Figure 1 – Prey Poster
Just a bit of a warning: I might reveal a few minor spoilers here, but I have no intention of giving away anything major.
Whenever a movie comes out that promises to make a lot of money, there’s already one on the stands or shelves (or wherever people find movies these days) with pretty much the same name. After all, titles are not copyrightable. You knew that, right? You could make a movie called Titanic, or Schindler’s List or pretty much any blockbuster movie and, no matter how badly it sucked, or stank, someone would not only go to see it (if in theatres), rent it (if it’s available through some streaming service) and, invariably, love it or hate it so much they’d have to leave a review, good or bad, which inevitably means money for someone. After all, mostly, it’s “all about the Benjamins.” (Or whatever face is on your $100; ours in Canada is Sir Robert Borden, who was Prime Minister of Canada from 1901 to 1920, according to Wikipedia. (And our “hundy” is brown, too, and now made of polymer.)
On my DVD shelf is one called War of the Worlds, which is not the Gene Barry movie of 1953, nor is it the Tom Cruise movie of 2005. This is a direct-to-video movie starring C. Thomas (“Tommy”) Howell, a C-list actor who deserves better. (Actually, I also have the other two.) It’s got something like a 3.5 rating on IMDB, which if I remember the movie, is about what it deserves. But here’s the tie-in with my first paragraph: looking for the new movie called Prey (Figure 1), we accidentally watched a new one called The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus (Figure 2), with several minor name actors like Adrian Paul (Highlander), Danny Trejo (Dusk Till Dawn and dozens of others), and a guy who looks familiar but I’ll be darned if I can figure out who he is. I’m not sure this movie, unlike that War of the Worlds cited above, was made just for the money, but it’s obvious that the “names” were in it for that reason. It’s not a good movie; it’s predictable almost from the first scene, but it’s more or less watchable. I try not to do “killer” reviews, so we’ll let it go at that.Figure 2 – The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus
Finally, we found that the Prey we were looking for was on Hulu—and if you want to see it, you can sign up for the free trial and then end your trial. Unless, of course, you like paying $10/month for a dozen streaming services; they add up pretty darned quickly! This one is from 20th Century Fox, like the Predator movies it’s a prequel/sequel to (Predator, Predator 2, Alien vs. Predator, Predators), and it’s pretty good. Not great, but it certainly has things to recommend it.
Here’s the storyline: the year is 1719, and a Comanche tribe is living on the Northern Great Plains. One of the hunters is injured by a mountain lion, and Taabe (Dakota Beavers) takes some of the younger hunters out to try to kill the lion. Taabe is followed by his sister, Naru (Amber Midthunder), who has learned medicine at her mother’s knee, but who is determined to become a hunter. (As far as I know, this was unusual for the Comanche; tribe members were more or less locked into their roles early in life, and women were the cooks, fuel and food gatherers, baby makers and raisers—the sort of traditional roles women have been forced into in most cultures.) Naru isn’t going to stand for that; she has trained her dog, learned how to track, made and learned how to throw her axe, and so on. She’s ready for her first big hunt, which is called kutaamia, but even her brother doesn’t believe she can be a hunter.
Disregarding what we think we found out about the Predators in AVP, the tribe is about to meet a less-evolved Predator, who has less technically-evolved gear than the one Arnie fought in the first movie, but is still more technically advanced than the Comanches—or even the French trappers the tribe is also about to meet. So the movie ends up being a three-way scrap among Comanches, a Predator, and a bunch of French trappers; of course, we know who’s gonna win. That ending was never in doubt, so I don’t think this really counts as a spoiler.
This movie is a coming-of-age story as well as a fight between humans and Predators as in the previous movies. The major differences here are that a) it’s a coming-of-age story for a young female Indigenous person who is not satisfied with the role tradition has assigned her; b) the protagonists are all Indigenous people—and Indigenous actors; and c) the movie was released (I understand) in both an English-language version and a Cherokee-language version. (I believe in both cases the French language remained untranslated.)
The SFX/CGI is pretty good, except for a CGI bear that looked like he’d been in a fire or something. It was not a natural-looking bear, in my opinion. The scenery was fabulous and aided in the naturalism of the story, because it was filmed in Alberta’s Kananaskis Country; the clothing and the various accouterments were appropriate, I believe, to the period. The best part of this movie was that the Comanche were depicted as just people, living their ordinary (pre-Colonization) lives on the plains and in the forests. Unlike the Europeans, who have always tended to adapt their surroundings to themselves, the Indigenous people developed and adapted themselves and their lifestyles to their environments, and this movie attempts to show this. These were not “noble savages,” but ordinary people living ordinary lives for the area and the time.
The acting is pretty good, too; Ms. Midthunder is believable, as are the rest of the non-Predator cast; the French are pretty barbarous, but again, I think this is appropriate for the people and the times. One can argue—but after the movie is finished and we’ve had time to think about it—that the Comanche were never found that far north; but hey: it’s a minor quibble. The filmmakers took time to research, to have Indigenous actors, and to make a fairly standard movie a little better by doing these things.
You can call it either a prequel—considering it takes place in the 18th century—or a sequel; I don’t think that’s germane either way. I don’t think it could stand alone without at least one Predator movie setting the stage, however.
My one quibble is that because the dénouement happened at night and fairly quickly, I’m not exactly sure what happened; I’m going to have to watch that part of the movie again to clarify it in my mind. But Naru is an engaging character, and her determination to save her tribe and have her kuhtaamia makes her believable in my eyes. And I appreciate the fact that the film has no big-name actors and must succeed or fail on its own terms.
Well, what d’ya think? Agree? Disagree? You can comment here, or argue; here or on Facebook, or even by email (stevefah at hotmail dot com). All comments are welcome! (Just be polite, please.) My opinion is, as always, my own, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Amazing Stories or its owner, editor, publisher or other columnists. See you next time!