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Few shouts of visceral triumph pay off in the movies like the one Prey star Amber Midthunder (as Comanche warrior Naru) spontaneously unleashes at the Hulu film’s end, and for good reason: Shouting at the fallen, seemingly-invincible alien beast isn’t just a way to prove her worth to her pre-modern tribe; it’s the ultimate survivor’s cry of relief. After all, it took everything she had to bring the green-blooded fella down.
Viewers who streamed in droves to propel Prey to Hulu’s most-watched movie debut ever instinctively understood the film’s direct, kill-or-be-killed ties to Predator, the Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring 1987 classic that launched the wider Predator franchise. But Midthunder says not everyone knew what they were in for when the setup for the movie, directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane, The Boys), was first teased.
“I think a lot of people thought our movie would be some super-woke, F-the-patriarchy kind of a story,” Midthunder, herself a member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribe, recently told People. The actor cited early grumblings among some franchise fans that a female-led film — especially one set 300 years in the past and devoid of the rest of the franchise’s advanced 20th-Century weaponry — could tell a convincing tale of beating an extraterrestrial sport hunter who uses Earth’s hapless human landscape as its violent playground.
“It's not a girl defying what men say she can and can't do,” she said of the film’s premise. “It's literally an individual who feels called to something and the people who know her don't think that is her calling. That is so much more personal and, I think, as the character, harder to deal with than anything.”
Some fans’ misgivings ahead of Prey’s Aug. 5 debut targeted the idea that bows, arrows, traps, and improvised environmental aids could persuasively give a lone Native American warrior (with her very good dog lending a helpful paw) much of an advantage against a technology-enhanced alien killer. That, said the Legion and Roswell, New Mexico acting alum, is a big miscalculation of what the Comanche were actually capable of as fighters.
“People don't know a lot about native history. Period. So they don't know what kind of warriors we were,” she said, noting that the Comanche “were known for being some of the fiercest warriors of all. And they did have female-warrior society, so there were women that fought and hunted. So yeah, I think you look at that and you just [tell yourself], ‘Alright, whatever, people are always going to say stuff.’ I'm proud of what we did.”
As Naru, Midthunder’s character does face an uphill battle against some of the tribe’s males, who doubt her ability as a young, aspiring hunter and want her safe at home where her skills as a healer could be put to better use…or so they think. But Prey’s story doesn’t set up a social narrative that pits Naru against her own people; instead, it forces her out into wild nature to face a threat bigger than any beast the tribe has ever known.
In that sense, Prey has a ton in common with Schwarzenegger’s solo standoff in the original Predator. “If it bleeds, we can kill it,” says costar Dakota Beavers (as Naru’s brother Taabe) at one point in the film, invoking Schwarzenegger’s one-liner to highlight the survivalist DNA that’s come to define the franchise. “I feel really proud of our movie and I think Dan [Trachtenberg] is an incredible filmmaker,” Midthunder confessed. “He has made something that people can eat their words over.”
Prey, the newest installment in the hallowed Predator series, is streaming now at Hulu.
Looking for more horror in the meantime? Peacock has The Black Phone, Firestarter and more streaming right now.