3 stars   Fierce Fondue!


directed by: Colin Eggleston
starring: P.J. Soles, Kit Taylor, Grigor Taylor, Martin Balsam, John Warnock, Susan Stenmark, Richard Morgan

(back of video blurb):

"Though appearing to be a loving couple, Cathy (P.J. SOLES) is suspicious of Joe's (KIT TAYLOR) need to work late every night. Discovering Joe's car parked outside of a motel, Cathy watches in horror as Joe slashes a prostitute to death with a razor.

Seeking help from her friend, Sheriff Baker (MARTIN BALSAM) Joe is sent to the State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, and Cathy attempts to rebuild her life in Australia.

Soon after her arrival, Cathy becomes the object of obsession for her landlord Philip (John Warnock), who observes Cathy's every movement through closed-circuit TV cameras hidden in her apartment.

When Philip discovers that Cathy has fallen in love with Rick (Grigor Taylor), he feels betrayed, and plans an untimely and gruesome ending for both of them. In the interim, Joe has escaped and is also planning Cathy's brutal death."

choice dialogue:

"You wouldn't be brave if you were too dumb to be scared."

- the Sheriff compliments a depressed Cathy (er, I think)

Slash with panache?:
[review by Justin Kerswell]

Cathy Wills (P J Soles) is about to have a very bad day. Not only is she about to find out that her husband is a homicidal maniac, and her life is about to spiral out of control on the slippery slopes to unmitigated misery but she's also sporting one of the worst perms I've ever seen. In fact, this frizzy monstrosity is so huge I was half expecting the police to phone her up near the end of the movie and shout down the telephone, "The calls are coming from inside your hair!". ... Get this woman to a salon double quick!

Joe contemplates giving his wife a decent hairdo.

Poor Cathy believes her husband, Joe (Kit Taylor), is a mild-mannered and loving man; little does she know that it's hinted that not only did he off his own Mother for the insurance he also did the same to her parents, too. When he's shown up for a cheap swindler by business partners he begins to go off the deep end. He picks up a prostitute in bar, (Debi Sue Voorhees, who played Tina in FRIDAY THE 13TH V: A NEW BEGINNING (1985)), who, when he hands her $500 says, "This is a world of give and take. Anything you can give I can take!". However, I doubt she had having her throat slit whilst in the throes of naked passion in the shower in mind when she made that comment! A horrified Cathy sees the whole bloody, buttock twitching spectacle through a partially opened window. She'd spied Joe's car outside the motel whilst she was dropping off her Australian friend, Gwen (Susan Stenmark, who had a small part in the Australian semi-slasher DANGEROUS GAME (1987)) at the airport, when curiosity got the better of her and she returned to the motel. She's waiting for her husband when he gets back to their isolated ranch; she confronts him: "For God's sake, Joe. You cut her to pieces!". Just as he's about to bash her brains out with a poker the waiting police leap out of the shadows and arrest him, carting him off - wild-eyed and practically foaming at the mouth - to the local asylum.

Cathy spies on a murder!

Cathy is comforted by her friend, the butterball Sheriff so beloved of early 80's slashers, here played by Martin Balsam (famous for his role as the detective in Hitchcock's PSYCHO (1963)). However, as Cathy contemplates a new life in Australia she receives a panicked phone call about her loony husband from the Sheriff, "He just busted loose out of the State Asylum!"; he tells her to stay put and the police are on their way. Unfortunately, her hubby gets home before they get there. What follows is some top notch cat 'n' mouse antics as P J Soles becomes Jamie Lee for the night (surely something she must have "Totally!" dreamed about on the set on the original HALLOWEEN (1978)), with the crazed, knife wielding Joe smashing windows and stalking her through the deserted house. And, in top early 80's slasher movie style, even the arrival of the police don't help, as they all end up butchered leaving the hapless Cathy to fend for herself once again. Only after a bout of resourcefulness, and severed head dodging, does she make it out alive. Her husband, however, disappears into the night ...

The calls are coming from inside your hair!

Understandably, she's had enough and does hotfoot it off for a new life in Australia. However, her run of bad luck (what did she do let loose a bull in a mirror factory?!) doesn't desert her, as not only does she attract the attentions of another murderous psychopath as soon as she sets foot in the new country (in a plot twist which pre-dates the hi-tech thriller SLIVER (1993)) she also has her deranged husband hot on her tail. Her perm, however, has relaxed a bit, so I guess she should be thankful of small mercies!

INNOCENT PREY is a riot. It's not a bad movie by any means, but it's certainly a preposterous one. Like a slasher FALCON'S CREST, the soap opera antics get more and more daft as Cathy's life continues to get worse and worse for her, even whilst she begins to, at least on the surface of things, find happiness again. It works because the actors and actresses take it all seriously (surely it must have been tempting to put that tongue in that cheek). P J Soles is, of course, terrific as the psycho magnet and even manages to say dialogue like, "Pregnant by that maniac husband of mine!", whilst keeping a straight face. The film twists and turns like an epileptic python, all the way to a downbeat and fairly cynical sting in the tail (which pretty much confirms that the makers were spoofing, at least partly, Soles' role in horror heritage). It's always engaging and has a good mixture of the cheesiness some of us love about films from this time and a good dose of that early 80's grittiness, too. Throw in some nudity (mostly male) and some sparse but effective grue then you have, if certainly not a HALLOWEEN beater, a minor trash classic which comes from the team who let the ultra deranged Australian theatre slasher NIGHTMARES (1980) loose on an unsuspecting public.

Poor Cathy, things go from bad to worse.

INNOCENT PREY is often quoted as being from 1988, indeed the print I saw had this date as the copyright date, but was made much earlier; most likely in 1983. There is some evidence that it got an almost non-existent cinema release in 1984 in the US. It's a movie with a lot of inconsistencies, the box says it runs at 77 minutes, but actually runs closer to 85 (I've also seen it listed at 100 mins, meaning that there may be more than one version floating around). I've also seen it suggested that it was a television movie, although the nudity makes this unlikely.

BODYCOUNT 11  bodycount!   female:3 / male:8

       1) Female has throat slashed with a straight razor
       2) Male has neck broken
       3) Male kicked in the face
       4) Male stabbed in the back with a knife
       5) Male stabbed in the stomach with a knife
       6) Female decapitated (off-screen)
       7) Male has neck broken and then is set on fire
       8) Male found dead (cause not seen)
       9) Female electrocuted in swimming pool
     10) Male electrocuted by electrified door knob!
     11) Male falls to his death