Robert Horton is a Scarecrow board member and a longtime film critic. He will be contributing a series of “critic’s notes” to the Scarecrow blog—a chance to highlight worthy films playing locally and connecting them to the riches of Scarecrow’s collection.
The new movie Prey adds to the—well, I guess you’d call it the Predators cinematic universe, and it executes its slashing action with efficiency. At the very least it’s a massive upgrade from the 2018 dud The Predator, and the concept (high-tech alien arrives in an 18th-century Native American territory) is clever. I just wish I’d watched it with the Comanche language dub, because the English dialogue is not so good.
Anyway, let’s take a moment to recall Predators, to my mind an underrated entry in the series. Here’s the way it struck me in July 2010, in a review written for The Herald.
Both remake of and sequel to the 1987 Predator, the new Robert Rodriguez production Predators manages to knock a little life into a road-weary franchise.
Although Rodriguez did not direct Predators, his basic approach (which includes the idea that if you make an action picture, it ought to be fun) is much on display. This movie about hunting is directed by the aptly-named Nimród Antal, who made the intense Hungarian film Control a few years ago.
The movie begins with its central character waking up in mid-air freefall without his parachute open. Nice. Landing safely (and loaded with weapons), this unnamed Black Ops guy (played by a buff Adrien Brody) realizes that other miscreants are being dropped in the same vicinity. These include a tough Central American fighter (Alice Braga, from I Am Legend), a Russian mercenary (Oleg Taktarov), a Death Row con (Walter Goggins, of The Shield), and assorted baddies. Only a mild-mannered doctor (Topher Grace) stands out in this filthy crew.
For a while the movie coasts on a Lost vibe, as the wanderers debate why they’ve been dropped into this jungle. Could this be hell? But as they discover torn-up corpses and signs of alien life, they figure out they’re in for a variation on The Most Dangerous Game: somebody wants to hunt them.
Maybe I was just in the mood for a simple, straightforward action flick, because this nonsense went down perfectly easily for me. The strangers roam around the jungle, stumble across a non-alien survivor of an earlier hunting season, and fend off fearsome tusked dogs as we all await the arrival of those tall, dreadlocked fiends known as predators. Brody’s counter-intuitive casting works, and pungent supporting roles go to Danny Trejo, a Robert Rodriguez regular, and Lawrence Fishburne, who’s not part of the original crew but who makes the most of his whispering cameo role.
At some point I lost track of which predator was which (there’s some sort of hierarchy in this jungle), and what the meaning of various rites and totems was. But let’s face it, the basics are easy to grasp: run away from the predators, unless you find yourself with an old samurai sword or a newly-discovered cache of grenades handy. It doesn’t sound like much, but the premise can be flubbed (see Predator 2), so I’ll take this energetic rumble in the jungle. And if the ending can be believed, I’ll probably take the sequel, too.
August 12, 2022
Robert Horton is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.