Audiences are treated to a completely different, unique take on the Predator in Prey. We chat to director Dan Trachtenberg all about it.
It’s not easy to make a Predator film. Filmmakers such as Shane Black, Nimród Antal and Paul W. S. Anderson have tried and largely failed at bringing the ultimate hunter back on the silver screen.
Thank goodness for Dan Trachtenberg, whose new film Prey, a Predator prequel, will stream on Disney+ from Friday August 5. In our 4-star review, we called it “gnarly, vicious and bloody entertaining, this might be the best Predator film there is.”
We caught up with the director to talk about how iconic the Predator is and whether or not we should get excited about those unique end credits he put in his film.
The Predator is iconic in cinema and popular culture. Why do you think filmmakers, like yourself, keep going back to it?
As you just stated, it’s so iconic. I’ve worked on a number of things with creatures in them and whenever we’re designing, we look to what are the greats. And so often we’ve referenced something like Predator, not only for the creature design, but also for the way the movie functions. It’s a genre mashup and it was so formative at the time. All those things are reference points and touchdowns for when we’re working on other stuff. The opportunity to actually work on [Predator] itself is very exciting.
Doing creature design is very hard, because so much has been done. I was like, Oh, if I made something like Predator, I wouldn’t have to worry about that because it’s already awesome and it’s done for us.
Then, unfortunately, I had the ridiculous idea of wouldn’t it be cool if we changed it? So, we were back again, trying to design the creature so that it still felt super cool and unique, and not exactly what we’d seen before, but also, undeniably Predator. A long, long story short, it was a lot of fun.
We’ve seen the Predator so many times before. So did you go back to those films with Prey? Did you create ground rules or a list of things that you absolutely wanted to do and stuff that you absolutely wanted to avoid?
Yes, we went back to the films, [we] would watch a lot of lore videos, and go to the wikis and make sure for anything that I had not consumed, while growing up on Predator stuff in general, that I was up to snuff.
We were lucky, we worked with this team – ADI is the creature house, we’ve done so many other films – they build all the suits, but they also build the weapons. They had a little bit of a bible of past stuff that had been used in the films and stuff that hadn’t made it into the movies. Some of our stuff was based on ideas they had had at one point for some of the other films that just never made it in. They were a great asset.
What I really loved about the Predator here is not only the design, but how you approach it and how much you see of it before the full reveal. How did you approach that? How much did you want for the audience to see in maybe the first half of the film?
You can sort of describe it as both sides of the coin. On the one hand, we’re hiding it from the audience. So we don’t want them to see everything. On the other hand, we want them to see something. You need to give them something to sink their teeth into. That common phrase you hear horror filmmakers use like it’s all about what you don’t see, I’ve always found the opposite to be true.
I found Jaws is one of my favourite movies, not because we never see the shark but because we see the buoy moving and we see the leg floating down to the ground. Jurassic Park is so amazing because of how the T-Rex is teased. It’s not because we don’t see the T-Rex, it’s because we see that water cup jiggling.
I kept on trying to find those kinds of moments. What are the things that we can see in this movie that imply the Predator’s presence and imply what it’s doing so even in the scenes where he is kind of full on, there are beats where we don’t really see everything but a whole lot is implied.
And just lastly, very quickly, how much should we read into those very cool end credits that you’ve got in the film?
I agree, they’re super cool. They were made by seven Indigenous artists and a few of them are Comanche themselves. Making something that’s very traditional, coming together to make end credits unlike any other end credits sequence in a movie, where there’s actual storytelling happening inside them. There’s a new story unfolding. And yeah, I’m excited for people to be excited about what we teased in the credits.
Prey streams on Disney+ from August 5.