I love films about things going horribly wrong while in the wilderness. Whether that’s monstrous beasts hunting you through a cave or people hunting through the woods after a wrong turn, this specific type of horror taps into a fear of being lost and being knocked down a few links in the food chain. That said, they tend to be formulaic in nature, with variances pushed by characters and antagonists. For that, the German Netflix Original Prey (2021) carves out a space for itself by flipping the script on who is the hunter and who is the hunted.
A survival thriller at its core, Prey is written and directed by Thomas Sieben. It stars David Kross, Hanno Koffler, Robert Finster, Yung Ngo, Klaus Steinbacher, and Maria Ehrich. In the film, a group of five men venture into a national park for a getaway. They’re traditional bros, talking about their partying, their friendships, and the like. That is until one of them ends up wounded from a hunting rifle bullet shot through the trees in what they believe is an accident. When they make it back to the car, it becomes clear that it’s anything but and a hunter in the woods has decided to make them prey.
Prey succeeds because it doesn’t let its character find safety. When cover is found, bullets shatter it. When they’re on the run, someone is wounded. Every step forward away from their hunter puts them at a bigger disadvantage. Without familiarity with the environment, the men find themselves at the mercy of a hidden sniper with unknown motives and a killer shot.
As the story unwinds and the group’s numbers shrink, Roman becomes one of the last survivors and is pushed to bear witness to the secrets that have led them to become prey in the first place. With a somber realization and a hunter looking to toy with their prey, the film’s final act unravels not only the truth behind the sniper but the truth between the characters as well.
While I want to praise the antagonist’s mostly silent performance, I have to be careful to avoid spoiling the film’s stunning turn. So, I’ll opt for this. The hunter is callous, cold, and methodical. Stalking prey through the forest methodically catching up to them like a slasher in the trees. The hunter pushes the men to their limits and picks them off one by one until forcing their hand and pulling out their truth.
Now, it has to be said that the dynamic between the men works extremely well, especially between brothers Roman and Albert. In the first act, it’s key to building a bridge between the audience and characters that lends to the impact once the bullets start flying. And in the final act, it’s the drama that sets up the ending so effortlessly. Secrets between brothers always work to set up a painful ending.
But even with their great performances, the hunter’s is the one that makes Prey truly special. It’s the unwavering brutality and skill that makes the hunter stick out, especially because their unassuming presence causes no red flags.
Overall, Prey (2021) is a must-watch survival film that will make you look around for a sniper in the trees. From betrayal to tragic accidents, there is a weight to Prey that just works, with its antagonist adding the right amount of twist to surprise viewers.
Prey (2021) is streaming now, exclusively on Netflix.
Overall, Prey is a must-watch survival film that will make you look around for a sniper in the trees. From betrayal to tragic accidents, there is a weight to Prey that just works, with its antagonist adding the right amount of twist to surprise viewers.