I am a sucker for any new horror movie that happens to crop up on Netflix at any given time, even more so if it lands in the top ten, meaning someone must be interested in it. This week, I found Netflix’s Prey hovering in the most-watched list, a German film about five men stalked in the woods by an unknown party.
It’s short, barely 90 minutes, but by the time I finished it, I felt like I wanted that short window of time back. I could have re-watched three Ted Lassos.
The main problem with Prey is conceptual, in that it sets up a horror situation that seems fundamentally pointless, with the fate of the men at hand mostly predetermined without any real recourse for their pursuer.
The men are at a bachelor party and then after a long hike return to their car. Someone starts shooting at them from a distance, winging one of them in the arm, but soon they realize it wasn’t a hunting accident, and someone is actually coming after them.
The film then spirals in a boring mess of trudging through the woods, sprained ankles and wet shoes, when at any given moment, their stalked could simply pop any of them with a rifle shot. And once you realize the “why” of all this, it doesn’t really help matters.
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Eventually, we learn that it’s a woman doing the stalking, but one with no connection to any of them. Rather, we eventually learn that her daughter was killed by drunk hunters in an accident, and now she’s apparently lost her mind and is going after these guys because they are…guys? In the woods? That’s pretty much it.
But it’s also some sort of weird game. At one moment, she had three of them men held at gunpoint, and could kill them all. Instead, she lets them run. Later, she hunts down one of the same men she just released, and shoots him in various joints in the middle of the road before executing him.
“Why does it have to make sense” one of the men says, as all this unfolds at one point. I suppose it doesn’t, as “grief makes woman murderous” means she can kind of just do whatever she wants. But it also doesn’t make for a terribly compelling storyline as you’re just sitting around waiting for shots to fly through the woods and end someone at a given moment. There’s no coherent plan to fight back, there’s no outsmarting her. Just a lot of running and hiding and the guys fighting among themselves for unrelated nonsense (at one point we learn the main character’s brother has slept with his fiancée).
None of this works. People being hunted in the woods is a horror concept as old as time, and yet in Prey, it simply doesn’t deliver on any level, unfortunately.