← Back to Reviews
The Prey (Brown, 1983)

I've mentioned before that I have a weakness for the distinct texture of first wave slashers. Movies that evoke the feeling of being truly lost in the woods and whose minimal budgets offer a sense of grit difficult to capture in more expensive productions. The raison d'etre of slashers (the slashing; also, the T&A) are almost beside the point when it comes to why I enjoy these movies. (Not entirely beside the point though. Folks, I'm only human.) Which is to say that while I don't think The Prey is a very good movie, I probably enjoyed it more than most, even if I perfectly understand the less than stellar reception in my internet circle. This is a movie that tries to coast by almost entirely on those elements and skimps on everything else.

The plot is the same as in many of these movies. Many years ago a forest fire destroyed a community of Romani living in the woods. A group of campers go on a trip to those same woods. Something starts to kill them off. Enough for an eighty minute movie, right? What if I told you that with the exception of the opening scene, there isn't any killing for over thirty minutes into this eighty minute movie, and when the slashing does happen, it's not especially gruesome? What if I also told you that not only do the campers have no personalities, the movie also can't be bothered to feign interest in them, frequently cutting away to odd nature footage at every opportunity? What if even told you that there's barely any nudity?

Now, apparently there's a longer cut featuring a flashback scene with porn actors John Leslie, Arcadia Lake and Eric Edwards that does deliver on the rumpy pumpy (in the words of the late, great Roger Ebert). One of the reasons I bothered to watch this was because I saw their names listed in the credits on IMDb and was interested to see how they'd fare in a horror movie. (I've mentioned before that I have a certain fondness for classic porn actors, at least the ones that can act.) Alas, that scene was not in the cut I watched, leading to some disappointment when the end credits rolled. (I assume there was no end credits stinger where Nick Fury recruits the three of them into the Avengers.) The one character with any personality is a park ranger played by Jackson Bostwick. He has a scene where he recreates a country music album cover by playing his banjo with a can of Coors on the table next to him, another where he pets a cute little deer, and another where he's so enraged by the death of the campers (whom he had just met for like five seconds) that he contemplates shooting a vulture with his tranquilizer gun in revenge. These provide a large percentage of the movie's highlights.

This was directed by Edwin Brown, who co-wrote the screenplay with his wife Summer (who is also credited as producer), both of whom have a background in making hardcore porn films. I can't directly comment on how their overall style (I haven't seen any of the other films they've directed, although I did enjoy China Girl, the porno spy thriller with Annette Haven that they produced), but like Gerard Damiano's Legacy of Satan, another horror movie by a porno director, this exhibits the same struggle in filling up runtime without explicit sex to punctuate the story. (Both, at least in the versions I watched, have minimal sexual content, which seems baffling given their backgrounds.) This movie does it with the aforementioned nature shots, but I found the results surprisingly evocative. Unlike other movies that use nature inserts, the footage here is incorporated pretty nicely into the overall visual style. (The other major visual flourish is the use of POV shots, a genre requisite.) And as shot by the great Joao Fernandes, the movie looks quite handsome and has some nice forest atmosphere. I wish there was more in the way of actual thrills or dread, but the movie is not totally unpleasant to sit through if you like the genre for the same reasons as I do.