Directed by Sandy Collora
Available Now on DVD
It’s been a while since we’ve done a movie review here at Infinite Hollywood, but that’s a trend I hope to buck in the new year. The film we’re looking at today is a low budget science fiction movie that just saw it’s DVD release a couple months back. Hunter Prey is from director Sandy Collora and although you may not know the name, you’ve probably seen at least one piece of his work. Collora is most famous for Batman: Dead End, the short film that’s been a hit with fanboys and cinefiles alike for some time.
Batman: Dead End has it’s problems but managed to have the single best Joker ever put on film in my opinion, despite the limited nature of his appearance. Collora has done a few other of these small features, including World’s Finest. Without getting too much into my thoughts on those little films, Sandy is without a doubt “one of us”. He’s living the dream (perhaps the nightmare at times) and he still loves toys. He’s a big Mego maniac and generally a cool dude. That’s not something you can say about most directors out there.
Hunter Prey is to my knowledge, his first feature length film and is a sci-fi story with a pretty basic premise. The crew of the Prometheus crash land on an unknown planet in route to transfer a prisoner. In the crash, all hell breaks loose and the prisoner escapes, killing several of the crew in the process. As the crew try to get rescued they must reacquire the prisoner and keep him alive. A cat and mouse game begins between the remaining members of the Prometheus and their alien captive. As we learn later in the film, the prisoner has information that could lead to the destruction of the entire world, which is why his safety is so important.
The movie has several twists, which I won’t spoil here. The best one comes about 30 minutes into the film and changes the entire pace of the movie. I hesitate to say that it makes the film uneven, but it definitely blurs the line of who is a good guy and who is the bad guy. The prisoner and Centauri 7 (the toughest member of the Prometheus crew and a dead ringer for a NeoSapien from Exo-Squad) do battle with wits, skill and intestinal fortitude. Who is really the Hunter and who is the Prey?
Throughout it all, the special effects and costumes are quite well done. We get some Boba Fett/Clone Trooper inspired costumes and one set of clothes even reminded me of Logan’s Run. It never feels “low budget” in the traditional way that low budget movies can. Instead the budget is restrained by having one set throughout 99% of the film (a desert) and a very small cast count. Your appreciation of the film will hinge on these two things. There is a certain repetitive nature with the characters sort of chasing each other around the desert planet with no real end destination. We’re just waiting for them to capture one another and for the rescue shuttle to come and pick them up.
That would probably be my main problem with the special effects. We see a moon or another planet superimposed on the landscape background over and over. This was a neat trick in Star Wars and I appreciated it here, but it’s overused. By the 15th time I’ve seen it, I’m annoyed. Obviously they were put there to let us know that this was an alien planet and not Earth, but it was a tad overused.
Collora is smart for the most part however and uses the introduction of new characters and elements at the exact moment where you start to get bored. Because of the limited budget, the pacing is stretched, but I think he manages to introduce just the right spice to kick things up. I did find the ending a bit contrived and the last 15 minutes or so I wasn’t as interested in these characters anymore.
Ultimately I think some of that can be blamed on the script as the constant flip flopping between who is the hero and who is the villain. We’re never given a clear cut bad guy and I think that takes away from the finale. Without spoiling too much, we’re sort of told that one faction is bad, but it’s only vaguely hinted at. Perhaps had the film focused a little less on creating anti-heroes and twists, it would have been more successful.
This movie has no “stars”. The most famous two people in the film, we never see. Isaac C. Singleton Jr. has been in many movies and you’d probably recognize him as “that guy” if you saw his face, but his small part is obscured by makeup effects here. The other known actor is Erin Gray, who has been in everything from Silver Spoons to playing Wilma Deering in Buck Rogers. She is simply the voice of a computer program Clea, which has an important role in the plot of the film.
Honestly, it’s probably for the better that we don’t see them. Singleton’s character is flat and unrealistic and when he’s removed from the plot, it’s better. Clea herself I found particularly annoying and I think that subplot was more of an unnecessary burden than a delightful treat. Despite these minor issues, the movie is good and definitely worth a rental. Of course buying the film would be a great service to independent filmmakers everywhere, but I digress.
This movie is good, not great, and if you liked 80’s-90’s low budget sci-fi, you’ll likely find yourself right at home. It’s got a certain charm and knows it’s limitations. I can say this for certain, it’s a hundred million times better than any movie that the SyFy (Sci-Fi) channel has churned out in the last decade or more. Granted that’s not a high bar to set, but it seems that most low budget sci-fi these days is on that level. This far exceeds that drek and if you liked movies like Arena (1989), Robot Jox or Robot Wars, you’ll probably enjoy this.
I came into this movie with an understanding of what it would be about, it’s budget limitations and a good impression of the director. I’m certain that makes me slightly biased, but my thoughts on the film are still pretty unhampered. I should mention though, that my GF tried to watch the movie and fell asleep about 20 minutes in. The first 10 minutes or so of the film are a bit slow. She also told me she didn’t like it. She didn’t see most of it, but she didn’t like it. Of course, I think she was biased as well, because once I told her that the movie was from a guy on one of my toy forums, she lost interest.
I’d be lying if I told you this was the perfect low budget sci-fi thriller. It’s not, but it’s not just a rehash of Enemy Mine as some has dismissed it. It gets a decent recommendation from me. It’s not a big budget adventure, but it’s small scale done reasonably right. If nothing else check it out on Netflix when you run out of stuff to watch. I’ve killed an hour and half watching worse stuff.