The Most Brutal Moments In Prey, Ranked

At its core, Dan Trachtenberg's "Prey" is about rites of passage. By extension, it's about the biases that inform those rites that are drawn across gender lines, racial divides, and between predators and prey. This makes the movie sound heady. It's not. For all its exquisite thematic resonance, "Prey" is still a movie in which the Predator turns men to mince meat and breaks a brown bear like Bane did Batman. It is gleefully, wincingly brutal.

That's fitting. The "Predator" movies — and the brutal violence they always contain — have been rites of passage for genre film fans since 1987. For seasoned viewers, they carry Olympic-level reverence. To young viewers, they may be a trial by fire. In both cases, violence is part of the franchise's appeal and at the heart of its art. The brutality on display in "Prey" is more than worth enduring. It makes you richer for having gone through it. Here are the most brutal moments in "Prey," ranked.

11. Naru finds a field of slaughtered bison

Brutality is defined as "savage physical violence" or "great cruelty." Given that, the haunting sequence in which Naru (Amber Midthunder) finds a field of slaughtered and skinned bison qualifies as brutal, even if the violence occurs off-screen. Naru and her dog, Sarii (Coco), are hunting the Predator when they discover the remnants of a herd cut down to their flesh, sinews exposed, and eyes still wide with fear. Rather than stack the sequence with a jump scare, director Dan Trachtenberg lets the after-effects of carnage linger onscreen and burrow their way into the audience's head. 

This is important for two reasons: First, it establishes Naru's deep and abiding respect for the creatures she hunts. It's clear the bison slaughter distresses her, and she makes a point to prey on them in the wake of the mindless violence. Second, the scene is a clever and necessary misdirection. Naru — and the audience — assume this act is the work of the Predator, last seen working his way up the Comanche Nation lands' food chain. Instead, it is revealed that the animals were murdered by a French hunting party who are just as ruthless in their aims as the film's alien antagonist.

10. The French hunting party uses Taabe for bait

Following a narrow escape from the Predator's clutches, Naru winds up in the hands of a boorish French hunting party. The Frenchmen strike her with a rifle before throwing her into a cage. Later, they scream at her and poke her incessantly. This would be brutal enough to make this "Brutal Moments" list if the additional dehumanization of Naru's brother, Taabe (Dakota Beavers) didn't immediately follow it. These moments are the epitome of unnecessary cruelty.

Then comes the cruelest blow of all. The Frenchmen have captured Taabe and plan to use Naru and him as bait. When we last saw Taabe, the Comanche were crowning him war chief. The French knock him to his knees and draw a blade across his chest, releasing a river of blood while howls leave his throat. Naru can only watch in pain. The Predator is undoubtedly the film's core villain but at this moment, this gang of colonizing bigots gives him a run for his money.

9. The circle of life

Most great movies subtly instruct their audiences on how to watch them. In its opening sequence, "Jurassic Park" shows us that the best preparations of man won't be enough to thwart nature (life finds a way). "Titanic" lays out the architecture of its setting in lavish detail so that it can be an identifiable hellscape later. One of the most brutal shots in "Prey" shows us exactly what the Predator's aims will be for the rest of the movie while doubling as a deranged world-establishing beat. 

At the film's 13-minute mark, a tiny ant crawls up the invisible Predator's leg. It is promptly eaten by a shrew. The creature munches happily until the camera swings around to reveal a rattlesnake staring down at the shrew. It swiftly swallows the shrew whole. As the shrew squeals, the snake slithers away. It hears the Predator and rattles its tail in warning, only to be gored by the Predator's blades. The Predator beheads and guts it.

"Prey" cements its monster's aims in this gonzo moment. It wants to hunt its way up the food chain and do so with swiftness. It wants to be at the top. For the audience, it's a nasty lesson learned quickly.

8. The Predator kills a bear

Anyone familiar with trailers for "Prey" knows that things don't end well for the film's majestic brown bear. The first teaser's money shot shows the bear, limp and beaten, getting hoisted into the air as Naru watches helplessly as thanks and horror dawn on her face. The odds of the bear surviving this moment are slim to none. However, that doesn't make the creature's slaughter any easier to watch.

