It’s not human…
And it’s got an axe!
For this review, I’ve dragged out the old Thorn/EMI VHS tape. I hope you’re happy. It’s unfortunate that this film hasn’t yet been released on DVD. A few years back, it was slated to be on a double-bill with THE PIT. I guess someone came to their senses and scratched the idea.
First off, before we get to the meat of this review (you’ve been warned), I’d like to take a second to look at this film’s tagline. Aside from THE MUTILATOR’s By Pick… By Axe… By Sword… Bye Bye, THE PREY supports one of my favorites. However, it’s nearly a blatant lie. The Monster is human, and it only has an axe for one kill. Okay, I’ve got that out of my system.
Now, how best do we describe this film?
How about Mutual of Omaha Presents THE PREY? The only thing that is missing from this film is Marlon Perkins telling Jim to zoom a bit closer to a spider web.
THE PREY was released in 1980, the same year as other backwoods slashers like FRIDAY THE 13TH and JUST BEFORE DAWN. However, that’s the same year that gave us the eyesore DON’T GO IN THE WOODS… ALONE! Can you guess which film THE PREY takes more after?
The film starts with a flashback to 1948 and stock footage of a forest burning down. This segues into credits accompanied by music from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring that sounds as if it were banged out with trashcan lids.
32 years later…
Our two opening victims are a middle-aged couple enjoying their dinner. How do I know they’re enjoying the chow they’re swallowing? Because they tell each other over… and over… and over… Finally, the woman tells her husband that she’s going down to the lake for a spell. The man grunts and heads off to the woodpile to chop some logs. Cue a heartbeat on the soundtrack and our resident slasher shows up to off both of them. And yes, that includes our one axe kill of the entire film.
Now arrives our cannon fodder: three boys and three girls. They pull up to the forest ranger lodge and are greeted by Mark. He tells them to beware of bears in the area. Not to mention that we know he’s good looking because the girls are ogling him. In cheesy early 80s fashion we’re told “he’s a hunk!”
After this encounter we settle into what totally derails the film. We get backpackers moving deeper into the woods… wildlife footage… more backpacking… more wildlife footage… on and on. We’re all here for the slashing, and we know it’s coming, but it takes so darned long to get to it that you’re going to have to stick toothpicks between your eyelids just to keep yourself awake.
We now have to circle back to Mark, our stalwart forest ranger. After what seems like a ten-minute ukulele solo, not too mention a joke that goes on forever, he heads out into the woods to make sure our backpackers are doing fine.
On his way, he stumbles across the body of one of the girls. It turns out that she had been the one complimenting him back at the ranger shack. For whatever reason, Mark goes into a maniacal fit. And he’s not even our killer!
It’s here that we get the film’s most talked about moment. The camera cuts between Mark’s scrunched up face to a pair of bored vultures. Then it cuts back to Mark with his madman face… then back to the vultures… then back to Mark… and so on. You’re so bored by this time that you’ll be giving your own maniacal laugh at the absurdity of the whole thing.
To make matters worse, we also have a lengthy flashback to how The Monster came to exist. By this time, however, if you’re still awake, who cares? We just want to have some killing. This is a slasher film, isn’t it?
Well, there are a few moments of blood splatter. There’s a nifty sleeping bag kill (it’s on par with FRIDAY THE 13TH Part VII The New Blood). There’s also a slit throat that isn’t too bad, and a hilarious moment where one of our final girls does a quasi-moonwalk to get away from the killer. Sorry folks, I couldn’t make that up if I were trying.
Edwin Scott Brown, who directed this mess, had to be on one hell of a mushroom high to think any of this was good.
So, is there anything I like about THE PREY?
I can really dig its ending. And that’s not only because I was glad to see the film end! It’s an eerie finale that screamed for a sequel to be made. Even after all this mess would I have liked to see THE PREY 2? Yep. I think any early 1980s slasher deserved a sequel.
There’s also the urban legend connected to the movie that says there were hardcore sex scenes filmed. I’ve read interviews with assorted cast members that were asked about it and they all say that they don’t remember any scenes of that nature, but neither do they deny it. I think it would’ve been nifty to see a XXX-rated slasher. I know we’ve already received FRIDAY THE 13TH XXX, but to see a version from the golden age of the sub-genre would’ve been a treat. One day I will come to the bottom of this legend.
I also have to mention THE ADDAMS FAMILY connections of this film. Jackie Coogan (who any drive-in fan knows) is aboard. Unfortunately, he doesn’t stick a light-bulb into his mouth. That might’ve helped the film a tiny bit.
We also have Carel Strukyen, who plays The Monster. He’s probably best known for his role as Lurch in the three ADDAMS FAMILY movies.
Now, do I recommend THE PREY? If you’re a fan of the early 1980s slasher, you’re probably going to hunt it down, anyway. I know curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.
In this case, we’ve already bagged the corpse of the kitty into a Glad garbage bag and tossed him into the dumpster. He’s done used up his nine lives, folks.
Like Crazy Ralph, you’ve been warned.