The Prey (1980) -**
This is very much one of the lesser of the 1980’s slasher movies. In fact, the tag line from its promo poster-- “It’s not human, and it’s got an axe”-- is far better than the film itself. (Of course, that tag line is also misleading, in that “It” is human, and only rarely uses an axe.) It’s pretty much Standard Scenario #2: drastically overage teenagers go camping in the woods and are killed one at a time by someone we never see until the final scene of the main action. Indeed, The Prey’s only real appeal lies in its above-average badness, and in a couple of mildly imaginative twists on the aforementioned SS#2.
And it is bad. Half the time, the so-called characters seem to be ad-libbing their dialogue. Even when they appear to be following a script, it’s clear that the best possible use for these people would be to build a dinette set out of them. It also seems that the screenplay, as written, came up rather short. At least a third of the footage in The Prey consists of close-up shots of bugs, frogs, and rodents going about their bugly, frogly, and rodently business. You can imagine the filmmakers’ panic at the first read-through:
“What the fuck! You mean we only have an hour’s worth of movie here?!”
“Yeah, it looks that way. I mean, we could have the actors say their lines a little slower, but they’re pretty slow talkers as it is, and we’d probably only get another ten minutes out of them that way.”
“Shit! We’re supposed to start shooting on Wednesday! We don’t have time to do a rewrite!”
“Well, what if we really padded out the establishing shots of the woods? You know, shoot a lot of footage of rabbits and spiders and stuff? Or even better, get a whole bunch of stock footage from old wildlife documentaries?”
“My God, you’re a genius! You’ve saved this production!”
As for those twists, I probably shouldn’t say too much about them, because they’re the closest thing to a surprise that the movie has to offer. I will say that the killer does not have the usual revenge motive, and that the “surprise” ending, while not surprising (especially if you’ve read the synopsis on the back of the box), is at least almost unique among low-grade slasher films. And when you finally do see the killer (the highly distinctive Carel Struycken, who played Lurch in the recent Addams Family movies, and who shows up from time to time as an alien on the various “Star Trek” spin-offs), he’s actually pretty cool looking, if very clumsily executed.
I don’t think I’d go so far as to actually recommend that anyone see this movie. But if, like me, you’ve already seen just about all the good 80’s slasher flicks, it’s worth keeping The Prey in mind the next time you find yourself in the mood for spam-in-a-cabin, but don’t feel like watching Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter yet again.