Netflix’s ‘Prey’ is a German thriller mystery that finds five men in a forest, inexplicably hunted by a mysterious shooter. The film opens on a jovial note but soon plummets into a sinister adventure as the men try to survive whilst the unknown assailant shoots at them with a high-powered rifle. The premise is a sinister one, and as inexplicable as the killer’s motives may seem, it is also a situation that seems quite plausible. The narrative also hints at how urban dwellers find themselves in trouble when they stray too far into the wilderness. So just how much of ‘Prey’ is based on a true story? We decided to find out.
Is Prey Based on a True Story?
No, ‘Prey’ is not based on a true story. The film is written and directed by Thomas Sieben, who is well known for the 2019 German thriller ‘Kidnapping Stella.’ In ‘Prey,’ the director has once again explored the thriller genre, which, according to him, has been scarce in German cinema. However, with Netflix’s focus on genre cinema now, he claims to be happy to return to the thriller genre and explore its nuances through his films.
The film is decidedly German, with German actors in a German location, and, according to Sieben, few settings are as quintessentially German as a forest, where the film is set. Through ‘Prey,’ the director explores the concept of city dwellers coming to the forest to reconnect with nature but also carrying their urban, “Instagram focussed” mindsets with them. In the film, they mention taking photographs with their phones and are repeatedly depicted as helpless without connectivity. Without their phones, the film’s central characters are unable to call for help or find their way back to civilization.
In a particularly telling scene, one of the characters (Albert) makes his friend risk his life to retrieve his phone. The point is also driven home when a girl, who works in the forest lodge, says that people from the cities that come to the forest sometimes get overwhelmed and lost, as they are not used to surviving in the wild. In connection with this theme, Sieben also explores the concept of toxic masculinity and how an all-male group of friends that supposedly seems tight-knit begins to revert to their primal and base natures when confronted with a high-pressure situation in the wilderness.
Early on in the film, whilst being chased by a mysterious shooter, one of the characters sprains his foot. Moments later, his close friend and colleague suggests that they all go their separate ways, saying “every man for himself.” Additionally, the film also portrays a young child being killed because of the carelessness of young inebriated boys with rifles who stumble upon a mother and child in the forest. The film’s overall arc, with the aggrieved mother hunting down groups of men in the forest, also points to the film’s admonition of toxic masculinity.
Sieben, who referred to horror thrillers like ‘Friday the 13th’ as films he grew up watching, has made ‘Prey’ to explore the subtleties of the thriller genre. On his own admission, he did not aim to break new ground with the film but instead focussed on technique and character development to create tension in the story. The film, according to him, uses a lot of highly technical aspects of camera angles and scene sequencing to build the narrative and make it a classic thriller that revolves around a few central characters.
‘Prey’ is not based on a true story but explores themes that its writer-director was curious to study. The themes themself, like those of toxic masculinity and urbanites feeling overwhelmed when put under pressure in the wilderness, are very real but are portrayed through fictional characters and situations that highlight them. By placing them in the thriller framework, the filmmaker also explores the nuances of the genre and adds another title to the roster of German thrillers.
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