Written and directed by Thomas Sieben, and available to stream through Netflix from today, is the German adventure-thriller, Prey. The movie stars David Kross, Hanno Koffler, and Maria Ehrich, and tells the story of a group of friends who become the target of a mysterious sniper, while hiking in the wilderness.
In the movie, Roman, his brother, and their three friends set out on a hiking trip in a national park. The trip is being held as part of a bachelor party, with the whole group enjoying some time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
As the group reach the end of their hike, one of the friends is hit by a bullet. At first, they assume it is a stray shot from a nearby hunter, but they quickly change their minds when additional shots are fired in their direction and it becomes clear they are the intended target.
Heading back into the wilderness, the friends flee for their lives. They are now being hunted by an unseen shooter and their weekend getaway has become a fight for survival.
As you can see from what I’ve noted above, Prey has a very, very simple premise. The movie is built around five guys in some woods, being tracked by a hunter. There is a little more to it, but essentially this is how it all plays out.
The budget on this film is low, the cast is minimal, and the storyline is straightforward. It shouldn’t work as well as it does, and yet, this a suspenseful little thriller that is far more engaging than its premise would have you believe.
The reason Prey works so well, is because the movie finds ways to ramp up the tension and increase the danger level. This is done through very simple techniques, such as cutting the group off from the outside world, allowing internal angst to create disagreements amongst the friends, and by allowing the wilderness to engulf them.
The film also plays a blinder by revealing the identity of the hunter fairly early into the movie. Instead of remaining as a mysterious figure, the hunter steps into the light, is shown to be a cold-blooded killer, and one who will stop at nothing to finish the job they have started.
With just one rifle, the shooter is far more powerful than the five guys on the run, and this is how it remains for the majority of the movie. Sure, their identity could have remained a mystery, but like the shark in Jaws or Jason in the Friday the 13th movies, revealing the shooter to be an unwavering force brings much needed terror to proceedings.
This isn’t a frightening picture, but it certainly has creepy overtones, and those who like to feel a little unnerved will find little flourishes here and there. The whole emphasis of the film is on cold, bleak terror, with the landscape providing the perfect backdrop for this story to play out.
And although the woods are at times harsh and imposing, they are also beautiful. There are some mesmerising shots in this film – despite the fact this picture spends the majority of its time using its setting as an oppressive force.
But it’s the cast that become the real focus, and while they don’t have a great deal of dialogue, they bring a lot to the screen as they are run ragged through the trees. They convey a range of emotions, in a short timeframe, and keep things interesting as the story unspools.
Prey is nothing particularly new or original, and it won’t change your life, but it is a confident picture which knows how to tell a story. It continually finds ways to crank up the tension, resulting in a film that can hold an audiences’ attention for the duration of its 87-minute running time.
Had this movie run any longer, maybe it would have lost its focus, but it does exactly what it needs to do without overstepping the mark. If you are a fan of small-scale thrillers, or you want a short burst of adventure for your weekend, then Prey is a movie to take a look at.