Arrow Video: The Prey (1980) - Reviewed

Edwin Brown’s recently unearthed 1980 outdoors-set horror film The Prey represents a one-off for the writer-director’s career.  Working with his wife Summer primarily in the porno film industry, The Prey is an attempt at trying to make a real film, one that had many unforeseen obstacles ahead of its production and release.  Though completed in 1979, the film sat on the shelf for four years before being picked up by New World Pictures with some fifteen minutes excised out including an opening forest fire prologue foreshadowing the events to come.
Moreover, the film’s skin flick production company, Essex Productions, saw fit to go ahead and eliminate six more minutes before another cast and crew shot a flashback sequence containing not one but three sex scenes in a row after an executive producer felt the film “needed more nudity”.  Edwin and Summer Brown, for the 2019 Arrow Video blu-ray being reviewed here, stated they had zero involvement with the writing or shooting of the footage and that they felt it was “badly shot and badly edited”.  Whatever the case, the good folks at Arrow have included the director’s preferred cut as well as the infamous re-edit and a new fan-composite cut combining the two films into one long version.

As for the film itself, its your typical summer camp slasher flick with three young college-aged couples hiking up into the mountains for climbing, smoking weed and getting laid.  By now we’ve seen this kind of film to death, though the use of Idyllwild, California’s Suicide Rock within the woods and the constant Malick-esque interspersing of nature photography with the narrative helps to set The Prey apart from the usual fare.  While not particularly scary, it does have some coincidental connections horror fans will enjoy like the casting of Fester Addams actor Jackie Coogan as the sheriff and eventual Lurch actor Carel Struycken from The Addams Family movie and Twin Peaks as the monster.

Aside from the mixture of stock footage of a forest fire and animals in nature, the microbudget do-it-yourself production also boasted an original score by The Hills Have Eyes composer Don Peake which frankly sounds like a cross between Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and Béla Bartók’s Music for Strings prominently used in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.  The film also included striking prosthetic gore effects from the late future Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood director John Carl Buechler, including a throat ripping scene which rivals the one seen in 2008’s Rambo.

Overall The Prey isn’t going to be a grand unseen masterpiece unveiled after so many years of obscurity but it is however an effective little horror film made by a filmmaker ordinarily tasked with directing erotic films.  It’s a shame neither his film nor his career really took off as The Prey does have moments of inspiration peppered throughout, a cool looking monster and beautiful scenery to take in.  As it stands, the forest-set slow burning slasher is a fun detour for horror aficionados looking for a different kind of forgotten thriller.

--Andrew Kotwicki