Now Streaming: Prey (2022) - Reviewed


Predators stalk the annals of American history, visiting unspeakable horrors against the indigenous people who populated the New World long before colonists invaded.  Dan Trachtenberg's stellar entry into the Predator franchise doesn't fully delve into this, but the ghost of genocide is everywhere in the haunted forests of the northern plains.  Eschewing the heat and conflict-ridden hunting grounds of the previous installments for a quiet theater of blood, Prey, is an exceptional action horror sojourn that features a remarkable lead performance, pristine natural visuals, and some of the most inventive gore in recent memory.  

A Predator begins its hunt in 1719 North America. A Native American woman, trying to prove herself as a hunter among her male tribe members is drawn into a life-or-death struggle with the infamous extraterrestrial.  Amber Midthunder (Legion) is sensational.  Prey is an interesting film, because it walks a line between synthetic looking online streamer and pristine, introspective think piece masquerading as an action film.  Midthunder's performance is layered and restrained, which pairs perfectly with Trachtenberg's subdued first half that lays the groundwork for the bloodletting.  And there is bloodletting.  While there are familiar tropes, such as the female warrior in the male's world, the story uses them as a foundation and elects to focus on Midthunder's quiet, brilliant rebellion.  Another important aspect of Midthunder's Naru is her stealth and pragmatism.  She knows when to run and when to hide and her fear is palpable, giving way to realistic catharsis and ingenious problem solving rather than the macho fueled showdowns of the previous installments.  She is the most human character in the entire franchise, rivaling the wonderful detectives of Predator 2

Jeff Cutter's beautiful cinematography is some of the best lens work this year.  There are a handful of homages to the first two films that are seamlessly woven into the optics as Cutter films the natural landscapes with an almost omnipotent viewpoint.  If there is a weakness, it's in the CGI and the inescapable reality that this is a streaming film and not an in-theater experience, but the budgetary limitations are on the fringe of what is undeniably a blood-soaked woman vs. alien extravaganza.  

The creature itself is a unique rendering of the tried-and-true Predators of the previous entries.  This creature is vastly more primal and infinitely more brutal than its brethren, offering up some of the most goriest and shocking kills in the entire franchise, which pairs perfectly with the low key ambiance.  Everything about this film is muted, from Sarah Scachner's ominous score to the fog laden killing fields of the climax.  Hulu has the option to watch in English or in Comanche dialect, another wonderful detail that Trachtenberg included.  At its core, Prey is a predictable story that hits all familiar beats a fan of these films would expect, but it confidently knocks each of them out of the park. 

Now available for streaming on Hulu, Prey delivers everything it promises and more, rising above expected mediocrity with an unforgettable performance and above bar imagery.  Come for the body heat visuals, stay for Midthunder's bad ass Naru and the absolutely insane kill sequences.  Perhaps the most fun at home viewing experience of 2022. 

--Kyle Jonathan