Director: Edwin Brown
Notable Cast: Debbie Thureson, Steve Bond, Lori Lethin, Robert Wald, Gayle Gannes, Phillip Wenckus, Jackson Bostwick, Jackie Coogan
There isn’t a lot that one can expect from the slasher genre if we are being truly honest with ourselves. If a film has depth, a unique character perspective, or style, it’s already sliding into the upper echelon of what is to be expected. When broken down, there is only one real thing that I want to see from a slasher – entertainment. The formula isn’t rocket science, but the film, good or bad, just needs to be entertaining to some degree. Of course, that’s exactly what The Prey lacks. Normally, if Arrow Video is going to go to the effort and deliver a release like this filled with a new restoration, tons of special features, and a great package – you assume the film is probably some sort of lost gem. The Prey is not one.
The Prey kind of (?) delivers on the basics. There’s a secluded setting, in this case a remote forest area. There’s a group of couples out to experience nature, in all senses of the word. There’s also a deformed monstrous slasher killer stalking said couples in said woods. Check, check, check. If you’re a slasher fan looking to watch EVERY slasher ever made, it might be worth seeing just because it’s undeniably an early 80s slasher at its core. It’s just a shame that The Prey also has no idea how to execute these elements in any way.
What could be the problem then? All it needs to be is entertaining, right? It doesn’t need to be good. Well, it would seem as though director Edwin Brown has less interest in making a slasher film and more about making a docudrama about the life of the forest. Between the relentlessly long and unnecessary shots of nature and the various animals that live in the forest and the use of the forest rangers as the investigating force into the disappearance of campers in the film, The Prey ends up being a film that is padded to death with shots and narrative choices that add nothing to the overall experience. It doesn’t add to the tension and the choices become superfluous. This isn’t limited to the establishing shots either. This is a problem throughout. Every scene is painfully long and there isn’t enough strength in the execution to keep the momentum up. Sequences with the couples that are meant to have an audience relate to them are a drag and even the horror sequences feel like amateurish recreations of what someone things a slasher looks like without ever seeing a slasher. Moment to moment, whether it’s the couples, the rangers, or the killer, the film feels like cinematic quicksand looking to devour the goodwill of any slasher fan.
Now, for all of the issues that arise with a film like The Prey, there is one strangely redeeming element to it. The end of the film is quite a surprise. When it comes to reviewing a film like this for a site like Blood Brothers, I don’t want to spoil the ending (which I won’t) but I will have to admit if there was one thing at all to like it might be how the film ends. Contextually, the ending isn’t that groundbreaking or all that fresh feeling, but in a film that is as much of a chore to watch as this – it does feel like it might be the one thing worth mentioning.
Outside of that, like, one thing, The Prey is a film that only benefits from the astounding efforts that Arrow Video has put into this new Blu Ray release. There have always been a handful of films that Arrow gives the royal treatment that doesn’t (probably) deserve it, but The Prey might be the king of that mountain. As always, there is a list of all of the features attached to the bottom of this review for your convenience – but rest assured, the release contains three cuts of the film and so much behind the scenes material, interviews, and other materials that it’s almost jaw-dropping to think a film this bad could have that much bonus material. It does and Arrow has collected all of it into one nifty little package.
That’s the gist of it. On one side, you have one of the worst slashers from the golden era that exists, but on the other hand you have one of the most fascinating releases of the year with the amount of material and effort that went into it. For fans of the genre, this release remains one that is worth owning in the collection simply for the effort – it’s just a shame that the film isn’t nearly as impressive.
ARROW VIDEO FEATURES:
Written By Matt Reifschneider