THE PREY- US 'Thorn/Emi' video cover
1 star   Cheese Rating: 75% Fierce Fondue!

"It's not human,
and it's got an axe!"

directed by: Edwin Scott Brown
starring: Debbie Thurson, Steve Bond, Lori Lethin, Jackie Coogan, Gary Goodrow, Carel Struycken

(back of video blurb):
       "Deep in the forest a predator stalks his prey. However, this predator hunts not for food but for a mate.

       It is the Summer. Six students have hiked into a remote forest, high in the Colorado Rockies- the boys to climb the infamous suicide peak; the girls to be with their boyfriends and enjoy the sun and camping.

       One by one, the campers are hunted and killed by something that lives in the forest. Only when the beauty, Nancy, is left alive does the beast then reveal himself and the purpose of his killing. The climax develops with a spectacular final chase. The ending will shock you and haunt you."

choice dialogue:

"Bastard!... Why didn't someone wait for me? I could have been raped or killed!"
"What by Gaily?... A horny chipmunk?"

slash with panache?

       Sweet Jesus! 1980 was certainly a vintage year for bad backwoods slasher movies. JUST BEFORE DAWN and FRIDAY THE 13TH may have been a cut above, but, as sure as a bear shits in the woods, a couple of stinkers weren’t far behind. First, DON’T GO IN THE WOODS...ALONE! was unleashed onto an unsuspecting public (before finding a fame of sorts as a ‘video-nasty’); and then they cut THE PREY loose - an abomination so wretched it could make grown men cry....

       ‘The Northpoint, Keen Wild- 1948’- screams of horror ring above stock footage of a blazing forest. Cue credits, (accompanied by Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring, which is usually a rousing, stirringly dramatic piece of music; I say usually, because here it sounds like it was banged out on kitchen utensils!)... Fast forward to the same stretch of forest- 32 years later, where a homely middle-aged couple Hmmm, good chow....Hmmm....have set up camp. "Good chow" the man mumbles to his wife. "Hmmm...", is her riveting reply as she nods her approval. He begins nodding his approval. She continues to nod her approval and smiles serenely at her husband’s apparent approval. And it goes on... and on... and- well, by this point I was beginning to dribble, and the thing had only been on for five frigging minutes!.... My sanity was awarded a brief respite when they finally finished chowing down and she commented, "Well, I’m going to take a walk to the lake." And with an amazing lack of comic timing she added, "If I’m not back in 10 minutes... come looking for me!"- oh, how we laughed. Whilst she wanders off into the darkness, clutching the dishes, the man takes the opportunity to sharpen his axe and get down to chopping some fire wood- yep, probably a bad idea.... No, make that definitely a bad idea- especially as the sound of a heart beat on any horror soundtrack usually indicates the lurking presence of some loon or other. THE PREY is no exception.... And, let’s just say there won’t be any more scintillating ‘chow’ discussions in the future. Thank God.

       Things take a turn for the familiar when a van full of screeching teens (and curiously, they are actually screeching), swing around a bend in the forest road and No, its no the BRADY BUNCH; its the cast of cheesily cheerful teen campers- they desreve to die, don't they?.... And no, I couldn't work out how he did that thing with his eyes either!come to stop outside the forest rangers residence. Out they jump- three boys, three girls. Bouncing and preening. All cheesy grins and early 80’s speak. Mark , the bearded forest ranger, approaches. "Wow, what a hunk!" giggles Gail- the peroxide enhanced Tori Spelling look-a-like. He warns them about bears before waving them on their merry way. And off they go- into the woods... (it is here that the film settles into a stultifying pattern- one it sticks to for what seems like an eternity).... Campers hiking.... wildlife footage (hey look, a millipede!).... Campers hiking (Gail brushes her hair!- "Come on, we’re not going to the Prom!") .... wildlife footage (oooh look, a racoon washing its face!)... Campers hiking ... and so it goes on, and on. You can probably guess what happens next- but believe me, it happens so s-l-o-w-l-y....

