this alone. I highly recommend this movie not because it is this ground-breaking movie that goes beyond your wildest expectations but because it delivers just what it supposed to deliver, a non-stop thriller entertainment that will keep you on the edge of your seat.   

By Sanuj Hathurusinghe