If it bleeds, you can kill it.
It’s a lesson Arnold Schwarzenegger learned 35 years ago in the sci-fi action movie classic. Predator. Now a young First Nations woman must learn the same lesson when she faces a different Predator in the forests of the Comanche Nation in 1719.
In PreyThe latest entry in the Predator franchise directed by Dan Trachtenberg and streaming on Hulu, Naru (Amber Midthunder) is an aspiring hunter who faces off against a formidable alien assassin known simply as “The Predator” (played in disguise by Dane DiLiegro).
Instead of the military rifles and explosives seen so often in the series, Naru has little more than tomahawks and arrows, making her a very different action hero from what we usually see in the Predator franchise. Naru is a total badass in her own right as she studies the Predator’s advanced tools and uses them to fight her adversary.
In a critical scene at the end, Naru gains the upper hand by breaking a Comanche tradition. Most viewers probably won’t realize it, but the moment actually has significant meaning to anyone familiar with Comanche superstitions.
Warning: spoilers for Prey ahead.
The path of a warrior
Naru is eager to prove herself as a hunter to her village despite the sexist assumption that a young woman cannot take on that role in her community. “She repeatedly hears voices of people telling her that she should be somewhere else,” says Midthunder. Reverse. “He has this instinct and a strong desire to be where people tell him not to go. The more she hears ‘no’, the more she wants to try ‘yes’”.
Midthunder compares Naru to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Dutchman from Predator, saying they are “driven by instinct” and natural leaders. “I think what’s cool is the duality of how the biggest story points tie together,” observes Midthunder.
She says Reverse he kept a Schwarzenegger Funko toy during filming for good luck. “I was given an Arnold Schwarzenegger Pop bobblehead, his character in the mud, on my first day on the job,” says Midthunder. “I had it with me every day in my trailer, in my hotel room. I’d look at it like, ‘You and me, dude.’”
“It has a direct relationship with the original. Predator”, says director Dan Trachtenberg. Reverse. “I’ve seen that movie so many times that I hardly needed to see it again, but I certainly did. We had it on a hard drive and we dissected certain points and got really inspired.”
The director notes that Naru “does the same journey” as Dutch. As such, Prey it seems Predator in poetic and sometimes literal ways. “In trying to resolve the same narrative and dramatic issues, we end up in similar places,” says Trachtenberg. “That’s what brings them together, aside from the obvious things we were looking to get into the movie.”
There were times when even Trachtenberg did not know that he was following Predator closely. “So many things in this movie ended up being a correlation event when it was unintentional,” she says.
In the middle of Preya “mud pit sequence” mirrors another scene from Predator what Trachtenberg says was an unintentional parallel. While filming another scene set in a field of tall grass, Trachtenberg gave a note that resulted in a moment bearing a strong resemblance to Predator.
“I reached out after the first take and said, ‘Maybe I’ll do a little shh.’ We did one take and it was amazing. I turned to the DP [director of photography] next to me and I was like, ‘This feels familiar. Where am I going to steal this? She looks at me and says: ‘Predator.’ And I was like, oh yeah. Are you okay.”
While action movie stars often talk about their training for their physically intense roles, things were a little different for Prey.
“We had a four-week training camp,” says Midthunder. It was me and all the guys. It was weapons training, like Comanche archery, spears and knives. I had the tomahawk. It was important that everyone be as precise in the representation [of Comanche warfare] as possible.”
Part of the training included learning a hybrid sign language created especially for the film. “We created a sign language,” says Midthunder. “We used real Comanche sign language and also developed our own for the film.”
Producer Jhane Myers, an American Comanche and Blackfeet film and television producer, says the production worked with Kevin Starblanket, a First Nations member with a background in military, police and survival tactics. “We created a native tactical sign language with Kevin,” explains Myers. “Even in his spare time [the cast] they would go down to the river and use it to talk to each other. They became competent. That gave it a lot of authenticity.”
“We don’t have many written records of how they operated at the time,” says Trachtenberg. “So we rely on his survival instincts and knowing what he knows about war and culture. That inspired the way [the characters] united with each other.”
Trachtenberg recalls a specific moment during pre-production: “Jane and Kevin sat me down in the training facility that was covered with cardboard boxes that represented trees. We were just having a conversation. In the middle of the conversation, the whole tribe shot up and pointed bows and arrows at me. Then he showed me the video of what was happening. They started at the back of the room and crept up to the front towards me. It was really amazing.”
what does the whistle mean
all the way Prey it seems Predator, there is one thing Naru does that never occurred to Dutch: Short long spoilers, Naru finds a way to lure the Predator as a means of getting close and stealing his helmet. He later uses the helmet to wield the Predator’s weapons against him.
For the Predator to show his vulnerable side, killing a trapped French colonist, Naru whistles into the night to call out to him.
For most audiences, it’s a great sign, if also a strange one. But for Myers, it’s a cultural “Easter egg” that has made native audiences freak out (in a good way). “I wanted to leave some native things that would appeal to natives, and not all,” says Myers. Reverse.
She explains that in Comanche tradition it is forbidden to whistle at night. “We don’t whistle at night, because they tell you it calls the spirits,” she says. But in the scene, the Predator becomes such a spirit, at least symbolically.
“She says, ‘I don’t even care!’ She has that French trapper as bait saying, ‘I’m going to kill you!’” Myers explains. “She just saw her brother get killed, so she goes all out. She whistles at night. The natives are like, ‘Whoa.’ because that means that she is calling him, and behold, he comes.”
Prey is now streaming on Hulu.