[Article] Breathing New Life with the Predator in PREY
PREY l 20th Century Studios
Since its initial release in 1987, the Predator movies have gained a large, dedicated following and have spawned four other films as well as a crossover between Predators and Aliens from both franchises. In this latest film entry, PREY, director Dan Trachtenberg takes a new approach that breathes much-needed life into the overly masculine Predator franchise.

In PREY, which is set in the Comanche Nation 300 years prior to the original film, we meet Naru (Amber Midthunder), a fierce and highly skilled warrior. She has been raised in the shadow of some of the most legendary hunters who roam the Great Plains, so when danger threatens her camp, she sets out to protect her people. The prey she stalks, and ultimately confronts, turns out to be a highly evolved alien predator with a technically advanced arsenal, resulting in a vicious and terrifying showdown between the two adversaries.

Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings took part in the global press conference for PREY. Moderating the conference was Perri Nemiroff of Collider.com. Joining the conference was Amber Midthunder (“Naru”), Dakota Beavers (“Taabe”), director Dan Trachtenberg, and executive producer Jhane Myers.

It’s been six years since director Dan Trachtenberg came on the scene with his directorial debut, 10 Cloverfield Lane, a horror/thriller that exists within the same Universe as Matt Reeves’ found-footage film, Cloverfield. For his second feature, Trachtenberg takes on the Predator with a prequel set 300 years prior to the original 1987 film. Talking at length, Trachtenberg explained why it took so long for this project and why he chose PREY to be his second feature.

“It took this long to make this movie,” explained Trachtenberg. “I started developing this maybe a year after 10 Cloverfield Lane came out. [T]he last movie came out in theaters and then, the Fox-Disney merger happened. All of those things really delayed this from [starting]. But the main inspiration behind it was sort of a confluence of a couple things. One was really wanting to make a movie that was primarily action-driven, mainly told visually, but not wanting [it] to just be fun, just be a good time, [but] to wanna inject that with heart and emotion.

And so, the idea to pair the, like, engine of a sports movie, of an underdog story with an action movie was a part of the genesis of this. It became, like, well what if the story could focus on characters that normally are not the heroes of the movie that they’re in? The watching of the movie could be linked to the experience that the characters go through.

[T]hat led me down, I think, [to] remembering something from early in my childhood when I was not allowed to watch R-rated movies, and being in the minivan on the way to a karate tournament, and all of the sixth graders had just seen Predator. And I was not allowed to see it. And they described the entire movie to me on the trip to the karate tournament. And the one thing they said that really stuck with me was there was a fight on a bridge over a waterfall between Billy, the Native-American tracker, and the Predator.

I saw the movie eventually, years later, and that scene is not in the movie and I’d always wanted to see that. And then thinking about oh, we’ve seen a lot of movies that are focused on Arnold Schwarzenegger and that kind of hero. What if we focused a movie on a different kind of character? So all of that sort of swirled and came together into the genesis of this movie.”

Executive Producer Jhane Myers and Amber Midthunder as Naru in 20th Century Studios’ PREY, exclusively on Hulu. Photo by David Bukach. © 2022 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

With the film centered around characters from the Comanche Nation, it was important for there to be proper representation. In order to do so, the team brought on Comanche executive producer, Jhane Myers, who explained how they were able to make the film as historically accurate as possible.

“It was as historically accurate as we [could] get it,” explained Myers. “If you think about the time when this was, there weren’t a lot of photographs and some of the paintings that were out were kind of slighted, like, if somebody could only paint in one style.

[T]hat was amazing because it gave us a little bit of leeway. But being a traditional artist as well as a producer, and all my many [other] hats, I was able to really infuse it with all things Comanche. [W]hether it’s the designs, whether it’s the twisted fringe, whether it’s fighting styles, whether it’s language, you know, all of that just came together.

So for me, it was a dream. I mean, there will never probably be another project [like this] unless we do a sequel, Dan. [A] sequel to the prequel that would ever, you know, cross my path where I could use everything that I grew up learning.”

Now, in order to have a Predator movie one must have a Predator. Whether CGI or practical, the Predator’s design is nothing short of iconic. When speaking on the creation of this rendition of Predator, Trachtenberg went on to explain the process used to bring this creature to life.

“Most of it is practical,” stated Trachtenberg. “Some of it is CG. Frankly, I have a different point of view than I think most horror filmmakers, you know, and even fans. I’m not someone who thinks that CG is awful, and I fetishize practical visual effects and suit work and all those things.

I often feel pulled out of a movie by feeling like I see the man in that suit, as much as I’ve been pulled out of a movie [where] I feel the artifice in the digitally recreated creature or visual effect. I really wanted to combine both thoughts and mainly rely on the practical suit. But, use visual effects to enhance his calf muscles, and sometimes the hands are changed and sometimes we see the throat throbbing.

And those are things that fall short in just the build of the suit that I thought would bring real life to a creature we have seen already in previous Predator movies. It’s the reason why we nicknamed him Feral. I really wanted to feel that it was ferocious and alien and not a guy lumbering around in a suit, which sometimes can feel like that in other Predator films.

[T]hat was the main impetus to combine both schools of thought, which, I mean, a lot of filmmakers combine both practical and CG, but Predator has mainly, up until the last one where there was one creature that was entirely CG, has mainly relied on being a man in a suit. And I really wanted to combine both things for this movie.

PREY will be available on Hulu entirely in Comanche as a language option, or with Comanche subtitles, which is the first time a feature-length movie on a direct-to-consumer streaming platform has been available in the Comanche language in its entirety.

PREY premieres on August 5, 2022, on Hulu.

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