Trashterpiece Theater: Deadly Prey (1987) - Reviewed

Ever since Geoffrey Household’s 1939 novel Rogue Male hit the shelves, filmmakers and authors have been clamoring to tell their own version of the story of a lone figure who becomes the target of a manhunt while managing to vanquish his adversaries with the greatest of ease.  Perhaps the most notable example of this kind of one-man-war-machine subgenre in fiction is David Morrell’s novel First Blood which went on to spawn a hit five-film action movie series starring Sylvester Stallone. 

Retold countless times over the years in a wide variety of movies including Man Hunt, a televised adaptation of Rogue Male and in the 2003 William Friedkin film The Hunted, it’s a familiar tale of a military crisis involving a General trying to capture and subdue the man he trained to be the ultimate killing machine.  Earlier this year even, we saw what might be the final entry in the hit Rambo series.

Somewhere in between the respectable cinematic takes on the Rogue Male story is writer-director David A. Prior’s sublimely inept and sleazy straight-to-video action trashterpiece Deadly Prey.  Starring David’s brother Ted Prior in the leading role, Deadly Prey more or less regurgitates the Rogue Male story with a fraction of the budget of the Rambo films and a wealth of unintentional hilarity to boot.  The difference here is the role of the Colonel isn’t a good man trying to contain a loose cannon but a violent and murderous sociopath who violates so many ethical rules in trying to capture the superhuman Marine on the loose his atrocities committed become increasingly difficult to take seriously. 

Part of what makes Deadly Prey such a hoot is the earnestness of what is more or less a do-it-yourself actioner in the same league as, say, Jim Van Bebber’s Deadbeat at Dawn.  You can tell David and Ted Prior set out to make a halfway decent action movie and their sincerity only amplifies the hilarity of this thing.  Considered by many to be a quintessential example of a movie “so bad its good”, the film went on to become a Rifftrax favorite as well as Red Letter Media’s Best of the Worst film review series. 

Around the mid-2010s, home video distributor Olive Films paired up with Slasher Video and released a PAL Beta SP videotape transfer of the film on blu-ray, effectively capturing the fuzzy and cheap looking imagery in all its ingloriousness.  Seen now, Deadly Prey is the kind of film you have to go into knowing it’s a microbudget knockoff of far better movies with a homegrown quality you can only ever find in straight-to-video fare.  If nothing else, Deadly Prey also functions as a kind of time capsule of a bygone era of low budget filmmaking rarely ever seen anymore.  One thing is for sure…they don’t make them like they used to!

--Andrew Kotwicki