Hunter Prey (2010)

A military spaceship makes an emergency landing on a desert planet. The prisoner that was onboard escapes, and the surviving crew sets out to recapture him. The hunt does not go as planned, though, and to make matters worse a bounty hunter is after the prisoner, too.

An entertaining and good-looking low-budget movie is not easy to pull off, especially in the Science Fiction genre. Many recent movies in this budget segment were not overly creative, and just relied on costumed people standing in front of green screens, that were displaying an overabundance of cheap CGI. Hunter Prey avoided these pitfalls by trimming its setting down to its absolute minimum. The movie completely relies on atmosphere, camerawork and dialogues, all of which in the hands of talented people don’t require a lot of money to be good.

The story is simple, a cat and mouse game where the tables are turned a couple of times. There are some twists which keeps things interesting, but the movie will not win an award for its script. Yet I think the plot is as good as it can get for a movie with the narrow scope of people chasing each other through the desert. I never felt bored, and the exchanges between the handful of characters were quite entertaining for the most part.

According to imdb, the movie was shot with a budget of 400k USD. The only visible hardware that was created from this money were costumes, weapons, and the make-up for the aliens. The props have a definite old-school charm to them, but are creatively put together with a lot of attention to detail. CGI special effects are used sparsely, and never look cheap. The action scenes are low-key, but competently shot, and fit well into the overall narrative. What pushes Hunter Prey way above average, though, is its cinematography, and especially the use of natural lighting. There’s plenty of great camera angles, and many panoramic shots where the characters are dwarfed against the desert or mountain ranges. Many scenes seem to have been filmed against a rising or setting sun, which gives them an epic flair.

So far this is the only full-length movie from director and writer Sandy Collora. I believe he showed incredible talent with Hunter Prey, and hope he gets another opportunity in the future to display it again. Who knows, maybe the creators of the new Star Wars series The Mandalorian took some inspiration from Hunter Prey‘s setting. The Mandalorian also showed that if one strips Star Wars from most of its special effects and gimmicks, a great story can still remain.

I had more fun watching Hunter Prey than with many blockbuster Sci-Fi turkeys from the last years. The movie is a great throwback to the basics of old school Sci-Fi cinema, a minimalist, yet gripping effort, and should serve as an inspiration for low-budget film-makers in this genre.

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