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‘Prey’ is highly entertaining

“Prey (US Rated R)

Cast: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Michelle Thrush, Dane DiLiegro

Genre: Sci-fi, Action/Adventure, Horror

Where to watch: Hulu/ Disney+

Dwight’s Rating:

out of 4

It really should come as no surprise that a movie called “Prey” would have a high fatality rate.

And that it’s a prequel to the “Predator” franchise should all but confirm it.

But that still might not prepare you for the level of carnage in “Prey”, released on Hulu last week Friday (and Disney+ International).

That large body count is coming from all over – human vs. human, human vs. animals, animals vs. human, and of course, alien vs. every single thing that breathes!

You remember “Predator”? The giant anthropomorphic dreadlocked insect-faced creature who was determined to hunt down Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers & friends back in 1987. That film spawned three sequels.

“Prey” marks the fifth installment, but it’s a prequel, and takes place about 300 years ago (our time), and almost 270 before the original saw an alien spacecraft deploying a shuttle to Earth. Thus, the new film suggests the aliens arrived long before that initial encounter. And just like in 1987, a seemingly unstoppable extraterrestrial killing machine decides to hunt humans for sport.

But in a setting like 1719, we find a very different “America”. Our protagonist this time around is Naru. She’s a skilled Comanche warrior who is determined to protect her tribe from not just this highly evolved alien predator, but also the untamed wilderness, and dangerous French colonizers.

Set in the Great Plains of North America, the film takes on elements of some old Western dramas. But it’s definitely a horror, in the slasher-film mold. There’s the psychotic alien, so the sci-fi box is checked as well. And the lead character is all about proving she can hunt and think and function just as well as all the chauvinistic young men in her tribe, so there are heaping doses of women empowerment. Plus, there’s adventure, as Naru and her dog Sarii embark on a journey to find out what this bizarre creature is all about.

With all of that, it’s no surprise the film premiered at Comic-Con last month, as fans of that genre are likely to see a lot they’d like here.

In fact, as movie genres go (and seemingly nearly all movies in general today), the only things missing from “Prey” are romance, Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson.

Despite all the gory killing, “Prey” feels a little smarter than your average slasher flick. First of all, it looks amazing. The wilderness scenes are stunning. And even the slaughtering is done with artistic flare. This alien has quite a taste for the dramatic. He/she must be a load of fun on their planet.

Director Dan Trachtenberg (“10 Cloverfield Lane”) gives us a picture with hardly a quiet or dull moment. There’s nonstop everything. Thankfully, that doesn’t stop character development. And even though there really isn’t all that much dialogue – other than shouting and screaming and crying out in pain – there’s enough to believe we understand the main characters, especially Naru.

It helps that Naru portrayer Amber Midthunder gives such a dynamic performance. Her eyes alone deserve an award for the amount of emotion she can convey in just a quick glance.

A member of the Sioux tribe, Midthunder heads a cast in which all of the actors playing Comanches are Indigenous Americans. That is quite an achievement. And certainly not something that used to happen with most of those aforementioned Westerns of yore.

As for the rest of the cast, the actor playing the predator alien this time around, Dane DiLiegro, is an American former professional basketball player who stands at 6’9” (just a tad shy of the 7’2” of the late Kevin Peter Hall in the original “Predator”).

And there are the actors who play the foul-mouthed barbaric French Canadians (I speak enough French to know they need their mouths washed out with a ton of soap – actually they looked pretty filthy too, so the soap is necessary for every part of them).

In theory, “Prey” seems like something that shouldn’t really work and that should be hard to like. But magically, this is a highly entertaining – and shockingly, even inspiring – film that works on nearly every level.

• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email dwight@nasguard.com and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.

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Dwight Strachan

Dwight is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff.

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