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Disney+ Review: Prey

August 5, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), Prey is the fifth instalment in the Predator franchise (seventh if you count the spinoffs Alien vs. Predator and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem). The twist is that it’s actually a prequel to the 1987 original, that is set in the Comanche Nation circa the 1700s and centres around a Native American heroine.

Serving as an “origin of the species,” if you will, for the original Predator, Prey is meant to show when the alien killer first landed on Earth. And it works as a visceral, stripped down action movie that offers enough nods to the original to please fans, while also functioning pretty well on its own terms.

The central character is Naru (Amber Midthunder), a young warrior who wants to prove that she is just as skilled a hunter as her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), with other members of their tribe mocking her for wanting to take on more traditional male roles. When Naru notices that something has been killing and skinning other animals, they tell her that it’s the work of a lion or a bear, but she is convinced that whatever is doing it is not human and suspects the mythic monster she was warned about in old stories.

As we know from the franchise that Prey is a part of, the strange killings are actually the work of a technologically advanced alien creature (played by Dane DiLiegro, taking over for Kevin Peter Hall in the first two) that has infrared vision and can turn invisible. The creature’s arrival comes with a flaming ball of light that Naru witnesses falling from the sky. Working from an effective, back-to-basics screenplay by Patrick Aison, Trachtenberg’s film mirrors the 1987 film in a lot of ways and follows a similar formula, while still feeling like its own thing.

The Comanche angle in particular gives Prey an interesting perspective, with the film being led by a mostly Indigenous cast. Midthunder is tasked with carrying the film on her shoulders (which was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s role in the original), and she proves herself to be a formidable action star, delivering a solid leading performance that builds upon the promise that she showed in The Ice Road.

The plot goes in a fairly straight line from point-A to point-B, but offers a decent and satisfying character arc for Midthunder’s Naru, and functions as a gnarly little survival story. Shot in Alberta, which provides a rugged and striking backdrop for the film, Prey offers moments of suspense and ruthless kills that are matched with plenty of gore. Trachtenberg stages several white-knuckle set-pieces throughout, including a thrilling chase scene involving a bear that turns predator into prey.

The one downside to Prey is that the film is being released directly on Disney+ in Canada (the studio acquired it from 20th Century Fox, and it’s being sold as a Hulu Original in the United States), but it seems tailor-made to be seen on the big screen with an audience, something that a streaming-only release doesn’t exactly allow. It feels like the kind of late-summer blockbuster that would have been a fun surprise in theatres. Regardless of release strategy, Prey still works as a solid prequel that is worth seeing for its strong action and engaging survival story.

Prey is now available to stream exclusively on Disney+ in Canada.

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