Alien killer’s franchise returns in fine form
Indigenous cast, locale feature prominently throughout excellent Predator prequel
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Prey is the eighth installment in the Predator sci-fi franchise, a series depicting humankind’s violent encounters with an extraterrestrial warrior race known for trophy hunting. In past instalments, such as Predator 2 and Alien vs. Predator, it has been hinted that these masked hunters have visited Earth in the past, seeking human sport.
This prequel, set in 1719, focuses on Naru (Amber Midthunder from the locally-shot Netflix movie The Ice Road), a young Comanche woman who aspires to be a warrior. While she is acknowledged as the best tracker of her village, she is discouraged due to her gender, and is often brutally reminded of her place.
During a ceremony to honour her brother Taabe (Dakota Beavers), who has killed a different creature endangering the village, Naru is stung by Taabe remarking that he had to carry the injured Naru home after the hunt, not realizing she had been distracted by the distant Predator (Dane DiLiegro) during the fracas. While on the hunt, Naru noticed the tracks of a creature no one has seen before, as well as an ominously skinned, torn-apart snake. Despite Taabe not believing her, Naru realizes she must find this creature before it puts her village in danger.
The film follows similar beats to past entries in the franchise (specifically the original) but has enough of its own flair to make it a worthy entry. It comes at the right time, after the disappointment of Predators (2010) and The Predator (2018). Both those films operated under the assumption that what the series needed was a bigger, scarier Predator. But the comparatively low-tech hunter of Prey manages to be more menacing than either of its predecessors. A scene where the Predator holds a kill over his head while it bleeds on his cloaked body is one of the most striking images of the film.
Midthunder’s Naru continues the grand tradition of badass ladies in the Predator series, following in the footsteps of Elpidia Carrillo and Sanaa Lathan. Naru becomes a worthy adversary to the Predator and is able to succeed where others in the film fail by utilizing her intelligence and skills as both a healer and a warrior to defeat the creature.
Shot near the Stoney Nakota Nation in Alberta, Treaty 7 territory, led by a Sahiya Nakoda actress and produced by Comanche and Blackfoot producer Jhane Myers, Prey is an amazing example of Indigenous representation. While it would have been even better to have seen a director and writer of Indigenous descent, this film’s creative team had its heart in the right place and honours the people it portrays including the people whose location they borrowed. (The cast and crew of Prey conducted a ceremony with leaders from the Stoney Nakota Nation for permission to film in their homelands.)
A gory movie about Native people fighting aliens might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
But I know a bunch of Rez kids that are going to love it.
Sonya Ballantyne is a Swampy Cree writer, filmmaker, and speaker originally from Misipawistik Cree Nation. Her work focuses on contemporary and futuristic portrayals of Indigenous women and girls.