One man. One alien. One choice.
That’s the tag line for Hunter Prey, the latest project from Sandy Collora, idol to fanboys everywhere thanks to his 2003 short film, Batman: Dead End, believed by many to be the best fan film ever made. Well, after a long wait, he has finally made his first full-length feature film, and though it’s clearly hovering around the bottom rung of the budget ladder, there is much to admire here.
The film opens with a CGI shot of a planet. Something crashes toward the surface. Opening credits roll and we are on the surface of the planet, alongside the only four, soon to be three, survivors. There is a fifth survivor, we soon learn; an alien prisoner who was being transported and somehow caused the ship to crash. The other four…scratch that, by this time in the film it’s three, receive orders to capture the alien. Alive. And with that, the chase is on.
I must admit, for the first portion of the film I began to despair. It was starting to feel like I was going to be stuck watching ninety minutes of three, soon to be two, multi-colored Boba Fetts chasing a large Jawa across the surface of Tatooine.
Yes, I speak fanboy.
Around the thirty minute mark, however, there is a big twist that may come as a surprise to much of the audience. I am unable to judge because, having grown up on The Twilight Zone, I predicted it twenty minutes earlier.
Collora is clearly a huge fan of classic science fiction films and, I think, films in general. Almost everything in Hunter Prey is informed by his love of these films, and while much of it comes off as homage, the rest feels merely derivative. The costumes, for example: the crew doing the hunting are all wearing what appear to be Boba Fett costumes borrowed from some guys from the local SF convention, then given custom paint jobs. In fact, pretty much all the costumes, though competently made, look like something a fan at Comic-Con would be wearing. And also, why are they all wearing capes? If The Incredibles taught us nothing else, did it at least not warn us of the inherent dangers in such accoutrements? I must say, however, that the costumes and props all have a nice, used feel to them, like they’ve been through countless battles and not just out of a box from Mattel.
On the good side, Collora manages to stretch his budget to a heroic degree. He gets the most out of very minimal set pieces, relying, for example, on a couple plumes of smoke and some CGI wreckage in the distance to suggest the ship’s crash site. The camera work is excellent, though his love for panoramic shots of characters silhouetted on stony ridges against the sky begins to wear. The makeup work is also noteworthy. With many close-ups of faces covered in rubber applications, the illusion is maintained even upon close scrutiny.
As for the acting, the cast does well with what they’re given, especially since for a good portion of the film they’re wearing full helmets or masks. None of them are going to be appearing on Masterpiece Theatre anytime soon, but the acting is about on par with what you’d see in a good Xbox game, which works since that’s what Hunter Prey often feels like. While Collora is able to make the film look great, it suffers due to its uneven pacing and uninspired dialogue. The material they had would have probably made a kick ass twenty minute short, but the transition to feature length films has hamstrung him a bit. I do have a feeling, however, that these are issues Collora will work out with time and experience.
Hunter Prey is presented in 1.78:1 Widescreen, and looks great. The entire film is shot in the Mexican desert, and the film has a wide color palette full of rich tans and browns, and one of the bluest skies I’ve ever seen in a film. Images are crisp and clear throughout, with only a few occasional CGI items thrown onto the screen to ruin the wow-factor of the scenery.
Audio is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital, with an optional 2.0 Stereo track. Music and sound effects are uniformly good, blasting out of the speakers when appropriate while staying even and clear. Dialogue gets a bit annoying in the first act of the film, since all the dialogue is spoken by characters wearing face-covering helmets, which is trebly and often muffled. Imagine watching a film where all the characters sound like Imperial Stormtroopers. Before you know it, however, the helmets are off and the dialogue from that point on is clear and easy to follow.
There is a single commentary track featuring the director, Sandy Collora. The track does suffer from some of the self-indulgence that is so common with solo tracks, but there is also a great deal of insight into what goes in to making a low-budget feature.
Automatic Trailers: Across the Line: The Exodus of Charlie Wright, The Dry Land, Tropico de Sangre, The Kid: Chamaco, Chasing 3000
Making of (28:11): A pretty decent making of featurette entitled Creating Hunter Prey, this piece gives plenty of insight into almost every aspect of the film, following the creation process from the director’s original ideas to the final product, and everything in between.
Genre fans will likely be pleased with renting Hunter Prey, as well as fans of action/suspense movies. I don’t think it’s worth a purchase, though I must admit I look forward to seeing what Mr. Collora could do with a reasonable budget and an innovative script written by someone who isn’t Sandy Collora.