Prey could very well be the best episode of the Predator franchise. He is certainly widely acclaimed for supporting this argument. It reinvents the franchise, setting the Predator in 1700s America, which transforms the film from just another action flick into something of a period piece.
The film follows a Comanche warrior named Naru, played by Amber Midthunder (Banshee, Hell or High Water), a relatively unknown actress universally praised for her performance, as she risks her life and physical integrity to stop the Predator from slaughtering her tribe. Although Predators have always had an edge in their battles, given their advanced and effective alien weaponry and technology, no film has had a greater gap between Predator and prey. Nevertheless, armed only with a throwing axe, Naru bravely confronts the gargantuan alien.
She does, however, have a secret weapon – an American dingo named Sarii. Her canine companion proves to be an excellent ally in the fight against the predator, and audiences spend the vast majority of the film desperately hoping that Sarii will manage to survive her alien encounter.
Here’s why Sarii, real name Coco, is stealing the show in Prey.
Coco is a natural born with no cinematic experience before Prey
Coco/Sarii is an American dingo, also known as the Carolina Dog. This breed of dog has ancient origins, which made them the perfect choice to include in a 1700s film. They are direct descendants of the primitive canines that accompanied early humans across the land bridge between Asia and North America. Although the breed has become fully domesticated, Carolina wild dogs are still found in the southeastern United States. However, their range extends across the southern United States, which would reasonably place them in Comanche territory. The proud lineage of this dog breed seems to show in Sarii’s performance, as she passes the film proud and tall in the face of danger.
It can be very difficult to use live animals in film production. There are, of course, many laws regarding the proper way to treat animal actors, but beyond ethical considerations, trying to patiently persuade a live animal to perform on camera can be difficult. Even well-trained animals can cause production problems, making it all the more surprising that Coco, who was Sarii’s real name at the time of adoption, had no acting experience before she was ” cast” in Prey.
Before becoming a big animal actor, Coco lived in a Fulton County animal shelter. Using a rescue animal in a feature film is almost unthinkable. Most of the animals that appear on screen have been trained and, in some cases, bred to be performers for most of their lives. Nonetheless, Coco puts on an impressive performance as Sarii, made even more impressive by the fact that she follows Naru for vast swathes of the film. Hopefully Coco’s success will encourage other filmmakers to feature rescue dogs in their projects.
American dingoes, while quite intelligent, are not necessarily known for having a calm temperament. Apparently, Coco’s exuberant antics caused quite a bit of trouble on set. Still, the film’s creators (director Dan Trachtenberg and screenwriter Patrick Aison) kept giving him extra screen time, which turned out to be a great decision.
Sarii is a fearless warrior like Naru
While including a dog is an easy way to enhance any entertainment, Sarii wasn’t just a superfluous addition to the film. Through Prey, Sarii has proven her worth time and time again. At several points in the film, Naru finds herself on the brink of death, only to be saved by Sarii’s last-minute action. Early on, Naru comes face to face with a grizzly bear. Without hesitation, Sarii flees the other way, taking the bear away from Naru and presumably saving his life.
Near the end of the film, Naru prepares a series of traps for a climactic battle with the Predator. Although her clever traps are largely successful, she always ends up moments away from death. Just when it looks like Naru will become another victim of the Predator, Sarii bites the alien, momentarily distracting him. Later, Sarii grabs Naru’s throwing axe, which she in turn uses to wound the Predator.
Preyunlike previous installments in the Predator franchise, was made as a Hulu Original Movie and never had a proper theatrical release, much to the chagrin of many moviegoers. However, the film undoubtedly breathed life into the decades-old franchise. The action is heart-pounding and the performances are spot-on, though no performance is as impressive as Coco the Carolina Dog’s.
The Predator may be armed to the teeth (or rather, the mandibles) with futuristic technology, but nothing in the alien’s arsenal can compare to the bravery of man’s best friend.