The word “prequel” makes my heart sink. So often it’s just a cynical means to squeeze a little more juice out of an already dead and desiccated franchise, or a reboot that paints a layer of self-referential irony over a much-loved original. But Prey is different. Directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), it’s a prequel to the Predator series that stays true to the essence of the original – stylishly violent, stickily graphic, impossibly tense – while also working satisfyingly as a self-contained entity.
The setting is the land of the Comanche nation, 300 years ago; the central character is Naru (the formidable Amber Midthunder), a warrior and expert tracker whose skills have been honed by a lifetime of close combat against the forces of the patriarchy. But ingrained sexism works in her favour: the assumption that as a woman she’s not a credible threat turns out to be her secret weapon. That and her self-invented elasticated axe device – think a murderous version of paddle ball.
There’s a feral majesty to the backdrop, which, with its wolves and pines and violent sunsets, looks like something that might have been airbrushed on to the side of a customised van – until it all gets covered in the blood and body parts of roughneck European settlers.