Denis Villeneuve's Sicario Played A Key Role In The Making Of Prey

A return to form for the "Predator" franchise, "Prey" did a tremendous job of elevating the original concept to new and improved heights. The subversive prequel manages to be a bloody ode to the first film while packing a ferocious punch that sets itself apart from other entries in the franchise. Moreover, "Prey" blends horror and action through its gruesome visuals and bone-chilling sound, bound together with an epic, adventurous musical score by Sarah Schachner. The composition is not only a deviation from other creature features in the genre, but it came about after director Dan Trachtenberg and composer Schachner realized the "Prey" needed to move away from contemporary movie scores.

One film in particular served as the initial inspiration for musical bits of the latest "Predator" flick. According to the director, Jóhann Jóhannsson's score for Denis Villeneuve's "Sicario" was used as temporary music during the editing process for "Prey." Jóhannsson's atmospheric, moody score is phenomenal in its own right; however, when it became evident the essence of "Sicario" did not fit the tone of their film, Trachtenberg and Schachner shifted gears.

Giving horror a new sound

Speaking to Bloody Disgusting, Trachtenberg details how their mindset evolved throughout the scoring process:

"... one of my favorite things about this movie is that we have such a beautiful score. It's funny because we started out temping the movie with a lot of 'Sicario.' And many of my conversations early on with Sarah were oriented toward making things atmospheric, moody, and drone-y, a lot of what is in contemporary movie scores. Then as we continued in the process, the movie started demanding that it have something different."

The almost oppressive nature of the "Sicario" score works well within the context of its own film, contributing to a sense of doom that feels palpable as the movie progresses. But the strangely inspiring nature of the events of "Prey" dictated a more old-fashioned score. The final product not only delivers on a grand scale, but also ties in the instantly-recognizable theme of the original film. Trachtenberg elaborates:

"The fact that we now have, I think, a great old-fashioned epic adventure score mixed with some of the other more atmospheric things and a rehashing of the Predator theme used for the Predator itself — which is like the Predator now sonically announcing, 'Predator movie is coming, Predator movie is coming' — I think it's absolutely tremendous."

The tone of Schachner's work in "Prey" speaks to the genre-defying ambitions of the film. While an alien warrior shreds through the blood and guts of its prey, a young hunter earns her place among the most fierce members of her tribe. The exhilarating score helps underline the story's concentration on action over horror, and crescendoes as Naru completes her character arc in a satisfying fashion. Of course, the callbacks to the "Predator" serve as the cherry on top — a commemoration of what came before it.

Setting the tone

The intimate story of Naru's journey is the driving force of the film, tied closely to the Predator's deadly mission on Earth. As the movie holds its cards close to the vest until the alien's presence is fully revealed to the protagonists and the audience, the film builds anticipation while developing its core hero, leading to a bombastic finale befitting of an "epic adventure score." In an interview with GamesRadar, Trachtenberg emphasized the importance of setting the stage thematically before the Predator is introduced:

"We were really clear that we wanted the movie to already feel dramatic and compelling before the Predator even gets involved in the story. Then when the Predator does show up, it doesn't switch gears, it only enhances, because the way that the Predator hunts really connects to the theme of this movie – it's a creature that's looking for the Alpha, looking for who's on top, and her not really being counted among them is a huge part of it."

The collision of Naru and the Predator speaks to the dramatic weight the overarching theme has on the narrative. "Prey" focuses on the personal stakes of the hero to create tension, and despite the high body count, the film is triumphant at its core. Instead of amplifying the darkness of the tale, as Jóhannsson's bombastic tunes did in "Sicario, "Prey" boasts a powerful, old-fashioned musical score to elevate its hero's journey.