(US - 1984)
Directed by Edwin Scott Brown. Written by Summer Brown and Edwin Scott Brown. Cast: Debbie Thureson, Steve Bond, Lori Lethin, Robert Wald, Gayle Gannes, Philip Wenckus, Jackson Bostwick, Jackie Coogan, Carel Struycken, Connie Hunter, Ted Hayden, Garry Goodrow. (R, 80 mins)
If nothing else, THE PREY serves as proof that anything can merit cult classic status if it's the product of a bygone era that's held in much sentimental regard by genre fans. A fixture in video stores and in regular rotation on late-night cable back in the day, THE PREY has fallen into almost total obscurity in the decades since. So of course, scenesters lost their shit when Arrow announced a deluxe edition Blu-ray, because physical media is dead and every long-lost, forgotten slasher movie must be an unheralded classic waiting to be rediscovered (have none of you seen PET SEMATARY? Sometimes dead is better). Shot in 1979 and 1980 but unreleased until 1984, THE PREY would seem to be indebted to the survivalist likes of RITUALS and it also prefigured the post-FRIDAY THE 13TH slasher explosion (THE BURNING, in particular), but manages to do just about everything wrong. The story seems foolproof enough: three young couples--Nancy (Debbie Thureson) and Joel (future PICASSO TRIGGER star Steve Bond), Bobbie (BLOODY BIRTHDAY's Lori Lethin) and Skip (Robert Wald), and Gail (Gayle Gannes) and Greg (Philip Wenckus)--are hiking and camping through the remote Northpoint area of Keen Wild, the location of a destructive forest fire in 1948, and there's a monstrous, deformed, burn-scarred killer (Carel Struycken) in the wilderness and before long, he's stalking and offing them one by one.
THE KID (as if appearing in THE PREY wasn't demeaning enough, Coogan's introduction is accompanied by the sound of a flushing toilet). Brown and his producer/co-writer wife Summer Brown were undoubtedly working outside of their comfort zone on this one-and-done attempt at mainstream crossover, having already established themselves in the hardcore porn industry, with Edwin directing under a variety of aliases, including "Edwin Durell" and "Stephen Lucas."
"Glorification of the Chosen One," from The Rite of Spring (also known to trash connoisseurs for its presence in Mario Bava's THE HOUSE OF EXORCISM); John Carl Buechler's makeup and latex work on Struycken serves as an amusing test run for the stuff he'd do for Empire Pictures a few years down the road; the last shot is queasily perverse; and some of the location work in Idyllwild and San Bernardino National Forest (the same area where the recent BODY AT BRIGHTON ROCK was shot) is impressive, as are some shots of Bond scaling the famous Suicide Rock. Most importantly, the New World poster art's killer tag line--"It's not human and it's got an axe"--is an '80s exploitation gem that deserves to accompany a much better movie.