About 20 minutes into Prey, I made an offhand comment to my wife.
“This seems more like a Disney movie than a horror movie.”
A few momnets later, Barb replied, “Good call. It’s from 20th Century Studios, owned by Disney.”
Therein lies the rub.
Co-writer and director Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) has assembled a violent, R-rated action movie that nonetheless features a headstrong and resourceful heroine who isn’t satisfied with her gender-defined role in life.
Prey also provides new management for the Predator series, which has been floundering since Schwarzenegger flew the coop. Here, an interstellar big-game hunter makes a landing in early 18th century America, amongst a tribe of sturdy Comanches.
Naru (Amber Midthunder), is a bad-ass hunter and tracker who wants to be a warrior. Unfortunately, she lives in the shadow of her older brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), the tribe Alpha Male.
In a refreshing turn, Taabe is actually supportive of his sister, speaking highly of her skills to his fellow hunters.
His encouragement pays off, as Naru is the only one with the smarts to figure out that whatever is killing nearby wildlife is not a bear or a mountain lion.
Eventually, Naru gets her most fervent wish: to hunt something that is simultaneously hunting her.
Prey is visually stimulating and full of arboreal wonder as the tale and the landscape itself unfold without the presence of Western man—except for some dastardly French trappers who get in the way of the Predator’s safari.
As for the main monster itself, we don’t get any major developments other than their hunting technology is more rudimentary than that one time with Arnold.
Overall, it seems a less formidable opponent, which takes some of the steam out of the narrative.
Equally bothersome, there’s CGI work involving some of the animal fight scenes (Predator versus Bear, Naru versus Mountain Lion) that seems crudely rendered and rather clunky. It makes you think, for a second or two, that the whole picture must be a bloody animated feature, rather than live action.
Yet the Disney thematic parachute is unmistakably present in Prey, and the result is an uneasy alliance between dueling Market Powers (Action Fans versus Disney Moral Authority).
My wife liked it more than I did.
Note: Naru has a brave dog sidekick that doesn’t get killed.