A prequel to a 1980s blockbuster follows a high-tech alien warrior
DON GONYEA, HOST:
And finally today, the movie "Prey" is a prequel to "Predator," a blockbuster Arnold Schwarzenegger hit from the 1980s. "Prey" is streaming now on Hulu. It's about a high-tech alien warrior landing on the Comanche plains 300 years ago. The score comes with its own backstory, as Tim Greiving reports.
TIM GREIVING, BYLINE: The original predator was a vicious game hunter from outer space equipped with thermal vision, a cloaking device and big, nasty mandibles.
(SOUNDBITE OF CREATURE ROARING)
GREIVING: The new movie "Prey" goes back in time for an origin story, plopping the predator into the bucolic world of the Comanche people before the real-life invasion of alien colonists from Europe.
(SOUNDBITE OF SARAH SCHACHNER'S "NARU'S WAY")
GREIVING: "Prey's" director Dan Trachtenberg and producer Jhane Myers, a Comanche herself, filled the cast with Native actors and even recorded a Comanche-language dub. But Trachtenberg is also a gamer. And for the film's score, he sought out a non-Native video game composer he admired, Sarah Schachner.
(SOUNDBITE OF SARAH SCHACHNER'S "THE FATE OF EAST MERCIA")
SARAH SCHACHNER: He had been playing Assassin's Creed Valhalla while they were in production on the film, and he really liked what he heard.
GREIVING: Schachner specializes in finding ancient, unusual instruments and weaving them into a modern action tapestry. She found a collaborator from a list of Native musicians sent by producer Jhane Myers, including a Grammy winner from New Mexico who felt the story of "Prey" was surprisingly familiar.
ROBERT MIRABAL: Living on a traditional pueblo with ancient stories and ancient philosophy, we have stories like this, of the star people, of - we call them (non-English language spoken) or (non-English language spoken).
GREIVING: Robert Mirabal grew up in Taos Pueblo and still lives there now.
MIRABAL: Those don't even translate except for the people of the heavens or the mud-soaked people or something like that. So it just was something that we grew up with.
(SOUNDBITE OF SARAH SCHACHNER'S "THE ONSLAUGHT")
GREIVING: For "Prey," Mirabal got a chance to bring his work to a more mainstream audience. He marries traditional Native idioms and instruments to modern jazz and rock. He plays multiple instruments but specializes in flutes, including a double-barreled one he invented himself.
(SOUNDBITE OF SARAH SCHACHNER'S "FLESH AND BONE")
GREIVING: Composer Sarah Schachner had Mirabal go into a studio and improvise a library of free-ranging tones and notes. She took those tracks and incorporated them throughout her score for "Prey." This being mid-pandemic, he was in New Mexico. She was in Los Angeles. At the end of their one-day remote recording session, Schachner asked Mirabal if he also sang.
SCHACHNER: And he was like, yeah, I sing. And he just sung something so honest and pure.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COMMUNION")
SCHACHNER: It touched me when he sung it. And I know it was so unplanned, and it really just helped in certain moments of the film, give that kind of extra layer of depth.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COMMUNION")
It's almost as if though you're whispering this story. There's a visual aspect to it, but then there's a whole nother mystical side of this story that is whispered to you through music.
GREIVING: So if you watch "Prey," a movie about a high-tech humanoid that dismembers its victims, listen for that whisper in between all the screaming. For NPR News, I'm Tim Greiving. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.