Saturday, July 16, 2011

THE PREY (1984) - the hiking slasher that dares to bore your pants off into submission

That's a tagline if I've ever seen one. It should be noted that the killer is human and doesn't kill with an axe. However, I think the tagline is still true "in spirit".

The Prey is a rather unique entry in the “backpacking dullards get whacked in wooded seclusion” subgenre. It was made by pornographers and intended to be art. One need only look at the opening credits, which is scored to the enveloping strains of Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring (albeit in shoddy, high school string quartet form). The film itself operates as a laughable symphony of pretension, enveloped by an onslaught of stock nature footage.

Somewhere between a lobotomized Robert Altman, David Attenborough, and some retard’s vision of a hiking thriller, it explodes on the screen in an orgy of boring stupidity. People walk. Maybe they look around at stuff and whatever. There are close-ups of bugs. Sometimes a raccoon. Uncle Fester launches into a comatose diatribe about his cucumber sandwich. Shots of trees. A park ranger plays some banjo tune to its completion. Oooh, an owl!

When the campers talk to each other, they do so in a faux Altman-esque overlapping style, where their conversations are entered midstream. You try and figure out what the hell they’re talking about. You wish you hadn’t of bothered. Oh yeah, another crispy mongoloid goes to town (you know, a normal man who becomes an indestructible killing machine through the sheer magic of intense heat), murdering anyone who dares pass an audition for the film.

Here's the outlandishly hot Debbie Thureson, who unfortunately never made another film. I guess she picked the wrong springboard to cannonball off into the pool of success. Next to her is Lori Lethin (also of Bloody Birthday and Return to Horror High), who is no slouch herself, but is more of a "normal" looking person.

Anyway, not only does The Prey not understand that incorporating pretentious aspects into a film does not make it art, not having anything happen in a thriller until the end does not make it more suspenseful. Many filmmakers try and learn from Hitchcock, who said something about “suspense being the anticipation of something happening; the waiting”. This does not mean you can kill 80 minutes and it will build to an ending. Suspense has to be crafted in an individual scene. It doesn’t automatically build just because the damn tape continues to run.

Having said that, what is created is somehow wholly unique within its slow dirge into blandness. What we really have here is the story of some city slicker schmucks, and the slow burning realization that nature is an unforgiving sort, ready to transform an innocent group of hikers into raccoon feed. Admittedly, this story seems to have been achieved through accidental means. However, by padding half the movie with details about the forest (like showing what the nearby pine cones are up to), and leaving the other half to the human element (confused actors standing in frame), what results is sort of a low rent grafting of environment and character that creates a disharmonious friction. In this case, it is the environment that slowly wins out over humanity, aided and abetted by that crispy mongoloid.

In the end, The Prey teaches us that art cannot be appropriated from the greats through mere theft. One must absorb the great works themselves and let the art come from within. Unless you’re a pornographer of course, in which case, just find some people boinking each other and point that camera thingie in their general direction. You might want to make sure it’s in focus though. Oops. The boom mic fell into frame. I guess we’ll…oh, never mind. Let’s just move on to the next scene. Nobody's gonna give a shit.


  1. Still haven't seen The Prey yet and I have a feeling that I won't like it when I finally do. Oh well. Great post!

  2. @Morgan
    I probably like it more than anyone else could, because A. I love campground/hiking slashers beyond all reason. B. I find the disconnect between the epic vision and the nonepic slowpoke results vaguely amusing.

    Also, while it runs 80 minutes, there was actually 15 minutes cut out! Apparently, it was released on VHS in Europe somehwere in the 95 minute form. I gotta imagine the 95 min version has to be the most padded movie ever made.

  3. "It explodes on the screen in an orgy of boring stupidity." Excellent. Although anything with Jackie Coogan it it has gotta be worth at least one watch. Maybe? Pornography can be art, you've just gotta go back to the '60s and '70s to find porno tales with compelling stories and actual cinematography. Just sayin'.

  4. @John
    Oh, I agree. I just mean that modern audiences don't want pornography to be anything but boinking. Pornographers can get away with not being artists, so to speak.