Review: Hunter, Prey (2009)

 

WARNING: POST MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS

I first came across the name of Sandy Collora a couple of years ago whilst browsing through You Tube. He’d directed a short called Batman: Dead End and I was really impressed. With virtually no money and a cast of unknowns he’d produced something that had just as much class as anything Christopher Nolan had done with the Batman franchise.

With Hunter, Prey he’s done it again. The plot is simple enough: a prison transport crash lands on an arid desert-like planet and the sole prisoner onboard has escaped, and since he has information vital to their races’ survival the three surviving guards have no choice but to go after him.

Collora clearly had a miniscule budget to work with here. You can tell by looking at the props the actors are using which look like they were either bought from a children’s store (the weapons are your basic sci-fi blaster pistols and rifles. The rifle props are modified NERF N-STRIKE Longshot CS-6 toy dart guns.) or were modified from real life objects (the costumes look like recycled N.F.L. uniforms and Boba Fett helmets) and by the fact that the movie was shot in Baha California, Mexico in a wide open desert area. This last part allowed Collora and his crew to create the sense of a hostile alien environment without having to spend too much, if any, money. Proper guerilla film making. In addition unlike so many of its contemporaries, this movies’ SFX budget was so small that Collora and co-writer Nick Damon had to make sure that the script worked.

As I’ve stated before, small independent movies don’t have the budget to dazzle the audience with special effects and so they are much more motivated and indeed, are required to ensure the plot has no holes, that the script holds up to scrutiny and that the actors deliver on their performances.

In this last part, Collora and his crew have succeeded remarkably. The cast consists of relative unknowns with Erin Grey (who plays the voice of Clea, a portable A.I.) being the only name I recognized. The rest of the five strong cast are Issac C. Singleton Jr. (Commander Karza), Clark Bartram (Jericho), Damion Poitier (Centauri 7) and Simon Potter (Logan).

The small size of the cast should again be a good indicator of the small size of the budget, but like John Carpenter before him (and I’m sure a great many other movie makers), Collora hasn’t let that get in the way. He’s accentuated the positive and hidden the negative as much as possible, focusing instead on simply telling the audience a good story which I fear is a skill that is slowly being lost in todays’ industry. This has helped elevate Hunter, Prey above its much better funded and advertised contemporaries.

I can’t go into too much detail as to the plot because, like all good stories, it has a few twists and surprises in it as well as some very convincing performances from Singleton and Bartram. What makes Hunter, Prey work is the drama between all of the characters. The guards argue amongst themselves as to why they should be breaking their backs in the unbearable heat of the desert world they’ve crashed on and the prisoner also begins playing mind games with them, slowly starting to turn the tables on his pursuers. Does he succeed? I’m not going to say, lest I spoil it for you.

Many reviewers have stated that Hunter, Prey is reminiscent of those 70’s sci-fi B movies that have since gone on to cult status such as, Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man and Capricorn One. Others have said that it’s the most original science fiction movie since Star Wars.

I think you’ll agree.

 

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