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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")

MIRABAL: (Vocalizing).

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")

MIRABAL: (Vocalizing).

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.