Prey A Manger
Directed by Norman J. Warren
Indicator Ray Zone B
I’ve been wanting to see Norman J. Warren’s Prey for quite some time now. I did have a second hand DVD lined up to watch which I bought about ten years ago but, you know, having a thousand or so films in backlog and then having to write about them all means it can take some time to get to them and so, it’s yet another DVD which became redundant when Indicator brought out their excellent Blu Ray set Bloody Terror: The Shocking Cinema of Norman J Warren 1976-1987 a year or two ago. Honestly, I should stop buying limited edition Blu Rays because, by the time the next edition comes along, I still haven’t had a chance to watch the last one and I’ve become disillusioned with many boutique labels now bringing out so called ‘Limited Editions’, only to bring out a non-limited edition of the same product a few months later, well before anyone’s had time to watch the previous releases. Anyway... rant over on that one. Bottom line is, I finally got to watch Prey in what is probably the best restoration and transfer it’s ever going to get.
Which is fine because it’s a curious and quite strange film which, asides from the ending, doesn’t always do what you think it’s going to do. This might be, of course, because the schedule for the ten day shoot was so rushed that the writer was delivering the script on a day to day basis while it was being shot but, bearing that in mind, it doesn’t feel disjointed or unstructured or like there’s anything anybody would have wanted to rewrite at a later stage.
The film is about a predator who ends up spending time with two lesbian lovers who have a house in the country. And when I say predator... I don’t mean the usual sexual predator you might be thinking of. I’m talking more about the ‘alien hunter from another star system’ kind of predator. This one lands on Earth via the movie magic of ‘coloured lights flashing in through a window’ and later, this alien similarly disposes of a body with the similarly cheap technique of ‘lights somewhere in the bushes’. So, yeah, it’s an incredibly cheap film but what the production didn’t spend on effects like this is ploughed back into the ‘not so bad’ prosthetics and the practical gore effects, which are also pretty good.
Barry Stokes plays the alien... killing a couple in the woods when he lands and assuming the human form of the male. Due to the ‘fish out of water’ shenanigans usually reserved for comedies but used quite a bit here, surprisingly successfully, he ends up being called Anders Anderson as he gives his name twice and is mistaken. The two lesbian lovers (one of whom is actually bisexual, it turns out) are played by Glory Annen as Jessica and Sally Faulkner (from Vampyres, reviewed here) as Josephine.
The film plays out as a more serious form of romp as Anders tries to figure out the girls, is dressed by them in women’s clothing and is ‘affected’ by some champagne they give him. Meanwhile, and this is really strange, there seems to be a sub plot where Josephine has murdered a previous friend of Jessica’s (without her knowing, prior to finding bloody clothes and a flick knife in her lover’s chest) and there’s more than a lurking suspicion that one of them might have spent some time in the local madhouse. Or is Josephine just protecting Jessica and suppressing a deed that she herself committed and has forgotten? Hence the overly protective, older woman not wanting her to leave the house and grounds.
It’s an interesting premise but it never really resolves and, okay, perhaps this actually is a product of the ‘making it up as we go’ script writing on a daily basis but, I really enjoyed the off-kilter element it added to the story and it is useful in giving motivation to the actions of the characters and putting them into situations they wouldn’t normally get into... so I kind of like that it’s constantly hovering in the background.
Considering this is mostly done on a hand held camera (which I found out after, I didn’t notice and that says something about the skill of the crew and the distractions of the story, I think), it’s a nicely designed shoot. Some of the frame designs are quite beautiful and there are even some nice dissolves between static shots, which is not something you see done that often these days and, when done so well like here, gives a nice result.
There’s also a wild, extended slow motion sequence where Anders nearly drowns in a lake with really dirty water. It was apparently the first thing they shot and took two days out of the already short shoot, which seems somewhat disproportionate but it looks really good and that really isn’t clean water they’re in. It looks like they’re all taking an extended mud bath. Apparently, the lake was a local dump for all kinds of poisonous stuff so the cast had to be given shots to safely shoot the sequence. It works well though and, bizarrely, really just stops the film dead... but in a good way.
The gore effects are okay... a bit more aftermath than ‘of the moment’, which certainly wasn’t an issue with the director’s previous film Satan’s Slave (reviewed here)... but the prosthetics for those moments when Anders becomes some kind of panther man, are really well done, especially the red, slit eye contact lenses which occasionally manifest themselves (and blinded the actor whenever he had to wear them). There’s a remarkable shot of those eyes in close up where the slit, vertical pupil seems to dilate somehow... not sure how they did that back in 1977 but it’s surprisingly effective here.
And that’s mostly it for my comments on this one. Prey has an ending which you can see coming a mile off but, strangely, it still took me by surprise because I didn’t think the writers would bother to go there with it. They totally do and, although it gives it a ‘home grown’ kind of feel, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this one and will certainly look at it again someday (if I ever clear this backlog). Looking forward to watching the third film in this wonderful Indicator Blu Ray box set soon.