It's not just that the brown bear gets sucker punched in the jaw by the Predator, its skull crashing into the dam where Naru is hiding, that makes this scene so brutal. And it's not simply that the limp body of the bear gets hoisted into the air in a dark air of triumph. It's that the Predator then cuts the bear's stomach open while it's in the air and the bear's blood spills out onto the Predator, revealing him fully for the first time. This moment alone makes "Prey" better than at least three of the Predator movies and proves that the film's trailer was well-cut. What seems like a visual spoiler is merely the aperitif to real destruction.

7. The Comanche hunting party attacks Naru

Sexism is a boiling undercurrent throughout "Prey." You keep wondering when the gendered ideas which constrain Naru (Amber Midthunder) to the role of tracker and healer are going to spill over and cause untoward chaos. The answer comes at the movie's midpoint when the Comanche hunting party (Stormee Kipp, Tymon Carter, Skye Pelletier, and Harlan Blayne Kytwayhat) find Naru and try to drag her home. Wasape (Kipp), their leader, dismisses Naru's warnings instantly. She storms off, and Wasape responds by trying to drag her home, only to get backhanded by her spinning attack. Wasape then grabs her head and smashes it into a tree. Limbs fly as the carnage unfolds in a bevy of close-up face punches, a knee into the nose bone, multiple bites which draw blood, and a suplex onto hard, exposed roots.

It's not that this attack is hard to watch so much as it's stomach-churningly unclear where it is headed. Dan Trachtenberg stages the violence in such a way that it feels like years worth of tension hitting a breaking point. Is the hunting party going to assault Naru? Will they leave her for dead? It's eventually clear, and that makes the skirmish incredibly brutal to sit through.

6. Tabbe's death

"Prey" succeeds on multiple levels. It's an excellent entry in "The Predator" franchise. Beyond that, it is one of the year's best horror films. However, it is also an excellent story about siblings. Naru and Tabbe come to understand each other, evolving from begrudging affection to respect and then admiration. Tabbe comes to understand that Naru sees what he can't. Naru learns that Tabbe is truly capable of being a leader — and she learns it in the worst possible way.

Having narrowly escaped the Predator when the French hunting party tries to use them as bait, the brother and sister duo make their way to the party's camp. There, Tabbe secures a horse while Naru (awesomely) dispatches the remaining explorers. Before long, though, the Predator shows up. Tabbe enjoys a breathless hero moment, teaming up with Naru and attacking the Predator from horseback, but their triumph is short-lived. When the Predator turns invisible, Naru's brother realizes he's done for. "This is as far as I go," he smiles mournfully. After encouraging Naru to run, a set of claws materializes and impales Tabbe .

The brutality in this scene is more of an emotional timbre than a visceral one, but that doesn't dull its power or lower its ranking. Of the many kills on this list, Tabbe's death is the most meaningful. In that sense, you could argue it is the most brutal moment "Prey" offers up by a mile.

5. Naru slays the French Hunting party

Naru proves herself a worthy warrior time and again during "Prey." She is a skilled tracker. Appropriately, she is fearful yet resolute in the face of danger. Even when the Comanche hunting party outnumbers, dismisses, and then attacks her, Naru doesn't waiver in her strength. It's little wonder she's made warrior chief by the movie's end. Yet, if there's any doubt in the audience's mind, her beatdown of the French hunting party erases it.

Before Tabbe meets his unfortunate end, he and Naru retreat to the hunting party's camp to acquire horses. Mid-infiltration, it is revealed that the hunting party has Naru's beloved dog and that one of the camp's residents is about to gut him. Naru leaps into action. She shatters the man's kneecap and uses his knife to stab another. Seconds later, she disarms a third assailant and sends his blade back into his throat. And the dual axes on strings Naru rigged up earlier? Those get used in an incredibly violent moment. 

