PREY Review – Where Nature, Violence, and Feminine Power Meet
Breanna Lucci says Prey is perhaps the best addition to the Predator series and focuses heavily on the female experience in a harsh and patriarchal society.
Prey, directed by Dan Trachtenberg became an overnight sensation on Hulu and is perhaps one of the best films in the Predator series. It's understandable, as the film features Amber Midthunder in the leading role of Naru, and her captivating canine sidekick, Sarri, played by untrained shelter dog Coco. Audiences have yet to stop raving about Trachtenberg and writer Patrick Aison’s creative take on the Predator and one of our favorite creatures in science fiction and horror.
The film is a prequel to Predator (1987), in which Arnold Schwarzenegger stars as a U.S. soldier sent into the Central American jungle on a recon mission. He and his team find themselves hunted by a vicious extraterrestrial warrior and must fight to survive. In Prey, we're transported to the Great Northern Plains where Naru, a Comanche Nation woman, is determined to prove herself as a fierce warrior equal to the men of her tribe. Despite patriarchal expectations that she assist in gathering berries and focus on a path in medicine, she throws herself into her bow hunting. After discovering mysterious tracks by an unknown creature, the men begrudgingly hunting by her side mock and threaten her. This fuels Naru’s desire to succeed, leading her and Sarri on a journey to figure out what the mysterious creature is.
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Most notable is Naru herself. She is a relatable protagonist that we root for and want to succeed. Aison and Trachtenberg created an artful warrior that rivals other female protagonists in the genre. She's comparatively more compelling than leading characters Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) in Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Jay (Maika Monroe) in It Follows (2016). With subtle facial expressions and body language, Midthunder beautifully portrays Naru’s story. We intimately sense her frustration, perseverance, pain, and endless will in a world—both within her tribe and out—that is doing everything it can to tear her down.
Prey is a multilingual narrative that captures three languages and never translates, giving us a steady glimpse into what Naru’s experience as a Native American woman really is. Naru encounters French trappers and their inability to understand each other creates a uniquely tense experience. It's confusing to encounter violent foreigners who want to harm you. Perhaps the Predator serves as a more comprehensive wife’s tale about the dangers of the West. The film is endlessly thought-provoking.
Jeff Cutter‘s cinematography and a score by composer Sarah Schachner are equally as powerful as Midthuner's performance. The film’s unique color palette creates rich and enchanting images. While Naru and Sarri explore, energetic shots of foliage and the natural landscape lure us into the woods and the colors darken as the plot thickens, effectively shoving us into an eerie foreign world. With extreme close-ups of blood-soaked faces and fascinating wide shots of nature and fight scenes, the film refuses to release us from its grasp. Schachner’s score swirls in and out, deeply enriching the film without disrupting our immersion.
Every component of Prey is well thought-out and perfectly executed, showcasing Trachtenberg's talents. The film intricately intertwines nature and violence in a way that compliments the Predator series, while making its mark as an emphatic tale of feminine strength.
Prey is now streaming on Hulu.