This Predator Movie Is One Of The Greatest Films Of All Time, For One Huge Reason
Opinion Editor and animal lover Michileen Martin argues one of the many reasons Prey is a magnificent film is that, against all odds, the dog lives.
I am far from the first person to sing the praises of Prey, last year’s streaming entry to the Predator franchise. The Hulu film turns the clock back to the early 18th century and sends the Predator to the Great Plains, where a young Comanche woman and her dog Sarii prove to be the only ones capable of defeating the alien hunter. As soon as the end credits rolled, Prey became one of my favorite films of all time, simply because — along with all the other reasons critics showered Prey with praise — the dog didn’t die.
I’m not joking and I’m not exaggerating. As soon as my girlfriend and I started watching the Predator film and Naru’s (Amber Midthunder) companion dog showed up, my girlfriend said “awwww” while I groaned: not because I don’t love dogs (of course I do, I’m not a monster), but because I knew that, without a doubt, it was going to die. The only question was whether it would be relatively quick, or if the director would go full-blown gorefest and have the Predator rip the thing apart with his bare hands.
Every time Sarii (whose real name is Coco) showed up on screen, I braced myself, and if things started looking dangerous I would mutter, “no no no.” When the hour and forty minutes was up with the Predator ending the lives of plenty of Frenchmen and Comanche but with the dog alive and well, everything in me unwound.
If the movie has anything to do with horror, action, or adventure and a dog shows up, its days are numbered. Directors know they can kill off plenty of faceless human characters in their movies without hurting the audience too deeply, but take out a single dog and that hits a lot differently.
Back in the early ’00s I was in a college class watching the first half of the 1999 Japanese horror movie Audition. The brief shot that showed Shigeharu’s dog dead on the floor — killed by Asami (Eihi Shiina) — was the only one that inspired everyone in the room to “awww.” Meanwhile scenes of Asami torturing the widower Shigeharu (Ryo Ishibashi) elicited nothing but laughter.
Whether it’s the brave Samantha in I Am Legend, the Sioux’s loyal guard dogs in Dances with Wolves, the adorable Daisy in John Wick, or any other of hundreds of examples, the deaths of dogs in TV and film hit us hard and I’m tired of directors and writers using those deaths to catch us in the feels. It’s easy, it’s predictable, and — call me a snowflake all you want — too often it’s traumatizing.
So when Dan Trachtenberg made a predator movie with a dog all through the thing and it actually lives? Oscar-worthy. Just invent an Oscar for “Best Surviving Dog,” and give it to Prey.
In spite of all the old movies my parents roped me into watching, the only John Wayne flick I remember at all is 1971’s Big Jake and I only remember it because it’s the first movie I remember making me angry. Wayne’s character has a small army of younger brothers whose age range frankly seems impossible, and the youngest one is kidnapped by the bad guys. Wayne and all of his younger brothers save the youngest, but in the process the dog gets killed.
When the movie ended, as John Wayne and all of his dumb younger brothers walked toward the screen laughing, I thought, “what are you all happy about — the dog died!!!!!!”
I know I’m not alone in hating this tired and hurtful trope. I’ve known people to begin crying just at the mention of I Am Legend, and no it isn’t Will Smith‘s character’s death they’re mourning. So many people can’t stand the canine casualties that the website DoesTheDogDie exists just so you can know beforehand whether or not Predator or another villain is going to take out the dog.
Hollywood: make more movies like Prey. Pretend kill people, don’t pretend kill dogs.