The Movie Waffler Blu-Ray Review - THE PREY (1983) | The Movie Waffler

Blu-Ray Review - THE PREY (1983)

the prey review
Campers are killed by a mysterious monster in the woods.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Edwin Brown

Starring: Debbie Thureson, Steve Bond, Lori Lethin, Jackie Coogan, Carel Struycken

the prey bluray

Arrow Video continue their relentless quest to unearth and polish every obscure slasher movie from the 1980s with this immaculate 2K restoration of director Edwin Brown's long forgotten shot in 1980 but released in '83 backwoods slasher The Prey.

Brown's movie is most notable for featuring the final screen appearance of actor Jackie Coogan, who began his career appearing alongside Chaplin, but who is probably best known for his role as Uncle Fester in the original '60s run of The Addams Family. Speaking of The Addams Family, the actor behind the monster make-up here is Twin Peaks star Carel Struycken, who played Lurch in the 1991 big screen adaptation. And with a swift 80 minutes running time, you might say The Prey is neat, sweet and petite, though it's certainly more kooky than creepy.

the prey review

A pre-credits sequence utilises some forest fire stock footage, over which can be heard tortured human screams. Years later, a middle-aged couple are enjoying some "good chow" while camping in the woods when they are brutally offed by an unseen presence. The next morning a group of young folks - including a Rutger Hauer lookalike and a lad who looks like Elliott Gould if you sucked all the personality from his face - arrive in the same woods for a weekend of mountaineering and making out. It's not long before they're being picked off by the killer, who has been living in the woods since he was badly burnt in the stock footage fire we witnessed earlier (well, nitrate is highly flammable).

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Sent into the woods to investigate the chow-loving couple's disappearance is Park Ranger Mark (Ted Bundy lookalike Jackson Bostwick), who earlier on had been lusted over by the female members of the  mountaineering/making-out posse. Can he save our damsels and douchebags in distress?

the prey review

The Prey is as formulaic as you would expect from an '80s slasher in which youngsters are murdered in the woods, but to its credit it was filmed as early as 1980, so it can't be accused of cashing in on the genre in the same way as the flood of Friday the 13th knock-offs that would soon emerge. As a horror movie it's a scare free dud, but there's something oddly watchable about this movie. Nothing much happens, but it possesses a carefree nature that draws you in. It's like a tone poem penned by a dyslexic.

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Part of the appeal is the curious blend of amateurishness and professionalism on display. The script is atrocious, rendering many scenes unintentionally hilarious, none more so than a bizarre interaction between Ranger Mark and his boss (Coogan) in which they debate the merits of cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, with stilted pauses that make you feel like you're watching an outtake from Twin Peaks: The Return. The acting across the board is pretty rough, with even poor old Coogan clearly just cashing a cheque here. The monster make-up is laughably bad, and incidentally was the creation of John Carl Buechler, who would go on to direct the seventh instalment in the Friday the 13th series. Don Peake's Stravinsky-esque score is 100 times more dramatic than any of the imagery it accompanies.

the prey review

But then you have the gorgeous cinematography, with DP Teru Hayashi capturing the beautiful setting of California's Idyllwild park in all its verdant glory. The movie also features copious amounts of gratuitous wildlife photography by Gary Gero, and while it exists merely to pad out the running time, it's as good as anything shot by the BBC in the early '80s.

Brown's direction is equally schizophrenic. He doesn't seem to have a clue how to film simple human interactions, but a sequence involving the monster menacing one of his prey while dangling from a mountain wouldn't be out of place in Deliverance.

The highlight of The Prey however might be the t-shirt sported by bimbo Gail (Gayle Gannes), emblazoned with the message "Keep your hands off my tits!"

Three cuts of the film are offered - the US theatrical cut and the longer international cut, the latter made without the filmmakers' approval, along with a composite cut combining footage from both versions; 45 minutes of outtakes; two feature commentaries - one by producer Summer Brown, the other by Amanda Reyes and Ewan Cant; video interviews with cast members Debbie Thureson, Lori Lethin, Carel Struycken and Jackson Bostwick; locations featurette; Q&A from Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 with Lethin, Struycken and Bostwick; Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 Audience Reaction Track; audio interview with director Edwin Scott Brown; VHS trailer and TV spot; original script (BD-ROM).

The Prey is on blu-ray September 16th from Arrow Video.