DVDSleuth.com is your source for daily DVD news and reviews.
The Prey (1983)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/1/2019
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/18/2019
Stop me if you’ve heard this one – A group of campers go into the forest and they’re stalked by a vicious murderer. Oh, it appears that I’ve described any number of movies which were released in the 1980s (and beyond). While horror movies had long-since portrayed the woods as a dangerous place, 1980’s Friday the 13th created a new sub-genre in which young people ventured into the trees, only to be attacked by a killer. Given the decidedly low-budget nature of this sort of project, a slew of imitators hit theaters and (more often) video store shelves. While many of these were often indistinguishable (more on this in a moment), The Prey certainly set itself apart from the others due to its sheer weirdness.
A group of six young people – Nancy (Debbie Thureson), Joel (Steve Bond), Bobbie (Lori Lethin), Skip (Robert Wald), Gail (Gayle Gannes), and Greg (Philip Wenckus) – arrive in a National Park area in order to hike and camp to a remote area known as North Point. Upon arrival, they meet Mark O’Brien (Jackson Bostwick), a friendly park ranger. The group makes their way into the forest, joking with one another and enjoying time by the campfire. But, their fun is soon interrupted as they realize that they aren’t alone in the forest. Can Ranger Mark arrive in time to save them?
To put it very, very mildly, The Prey is an odd movie. And to discuss the oddness of the film, we must start with the editing. One of my favorite quotes from Mystery Science Theater 3000 is “Just because you can edit, doesn’t mean you should edit.” That edict can certainly be applied to The Prey. The movie is only 80-minutes long. The story described above isn’t much of a story, but one would think that the movie could tell that story in 80 minutes. But, it doesn’t. Instead, a great deal of the film is padded with nature footage. We get long stretches (which probably aren’t as long as they feel) filled with shots of animals doing all sort of animal things. (And it’s debatable if the animals shown would even live the environment where the movie takes place. They don’t show a rhinoceros or anything like that, but it’s a menagerie to say the least.) One would think that this would detract from the movie, and it certainly does, but that’s not all. The film opens with a prologue which is simply stock footage of forest fires. There’s no dialogue, no narration, and no story…just fire…and some screaming. Once the group goes into the forest, we get shot after shot of them walking and talking…but, we can’t hear what they are saying. Once the story and dialogue actually seem to arrive for good, the movie continues to throw odd cuts at us. At one point, the action is focused on the campers, but the movie decides that it would be cool to cut to Ranger Mark playing the banjo in his house. Speaking of Ranger Mark, there’s also a scene in the middle of the film in which he tells a joke to a deer. Yes, you read that right. Now, it’s an awesome joke and it was this scene that reminded me that I’d actually seen this movie, but it’s still very, very strange.
And then we have the film’s tone. There’s no doubt that we are watching a horror movie, as we have campers being stalked in the forest and some occasional murders, but, for the bulk of the running time, it’s an almost light-hearted horror movie. The two scenes with Ranger Mark cited above certainly reduce any tension. However, the last ten minutes or so of the movie get decidedly grim and the final shot is very dark. If the entire film had felt somewhat serious, the ending would not have had as great an impact, but as it stands, it’s so shocking that it almost makes the movie worth watching…almost.
Again, the early 80s so no shortage of “teenagers chased through the woods” movies and the bulk were imitators of Friday the 13th. However, The Prey was actually shot in 1979, but it wasn’t released until 1983. So, while it seems like an also-ran, it could have been a trendsetter. Of course, if it had come out first, we not have gotten any more forest-based horror films. The Prey is a movie whose quirkiness is nearly endearing and should be a must-see for those who love movies like The Final Terror and Madman. Everyone else should view this as a master-class in how not to edit a movie.
The Prey may be trying to tell us that animals are indifferent to human violence on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Arrow Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing only mild grain and next to no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is OK, as is the depth, but both show some mild issues. The Disc carries a Linear PCM Mono audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 2.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Being a Mono track, we don’t get any dynamic audio effects here, but the track is well-balanced and there’s no hissing or popping. The sound effects and music don’t drown out the actors.
The Prey Blu-ray Disc contains a host of extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Ewan Cant and Amanda Reyes. “Gypsies, Camps, and Screams” (27 minutes) offers an interview with actress Debbie Thureson from 2018. “Babe in the Woods” (14 minutes) grants actress Lori Lethin a chance to talk about the film in another interview from 2018. Actess Gayle Gannes gets her turn in “Gayle on Gail” (12 minutes) in a shot this year. “The Wide-Mouthed Frog and Other Stories” (18 minutes) is a modern-day interview with actor Jackson Bostwick. “Call of the Wild” (7 minutes) delivers a chat with actor Carel Struycken (who I thought was dead). “In Search of The Prey” (14 minutes) has Thureson and Cant visited the shooting locations from the film. This restored version of the film premiered at the “Texas Frightmare Weekend Experience” and the viewer can watch the film and hear the audience’s reaction, and also watch a “Q&A” (17 minutes) with Lethin, Struycken, and Bostwick from the event. We can listen to “Audio Interviews” with Director Edwin Scott Brown (79 minutes) and Producer Summer Brown (79 minutes). Finally, we have two TRAILERS for the film. There is a second Blu-ray Disc included here which includes the “International Cut” of the film. As if the theatrical cut of The Prey weren’t an editing mess, things get even weirder here, as the European distributor decided to shoot nearly 15 minutes of new footage, which involves a group of traveling peasants who have a lot of sex, and insert it into the middle of the movie. So, the main story literally stops for 15 minutes and we watch another movie. So weird! This Disc also includes a fan-made “Composite Cut”, which utilizes elements from both versions to make a third cut of the film.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long