Prey, a prequel to the original Predator and the fifth standalone film of the franchise, will go down as one of summer 2022’s biggest, most-pleasant surprises. There hadn’t been a decent Predator film since the original … until now.

Another surprise: Prey didn’t get a theatrical release and is, instead, going straight-to-streaming via Hulu. That’s not a dig on this film’s quality; Hulu is making a push for exclusive feature-film content à la Netflix and HBO, and this movie is part of that movement. That might work, but producers missed a nice opportunity for an old-fashioned summer theatrical blockbuster, because this movie deserves a big-screen audience.

Either way, the film exists, and it’s good. A franchise that had dwindled to nothingness as far as anything compelling was concerned has been reborn.

The film is set in the early 1700s, as group of Comanche are going about their business, hunting and living peacefully before the American pioneer phase really takes off and fucks up their shit. A young woman named Naru (Amber Midthunder, crushing the role) is fighting for recognition as a hunter in her tribe—and fielding all sorts of antagonism from male tribe members.

Naru spies something streaking through the sky, and sees it as a mystical sign her time has come as a hunter. Unfortunately, that something is actually a Predator being dropped off by a ship for a little hunting expedition/vacation. That trek will include skinning snakes, wolves, bears and, yep, human beings.

Director Dan Trachtenberg, who piloted the very good 10 Cloverfield Lane, delivers mightily on the action front, with plenty of gore for the old-school Predator fans. Setting the film in a time period before automatic weapons is a masterstroke; perhaps Mr. Predator is sending data back to his ship about his prey, preparing them for the next hunting vacation on Earth.

Maybe this is the visit that resulted in the Schwarzenegger confrontation in the original film, with a Predator showing up for that movie with more advanced weaponry? Or maybe it was a different Earth visit much earlier, with Predators chasing cavemen and dinosaurs. Prey proves that the Predator franchise is now open to all kinds of storylines—and time periods.

As for the Predator itself, this one is more streamlined than past monsters, and its face is still super-ugly. It shreds human beings well, but, clearly, it has a few lessons to learn before its next human confrontation—and Naru does a nice job kicking its ass and teaching it some lessons about a human’s ability to fight back.

Prey is basically everything you would want in a Predator movie, and more. I’ll go ahead and say it’s the best Predator movie yet, a notch above the original, and much better than any of the previous sequels.

Prey will begin streaming on Hulu on Friday, Aug. 5

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