The next alien movie should be inspired by Prey

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Prey is a brilliantly simple film. It takes the concept of the Predator, as established in John McTiernan’s 1987 film, and cleverly recontextualizes it in a new setting. This is not an origin story or an attempt to expand the mythology. It’s a simple movie about a Yautja hunter arriving on Earth and looking for worthy prey – in this case, a young Comanche healer-turned-hunter named Naru. It’s refreshing to watch a film based on an established series that doesn’t dwell on mythologizing what came before. The Predator exists on its own terms, rather than as a throwback to the original film, and the result is a creature as formidable and terrifying as it was when first introduced 35 years ago.

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In 1979, Ridley Scott made a landmark film with an equally simple premise. Alien was the story of Ellen Ripley, a woman trapped aboard a spaceship with her own deadly and ruthless alien hunter. But then the series got complicated. More aliens were introduced, the mythology deepened, and eventually, in Prometheus and Covenant, it became a grand, philosophical, period story about humanity’s place in the universe. As flawed and sometimes frustrating as these later movies are, I still enjoy them. But watching Prey makes it more apparent than ever that Alien desperately needs to follow a similar path, ditching baggage and getting back to basics.

I love the Alien mythology. Weyland-Yutani, the Engineers, David’s experiments, black goo, all that good stuff. But we’ve now reached a point where the series is so overloaded with high-profile lore that the clarity and simplicity of the original film has been lost. The next Alien movie should be like the first: a space slasher. I’d still love to see deep references to the larger universe – like the flintlock in Prey – but the story’s most pressing issue would have to be the alien itself. All I want is a single isolated location, a group of interesting characters, a lone xenomorph trying to kill them all, and a survivor who defies the odds and maybe finds a way to kill him. That’s really all an Alien story should be.

Prey works so well because it doesn’t feel like a movie based on a huge, recognizable blockbuster IP. Other than a reminder of Arnie’s famous “if it bleeds, we can kill it” line, it’s remarkably insensitive to the movies that came before it. This makes the Predator feel special again, not just another recognizable character pulled out of the vault to move Funko Pops. For most of the movie, he’s masked, silhouetted, or draped in shadow, which is much more effective than seeing this. Recent Alien movies show way too many xenomorphs, which is another thing future sequels could learn from Prey. A brief glimpse of a slaver jaw in Alien is infinitely scarier than the CG creature we saw crawling around in Covenant.

Prey also understands that it’s possible to resist the urge to explain absolutely everything. In Alien, the crew of the Nostromo have no idea where the xenomorph came from or why there was an abandoned ship full of eggs that crashed on a distant moon in deep space. There’s some speculation, but in general they’re too busy trying not to die to dwell on it. Likewise, Prey doesn’t spend time on where the Predator came from, what it is, or why its technology is so advanced, which is huge for a modern film based on an established series. Prey lets you fill in the blanks yourself, and that’s something Alien needs to come back to. Not knowing always has more impact than knowing, especially when it comes to horror.

With Prometheus and Covenant, Ridley Scott continued to make Alien bigger. He extended his mythology outwards, both in space and in time. He threw in religious symbolism and explored the fundamental nature of existence itself. Fair enough. Sometimes he did it brilliantly. But it’s crazy to think that it all grew out of a very basic story about a giant killer penis chasing people down the dark hallways of spaceships. At this point, Alien has grown enough. We know too much. It’s time to start telling smaller, more human stories in this universe again. Survival stories unrelated to sinister corporate conspiracies or the origins of mankind. As Prey so brilliantly proves, sometimes a scary monster is all you need.

Next: The Best Weapon In Alien: Isolation Is The Alien Himself

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