Is this all brutal? Yes. It's meant to be. This is the moment in which Naru (and Amber Midthunder by extension) goes full-action movie star, and while that lowers its overall brutality ranking, it might be the movie's best moment.

4. Naru brings the Predator home

I refuse to spoil exactly how Naru defeats the Predator in "Prey." Even in an article with a spoiler alert, revealing the crux of Dan Trachtenberg's story would constitute an act of cruelty. Simply, in a film in which an alien lands on Earth to murder his way through the local food chain — and then does so ruthlessly — the brutality Naru employs is singularly hers. As Tabbe says, Naru sees things others can't. "Others" includes the Predator. Naru doesn't blind the Predator, but she preys upon his blind spots and beats him at his own game. 

The result is the film's goriest shot and one that offers the catharsis of an enemy defeated and an unforgettable display of viscera. When Naru screams in triumph, it's almost certain the audience is screaming with her, no matter how brutal the act they're celebrating is. And it is brutal. Naru's defeat of the Predator is not mean-spirited, and it is entirely necessary, but it carries a measure of cruelty. The Predator is not an animal she respects or will pray for. It's the thing that killed her brother of its own free will mid-colonization. It deserves a brutal death. Dan Trachtenberg helps the audience see the fine line Naru walks and then makes it feel great to watch her stick the landing. That's good filmmaking.

3. The Predator vs. the French hunting party

In "Prey," the French hunting party embodies the evils of colonization. Though the Predator also seeks to establish dominance over the animals and indigenous people of the Comanche land, he is efficient and direct in his aims. It's kill or be killed. The hunting party is interested in inflicting psychological damage on those they subjugate. They want to appropriate the land, its animals, and its residents. In their way, they're worse than the Predator. That makes them more than merely fresh meat for gory kills. What's delightful, then, is how emotionally satisfying and gory those kills are.

The French attempt to use Naru and Tabbe as bait to kill the Predator. Their plan goes as wrong as anything can. How wrong? A net that the Predator flings on a French hunting party member melts right through his organs. A set of claws rip through another's skull that the Predator then uses as a hinge to weaponize that person's dead body. This sequence stacks brutality on top of brutality. It's still too fun to earn the top spot, but the goods are there.

2. The Predator slaughters the Comanche hunting party

The Predator's attack on the Comanche hunting party, first hinted at in the "Prey" trailer, is when "Prey" flips a switch. Up until this moment, it's a genre hybrid that marries a sparse alien invasion thriller with a stark indigenous Western. When the hunting party battles the Predator, though, it becomes a classic Predator film. The action is clean and wince-inducing. The compositions are gritty but gorgeous. Most importantly, it's brutal to a degree that fully establishes the Predator as a threat that lingers in the audience's memory. If you wanted to know why this particular Predator belongs high up in the annals of those we've seen on screen, this scene is the reason.

First, the Predator scouts the party. Then, he exploits them at their weakest moment when they are down numbers and fighting amongst themselves. He takes out the leader with a well-placed tri-arrow shot through the chest and eyes (retrieving the arrows for good measure afterward). He dismembers another of the warriors and finishes the job with blades through the chest. Words describing the last kill would probably not be fit to print, but suffice it to say that the sequence reaches a dizzying conclusion that cements its place in "Predator" history.

1. The Predator's encounter with a wolf

Early on in "Prey," the Predator beats down, guts, and then vivisects a wolf before beheading it and melting its face down to its skull. If that makes you queasy, you probably don't want to read much more about it. You've probably read about the dodgy CGI in "Prey," especially in regard to animals, and people are being critical of it for good reason. 

The wolf in this sequence is primarily CGI, and at no point does it seem like a real beast. That's how brutal and effective this scene is. What could (and should) play like a "Mortal Kombat" fatality strikes a much more primal nerve. Despite its technical shortcomings, this scene is the definition of unguarded brutality — pure and simple. It's ugly. It's effective. Without a doubt, it is the most haunting moment in "Prey." It stays with you. That's what brutal cinema does.