       THE PREY is like no other backwoods teenie-kill movie- admittedly that is a bit of a double edged compliment. I can’t think of any other slasher movie that has a five minute long ukulele solo. Nor can I think of one where a character tells a lengthy joke (the one about ‘the wide mouthed frog’), to a fawn! And both these bits of bad movie madness come courtesy of the ‘hunky’ park ranger- a better portrayal of quiet dementia I’ve yet to see, and he wasn’t even the killer! This affably deranged character provides the movie with, perhaps its most talked about, cheesy moment- and it is a moment of lip smackingly ripe acting, par excellence. Following the wayward campers into the forest the ranger discovers a couple of their bodies hidden by branches and being slowly devoured by, frankly, rather bored looking vultures. Seeing that one of the bodies belongs to Gail, the perky blonde seductress who flirted with him by the van, he can’t stop himself from succumbing to a fit of teeth gnashing and eyeball rolling. To make a bad movie moment worse the director opts to over-emphasise the ‘pathos’ of the scene by creating a hilarious visual menage tois: Mark’s gurning, incredulous face cuts to the gnawed noggin - overacting ranger - bored vulture - gnawed noggin - (ad infintum)girl’s gnawed noggin and then to the bemused birds. This little trio is repeated ad infinitum: Face- noggin - buzzards - face - noggin..... Each time it cuts back to the ranger, he has reached new lows of bad acting. And just when you think it will never doesn’t! On and on... and on. Jeez, this has had to have been the longest 80 minutes of my life!

       So, what was there to like about this movie? Well, there were a few laugh out the viewer is occasionally jarred awake by the odd gory kill...loud cheese moments- I couldn’t contain a fit of giggles when the final girl did a bizarre type of backwards moon-walk to get away from the killer!, there was...umm,... oh, yeah there were a few good ‘n’ messy kill scenes- my favourites being the girl suffocated to death with the sleeping bag; and the phoney looking, but gooey, throat rip (pictured). But apart from that...hmmmm...

       Things I didn’t like too much: well, my numero uno biggest gripe with this movie was - how can I put it nicely? - its ‘leisurely’ pacing. It has all the dramatic ooomph of a Quaker mass. It’s the kind of movie that must have been made by someone taking equal amounts of magic mushrooms and horse tranquillisers- andOoooh look, a woodpecker- I just can't get enough of this craazy wildlife action!, unfortunately, that bad trip kind of rubs off on the viewer. There were (numerous) times that I was having more fun unfocusing my eyes than actually looking at what was (slowly) unfurling on the screen! Never a good sign.... It isn’t helped either by the fact that the film contains more wildlife footage than even David Attenborough would have the patience for. At first I thought that all the claustrophobic zooms into spider’s webs were a comment on the predatory nature of the wilderness, but by the time I had just seen one close up of a barn owl too Creepy monster- but it's a case of too little too late...many I came to the, not unlikely, premise that the director’s best friend was a loon for the great outdoors. Worst of all, after sitting through 70 minutes of mindless pre-amble- including the most mind numbing campfire story telling scene set to celluloid, fuelled by banal elevator speak (these characters literally talk about things in no way connected to the ‘action’), when we do get to a mildly rousing climatic turn, it’s gone and over in the blink of an eye. Even the downbeat ending was pretty underwhelming..... Was this movie made as a front for a tax loss, or what!?

       One thing I did like, in-fact my very favourite thing about this movie has to be its incredible tagline: "It’s not human... and its got an axe!", right up there with THE MUTILATOR’s "By pick, axe...bye bye!" as the pinnacle of cheesy 80’s horror movie tag lines. But even this is a cheat. ‘It’ IS human and ‘it’ only has an axe for, like, 20 seconds. No fair!

       THE PREY is dumb, boring (I had to push needles into my legs just to stop from slipping into a catatonic state), and pitifully indulgent. But is it worse than DON’T GO INTO THE WOODS...ALONE! ?.... Well, I wouldn’t go that far!

BODYCOUNT 8  bodycount!   female:3 / male:5

       1) Middle-aged male found decapitated- stump spurting!
       2) Middle-aged female hacked with axe (offscreen)
       3) Female teen suffocated with sleeping bag
       4) Male teen has throat ripped open by the killer's bare hands
       5) Male has head twisted round the wrong way
       6) Male falls to his death after killer cuts his climbing rope
       7) Female has face smashed into tree after getting caught in bear trap
       8) Male has throat crushed by killer's hands