Tom Newman (Peter Weller) brings his two children and his new, younger wife, Amy (Bridget Moynahan) to Africa to spend some time with them while he's working on an African dam project. His daughter, Jessica (Carly Schroeder), is upset about her parents' divorce, and wants nothing to do with Amy. Hoping to form a bond between them, Newman suggests that his daughter and new wife, along with his son, David (Connor Dowds), take a ride through a game reserve on their way to the lodge where they will spend the rest of their vacation while he finishes up on some work.
While touring the reserve, young David needs to use the bathroom. The guide and David leave the safety of the SUV they are riding in so that David can do a little "paper work" in the bush. With the tour guide protecting him with a rifle, David commences to relieve himself. Unfortunately for the group, though, David's moving problem has them stopped in the middle of a group of starving lions. The lions make an attempt on catching David, but the guide manages to hold them off long enough for the young boy to make it back to the truck. The guide isn't so lucky and is violently killed by the beasts. This leaves Amy, Jessica, and David alone to swelter in the African heat and do their best in order to survive until someone can find them.
Meanwhile, Tom has made it to the lodge and immediately tries to start a search and rescue mission. Unfortunately the rangers at the lodge can't assist him until daylight. He's put into contact with a local hunter/tracker named Crawford (Jamie Bartlett) who refuses to help Tom at first, but eventually gives in when a payment is offered for his services.
From here, the film bounces from extremely tense (and well-played) moments where the lions attempt to get their paws on the Newman clan to long and drawn out moments of dialogue primarily between Amy and Jessica. In an attempt to keep the story interesting, the three primary players are put into situations ranging from trying to make an escape in the vehicle once they find the keys to making friends with poachers.
The film struggled to hold my interest during its run. It quickly became a victim of its own devices. There have been many better films made where the bulk of the action centers on a small group of individuals in an isolated situation as is the case in "Prey." "The Descent" and "Jaws" immediately come to mind. However, in "Prey," having the group pinned down in a vehicle and making a number of risky and, in at least one situation, ridiculous choices does nothing to keep the story interesting.
The primary subplot of the film, the friction between Amy and Jessica, is instantly predictable and offers nothing to add to the film.
The cast doesn't do a terrible job. Moynahan is sufficient as the stepmother who takes on the task of being a hero while stranded in the bush. Weller doesn't have much to do in this film except become angry for a bit and then desperate to save his family. The children are okay, but both of them visit the overacting department a bit too often for my tastes. If I had to pick out one shining star in the film, I'd have to say it was Jamie Bartlett. His character is about the most interesting thing in the film, and adds a bit of much needed humor to the story as well.
The special effects are dodgy at times. The CGI blood is ridiculous, and fails to rise above similar effects that can be found on SyFy on Saturday nights.
In summary, "Prey" has some wonderful moments that almost make it better than it really is. In the end, however, it is nothing more than a B-movie that doesn't even fall into the "so terrible it's funny" category. Recommended to fans of SyFy channel flicks or films such as "Open Water."