Much like how the Predator comes out of nowhere for most of its victims, the latest movie in the long running franchise also comes out of nowhere for most unsuspecting movie viewers. Unless you’ve seen a trailer that was released months ago, people who are subscribed to Hulu suddenly had a new Predator movie appearing out of nowhere last Friday: Prey.
Prey is set in the 1700s and revolves around the Comanche Nation. Young woman Naru is an aspiring hunter; a position in the tribe reserved for men. Feminism wasn’t thing back then. She’s a talented hunter, but not quite at the same level as the men yet. When she joins a male hunting party, they come across something they have never encountered.
It is of course a Predator.
The thing that defines Prey is its small-scale approach. Unlike all the previous sequels that tried to expand the Predator mythology, Prey takes it back to its roots. This is a movie about a group of Native Americans who have to take on a Predator. Nothing more, nothing less. And it works. Gone are all of the government agents or stock characters who made the plots of the previous sequels too convoluted.
Prey shares a lot of similarities with Hellraiser: Inferno. Both are the fifth entries in a long running franchise, both strip down the plot to go back to something that resembles the first movie of the series, both are the first entries to skip cinemas and go straight to video. And to me both movies feel as direct to video/streaming movies, but this is probably the most divisive element of Prey.
I’ve read plenty of comments about how Prey should have been a theatrical release. I disagree with them, but being from the Netherlands I’m used to most (horror) sequels going straight to video anyway. Cinemas over here mostly show the big budget Hollywood movies and you have to go out of your way to see a horror sequel in cinemas, unless it did pretty well back in the US.
Prey feels like a straight to streaming video due to multiple factors. Not only is the scale a lot smaller than the previous sequels, but the cast consists of unknown actors and computer generated visuals like the Grizzly Bear and the Predator jumping from treetop to treetop never look convincing.
The marketing department also chimes in by releasing this movie under the title Prey. It seems like they want to distance this movie as much as possible from the other sequels. It’s a bold move, but I’m not quite sure it was the right one.
But Prey is a return to form for the franchise. It gives us a mostly tight paced 90 minute action movie with some clever scenes. It takes some time to get to the action, with the first 40 minutes dedicated to fleshing out the character of Naru. But when it gets there, the movie never loses any steam.