August 3, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
Some language in Comanche and French with no subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in North America’s Nothern Great Plains in 1719 (in the area now known as Canada), the sci-fi horror film “Prey” features a cast of predominantly Native American characters (with some white people) portraying people from the Comanche Indian tribe and white French trappers.
Culture Clash: A teenage girl from the Comanche tribe must prove her worth as a hunter when people doubt she can do it because she’s a female, and she encounters the deadly Predator from outer space.
Culture Audience: “Prey” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the “Predator” franchise and anyone who doesn’t mind watching predictable, boring and idiotic horror movies.
“Prey” is a dull and lousy rehash and not a real origin story for “The Predator” franchise. Expect to see more of the same types of killings that are in other “Predator” movies, except that “Prey” takes place in 1719. This mindless horror flick clumsily panders to gender politics by having the theme that women are underestimated as hunters. The movie’s female protagonist literally says so in the movie, in order to explain why the Predator beast hasn’t attacked her yet.
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg and written by Patrick Aison, “Prey” is shamefully a wasted opportunity to explore and educate viewers on the Comanche Nation tribe of Native Americans, who are the primary characters in this movie’s story. Instead, the movie uses the same old tired and generic stereotypes of Native Americans in frontiers of North America (before the United States and Canada existed as nations), with “Prey” providing little to no insight on what makes the Comanche tribe special from other Native American cultures. Yes, some of the movie’s language is spoken in Comanche, but that’s about it.
Instead, “Prey” pounds viewers over the head with the concept that only one female in this tribe is brave enough to want to be a hunter alongside the men. Her name is Naru (played by Amber Midthunder), who gets constant reminders from the male members of her tribe that she’s not “good enough” to be their equal. Naru (who looks to be about 16 or 17 years old) and her tribe live in the Northern Great Plains of an area that is now part of Canada. (“Prey” was filmed on location in Alberta, Canada.)
Even though she is the focus of the movie, Naru doesn’t have anything that resembles a true personality. She’s just a combination of predictable and over-used clichés about teenage heroines who do action scenes. And that’s not a good sign when this character is supposed to be the central character in what should have been a compelling horror movie but instead is just a lackluster imitation of the worst “Predator” movies.
The first third of the movie consists of Naru trying to tell skeptical members of her tribe that there’s a predatory and deadly creature that’s not a bear or a lion. She doesn’t know what this creature is, but she’s not believed by the members of her tribe. Naru’s older brother Taabe (played by Dakota Beavers), who’s in his 20s, is one of the people who doubts Naru’s hunting abilities and what she is saying.
One of the more insulting depictions about Native American culture that “Prey” perpetuates is that it depicts Native Americans of this era as not being capable of having anything but simplistic conversations. Therefore, viewers will get mind-numbing dialogue in “Prey” such as a conversation between Naru and her disapproving mother Sumu (played by Stefany Mathias), who is barely in the movie. (Sumu’s screen time is less than 10 minutes.)
In this conversation, Sumu says to Naru: “My girl, you are so good at so many other things. Why do you want to hunt?” Naru replies, “Because you all think that I can’t.” All of the cast members are serviceable in their roles (which are hindered by the terrible screenwriting), but no one in the “Prey” cast does a great performance either.
People familiar with the “Predator” franchise already know that the Predator is a deadly mutant creature from outer space. The Predator’s standing height is about 7 to 8 feet tall, and its muscular body has human-like arms and legs. Instead of fingernails, the Predator has elongated talons. This creature has the ability to be invisible. The Predator also has vision similar to an X-ray. And the Predator doesn’t speak or give any indication for why it kills.
The way that the Predator (played by Dane DiLiegro) suddenly appears in “Prey” is an example of the movie’s tacky and cheap-looking visual effects. An origin story is supposed to explain why and how a saga started. It’s not supposed to rehash storylines that were already seen in other stories in the franchise. And that’s why, as an origin story, “Prey” is an utter and pathetic failure.
The middle and last third of “Prey” are just a series of soulless killings that have been seen in other “Predator” movies, with the only difference being that the people in the Comanche tribe and some scruffy-looking Frenchmen trappers are now the targets. The supporting characters in “Prey”—including a sexist Comanche warrior named Wasape (played by Stormee Kipp), a tribe woman named Aruka (played by Michelle Thrush) and the tribe’s Chief Kehetu (played by Julian Black Antelope)—are written as utterly forgettable or bland characters.
“Prey” is so lazy when it comes not bothering to come up with enough original ideas, it recycles the famous line uttered by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character named Dutch in 1987’s “Predator” movie: “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” In “Prey,” Taabe says these same words to Naru. It might be the “Prey” filmmakers’ way of paying tribute to this very first “Predator” movie, but it comes across as a corny throwaway line of dialogue because no one on the “Prey” filmmaking team could think of anything better. And for people who are fans of 1987’s “Predator,” re-using this line of dialogue is just a reminder of how much of a better movie “Predator” is to “Prey.”
Naru encounters the Predator several times but manages to escape in several badly edited scenes. As Naru tells her brother Taabe, the Predator isn’t attacking her because the Predator doesn’t see her as a threat. Since when does the Predator care about the gender of its victims? Apparently, in “Prey,” the Predator somehow thinks that any female human is somehow “not a threat” and therefore less likely to be a target of the Predator. It reeks of sexism and going overboard to pander to some idea of feminism when a female comes along to challenge the Predator.
This ludicrous storyline in “Prey” is in fact the opposite of female empowerment, because the “Prey” filmmakers have now made it look like this notorious horror villain from outer space thinks female humans aren’t smart enough or strong enough to kill it. And only one female from the tribe has the courage to possibly do so. It’s the worst type of female tokenism that “Prey” takes to idiotic levels.
It should come as no surprise that Naru and the Predator do indeed have a showdown, but that doesn’t really happen until the last 15 minutes and only after Naru feels justified to do something out of “revenge.” Don’t expect anything resembling a coherent plot in this terrible movie. It’s easy to see why the movie studio decided to release “Prey” directly to streaming services instead of in theaters first, because a lot of people who would see this ripoff horror flick in cinemas would probably want a refund.
Hulu will premiere “Prey” on August 5, 2022. Outside the U.S., “Prey” will premiere on Star+ in Latin America, and Disney+ under the Star banner in other territories on August 5, 2022.