For a series that has only managed one fun film and three poor sequels (plus two really poor spin-offs), the Predator franchise has proven remarkably resilient. What most of the entries have got wrong is to try to over-complicate things. The predator is not a complex creature, just a very violent, very hard-to-kill monster. What director Dan Trachtenberg gets so right with Prey is to make that the entire plot: how does someone with no guns beat a killing machine with alien technology? With great ingenuity and a high body count.
Taking place long before the events of the other films, this is no prequel – it stands alone. Set in the early 1700s on the Great Plains of America, it centres on a young Native American woman, Naru (Amber Midthunder). Raised to be a healer, Naru wants to be a warrior, like her older brother, Taabe (Dakota Beavers), but tradition forbids it. When Naru sees a strange craft in the sky, she begins a hunt for a creature nobody believes exists. Until it starts slicing them all into bits.
That’s really as complex as it gets. Its plot is Naru, a woman whose most advanced weapon is a little axe, learning how to overcome a hulking monster who has all sorts of lasers, explosives and cloaking devices at its disposal. Trachtenberg has form in taking a simple set-up and wringing out almost unbearable tension. His last, and only other, film was 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, in which a young woman tries desperately to escape a bunker in which she was trapped with her kidnapper. The two films share a sense of nerve-jangling danger and a glee in finding clever ways to get someone out of peril.
Aided by a forceful performance from relative newcomer Midthunder, this Predator movie is full of surprises and that makes its alien monster actually scary again. It’s a shame it’s only being shown on Disney+, because this is a film with the sort of gasp-inducing shocks and applause-worthy action that really properly comes to life in a crowded cinema.
Still, whatever the size of the screen, this is – and fans of the dated original may disagree – the best Predator movie yet.
Streaming on Disney+ where it’s available worldwide, and Hulu in the US, from Aug 5.