Science Fiction is one of those genres that seems to ebb and flow over time. The late-1960s through the early-1980s, undoubtedly saw its unprecedented high point, with the explosion of such visionary films such as "Planet of the Apes", "2001", "Star Wars", "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Alien". Films that transported us to different places, introduced us to otherworldly beings, and portrayed the human race as perhaps not the smartest or strongest life forms in the universe. This is the essence of "Hunter Prey", the feature directorial debut of director Sandy Collora.
A team of futuristic, military commandos, transporting an alien prisoner, crash-land on a barren, hostile planet. A handful of the soldiers survive, along with the prisoner. Their orders; Bring it back alive. The military men have a lot technology and capabilities on their side while they hunt down their quarry, while the prisoner is left to his wits to elude them on this wasteland of a planet, which is mostly devoid of life. The cat and mouse game of these two characters, trying to outsmart one another, against a backdrop of interplanetary war, makes for an interesting film that cleverly, without exposition, paints a picture of a much larger universe, without actually showing it. Consequently, this is not an action movie. There's action in it that's exceptionally well shot, but there are no huge, epic battles, space dogfights or explosions that some might anticipate from watching the trailer, which doesn't quite represent it as what it truly is, which is a great looking, well written and directed character piece that showcases the storytelling ability and undeniable visual talents of this up and coming filmmaker.
The alien characters in the film seem somewhat understated, which in this case is a smart choice, letting the performances of the actors and the story, shine through. Cool aliens, armored costumes, spaceships and high tech hardware, matched with plenty of laser fire and explosions are the staple of any science fiction film worth its salt, especially with today's audiences, but the real key to the success of any good movie is the story, and this is the real gem of "Hunter Prey".
Shot in the Mexican desert in seventeen days, on a shoestring budget, the filmmakers utilized the red one camera system, resulting in an incredibly film-like, cinematic experience that was very well suited to the panoramas used all throughout the film. I didn't sense any of the "cold" feel of traditional digital productions, yet everything felt very detailed and polished. The director's choice not to tweak the colors, blow out the highlights, and follow the current stylistic trends of his contemporaries, is truly what sets this film apart and makes it unique. You won't find any quick cuts or shaky-cam shots to obscure both the physical nature and the psychological elements of the struggle between the two main characters."Hunter Prey" is pure, bold, no frills, film-making that doesn't rely on gimmicky camera tricks, flashy editing or millions of dollars worth of CG shots, to keep the audience engaged.
One of the most pronounced aspects of the picture is the use of dramatic landscape shots to underscore the utter desolation of the planet, the plight of the characters, and the fight for survival. The planet itself, becomes a character in the movie, complete with it's own voice and ominous, yet beautiful presence. The sweeping visuals of desert sands combined with rich orange-brown planets in the backgrounds are matched perfectly to the lush and wonderfully thematic, Goldsmithian score by emmy nominated composer, Christopher Hoag. It's been a long time since I've heard a film score this traditional and "Hunter Prey" is the perfect movie for it... Director and composer are in perfect sync here, resurrecting the orchestral language of late 60's and 70's sci-fi cinema, which is such a welcome breath of fresh air, opposed to the aloof, understated, electronic soundtracks of most contemporary, independent genre films.
The only real flaw in this movie, is the pacing. I'm not quite sure if the problem here is editorial or more a result of the limited budget, but after the opening scene, which establishes the characters and sets up the plot, the film meanders for a little bit, and I found myself getting antsy for more interaction. For the entire first act of the film, the commandos remain in their armored helmets, which there's a reason for cinematically, but it results in both hunter and prey not quite engaging each other yet on a personal level. However, this is where Collora's roots in art direction, production design and cinematography come to bear, as the scenes are beautifully dramatic and impactful, defining the landscapes and atmosphere, as the story continues to develop. Once the characters come into more visceral contact with each other in the opening of the second act, the pace starts to pick up, resulting in the film finding its rhythm and not letting up until the end.
This is a very ambitious movie. The filmmakers are really going for it here, swinging for the fences throughout every aspect of the process, attempting to make a movie that because of the budget and nature of its production, has really no right to be what it is. It succeeds on so many levels, and represents the very best of ultra low budget, independent, genre film-making. The acting is good, the production values are polished, the score is incredible, and the visual effects were tastefully done and not overbearing. There's a lot of talk going around AFM about this little film. I saw it digitally projected on a huge screen and it was stunning. "Hunter Prey" is a solid piece of work, from a filmmaker that I'm very excited to see more from in the near future. A comment I heard outside the theater after wards, pretty much says it all: "I can't wait to see what this guy does with a real budget".
Review by kaelsghost from the Internet Movie Database.