Prey is the newest entry in the Predator franchise, and despite the series’ having a terrible batting average, the new movie has put an end to the horror franchise’s losing streak, as it’s getting incredibly positive reviews. The Hulu-exclusive film has been in development for years, and it has seemingly been a passion project of director Dan Trachtenberg since 2016.
After six years of development and production, there are so many fascinating stories that led to the film’s release. And between being influenced by everything from the Star Wars prequels to God of War, Prey is the product of a masterful and visionary nerd.
While there are great characters in the prequel trilogy and everybody loves Darth Maul and pod racing, they aren’t all that beloved, or at least they weren’t when they were first released. However, they are currently being re-evaluated by fans and many are starting to see the positive aspects of the films, including Trachtenberg. But the director was extremely conscious of the prequels’ receptions while making a prequel of his own.
When thinking about the effects of the prequels, Trachtenberg commented, “Things were cleaner and newer, which made sense, but that also wasn’t the kind of thing that we loved looking at or that felt ‘Star Wars-y’ at the time. I don’t know, now we’re re-assessing that.” But given that Prey is getting rave reviews right off the bat, nobody is comparing it to the Star Wars prequels.
Trachtenberg loves video games, as he was a host on The Totally Rad Show, which reviewed video games, and he directed a short fan film based on Portal. It doesn’t come as a surprise that a few video games slipped into his stream of consciousness when working on Prey too, as Trachtenberg was influenced by God of War during the movie’s production.
The director mentioned in a tweet, “While God of War is getting new recognition for its PC release I will pile on that praise and point out— it’s had some influence on Prey.” Though the filmmaker doesn’t specify how the game impacted the new movie, they both follow survivalists fighting off highly powerful beings.
Skull was the movie’s title when it was first being reported on, but Trachtenberg claims it was always just a codename. A codename is used when a studio wants to keep a project a secret from the press, and given that this is a huge franchise movie, it’s not shocking that they used one. However, Skull isn’t that subtle of a codename, as Predators collect skulls as trophies, and the name makes just as much sense as Prey.
However, 20th Century knows what it’s doing when it comes to marketing, as the film has gotten so much hype despite being a Hulu exclusive and despite not having ‘Predator’ in the title. And, having Naru using the Predator’s green blood as warpaint on the poster is brilliant.
Though the filmmaker has directed a few episodes of The Boys and other series, Trachtenberg’s last movie was 10 Cloverfield Lane, which was released in 2016. As 10 Cloverfield Lane was such an accomplished directorial debut, it’s a shock that he hasn’t helmed anything since. However, in 2020 when the project was finally reported on, Trachtenberg revealed that he had been working on Prey for four years.
That means that it will have been six years at this point and that he would have been working on it while Shane Black was also hard at work on The Predator. But what’s confusing is that there was reportedly so much studio interference with Shane Black’s movie, while Trachtenberg has seemingly had so much creative freedom. Regardless, it’s amazing that working in an industry that’s full of leaks every day, nobody ever caught wind of Prey’s development.
Although Prey is set 300 years before the original Predator movie and there’s no connection between any of the characters, one specific character was a big influence on the new film. But, interestingly, Trachetneberg fell in love with Billy before he even saw the movie.
The director recalled a coach trip he was in third grade where he overheard older kids talking about the movie. Trachtenberg explained, “I vividly remember them saying there was this character, Billy, a Native American scout who fights the Predator on the bridge over a waterfall. That image captured my imagination.”
Predator reboots haven’t worked in the past, whether it was 2018’s The Predator or the almost-impossible-to-fail Alien vs. Predator. However, according to Gizmodo, Trachtenberg knew how to make Prey great, by making it as terrifying as the original. The director explained, “There’ve been great Predators, and there’ve been ones who are lacking, and it was important this one maintain the sense of dread and discovery that’s key to the character.”
It isn’t like directors of previous movies in the franchise didn’t try to make them scary, but it seems as if Trachtenberg accomplished his goal and then some. The movie has gotten an overwhelmingly positive reception and some are even calling it better than the original.
As Prey is set in the Comanche Nation in the 1700s, according to Slash Film, Trachtenberg and the studio weren’t entirely sure how to handle the language in the movie. The director almost went down the Hunt for Red October route, which sees Russians speaking Russian to establish who they are, and then switches to speaking English so it’s easier on the audience.
However, the director decided to give viewers the option, as both a Comanche language and English language version are available on Hulu. This meant Prey literally doubled its workload and the actors had to perform scenes in both Comanche and English.
Everybody has known that Prey is a Predator movie since before the first trailer was released, but that wasn’t the original plan. Trachtenberg wanted to release a trailer that was seemingly completely unrelated to the franchise and gave nothing away. Regarding the ideal trailer, the director explained, “Just the story of this Comanche girl who sets out to prove herself and ends up in the woods, and then sees a fire in the sky?” And that would be it. It wouldn’t have a title.”
The director added that he wanted to properly reveal that it was a Predator movie in a trailer that was attached to 2018’s The Predator. But that might have done more harm than good, as the release was so negatively received.
It seems like audiences weren’t the only people Trachtenberg left in the dark, as he even kept it a secret from the star of the movie during the audition process. The new movie stars Amber Midthunder, who has never led a movie, and Prey could be her big break. But when she was auditioning, Midthunder didn’t know it was for a Predator movie.
The actor explains, “All that I knew was that it was a film about a young Comanche woman who wanted to be a hunter and that Dan Trachtenberg was directing it.” The director built obstacle courses for Midthunder to navigate her way through in character, simply thinking it was some sort of historical epic.
Prey has clearly breathed fresh new life into what has been a stale franchise for decades, and it might have started a Predator revival. Trachtenberg himself has hinted at the possibility of more Predator films after Prey. The director noted, “There are a lot of exciting ideas for what could be next for the franchise. The things that most excite me are the boldest swings and I think there’s scope to do other things that haven’t been done before.”
Although Prey feels like a standalone movie in the franchise, it’s easy to see Trachtenberg working on a bunch of anthology movies, whether they take place in the past, present, or future.