Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Prey (1984) dir. Edwin Brown

Logline: A disfigured gypsy monster (predator) hunts a group of teenagers (prey) for some nefarious purpose. The Colorado wildlife watches on with bated breath.

Crime in the Past: Some angry townspeople burn down an entire gypsy camp on the outskirts of town because them darn gypsies kept sleeping with their wives, dang it. The only survivor is a badly burned gigantic mutant gypsy child, who retreats into the woods until he can enact his revenge.

Bodycount: 8, not counting all the lost lives of those brave, horny gypsies.

Themes/Moral Code: Well, no surprise, but the predator/prey thing is sort of central. In case we were to forget the title, the film helpfully cuts to wildlife footage every other scene or so, highlighting certain links on the food chain with all the lingering detail of a nature documentary. The film doesn't do anything with this theme--like make a statement about human nature, the clash between rural and urban living, or the predatory nature of horror films themselves--but it's there regardless. Why bother making your themes complement your story when you can enjoy images of snakes eating things instead?

Otherwise there are some pretty strong anti-gypsy vibes throughout the film. It's implied that they're no-good scavengers, that they inbreed and produce genetic freaks for children, that their only desire is to reproduce like savage rats, and that they'll steal your wives if you're not paying close attention. They're portrayed as free love freeloaders, and it's tough to tell how the film feels about them. They seduce the married women of the town that they are camped on the outskirts of, and while it's clear that they're taking advantage of these women (for love of the sport), the women seem glad to be receiving any loving at all. (The men they're married to aren't exactly great catches. Some impotency issues are hinted at-- the men love their beer more than wives). So the burning of the gypsies appears to be an excessive response, but we never have the sense that the film aligns its sympathies with them.

In a larger sense, The Prey adheres to the standard slasher's moral code, and maybe that's why those gypsies had to die-- freewheeling expressions of sexuality will be stamped out by some force or another. One of the campers lets her boyfriend put his hand up her shirt once he tells her that he loves her-- she dies first. Considering the pedigree of its filmmakers (see below), it's a shame the film doesn't dare to be more transgressive.

Killer's Motivation: Ostensibly killing to enact revenge against the society that murdered his fellow gypsies and left him burnt and disfigured. But, in another way, he's also killing to take out his competition for mating rights. See, he wants to find himself a bride, and settles upon one of the female campers-- killing all her pals is just a way to ensure she won't put up any fuss and no one will be left to challenge him. It's a more brutal reiteration of the earlier gypsy business of stealing the hearts of the wives of others. And even though the killer's actions in doing this are representative of an animal nature, in a way, it's a nature that still has nothing to do with the predator/prey dynamic.

Final Girl: We know that Nancy (Debbie Thureson) is the final girl because she refuses to "put out" for her boyfriend, and such typical final girl behavior lets us know ahead of time that she's not going to be very compelling. And that's the case with Nancy. At one point she prays not to be killed. At another she sits back while a forest ranger saves her, and then screams and idles around while that forest ranger is killed and she's cornered. She's then picked up and taken back to the killer's cave, where a baby's wailing over the soundtrack before the credits start rolling informs us that she's becomes his breeding partner, whether willing or unwilling.

The Good, the Bad, & the Cheese:  Helmed by the husband and wife adult filmmakers Edwin and Summer Brown (creators of such films as Naughty Girls Need Love Too (1983) and Every Woman Has A Fantasy (1984)), The Prey feels about as cheap as what the Browns were used to producing. It is an earnest effort in the slice and dice genre, but their porno roots still show through. In the longer, unedited version that I watched, the film transitions to the 25+ minute flashback concerning the gypsies' seductions of the town's women that devolves quickly into a varied assortment of soft-core love scenes. This flashback, over a fourth of the film's running time, is an endurance test in tedium. At about twenty minutes into it I fell to the ground from my couch and moaned to the screen, "How is it possible that nothing is happening yet?" The gypsy plot has only the faintest connection to the primary slashing plot-- the killer is supposedly a freak gypsy giant who escaped death in the flames. But he is never shown in the flashback, and is instead simply referenced in the voice-over, which gives a strong impression of this gypsy nonsense being spliced in from another film altogether, perhaps a genuine adult film that the Browns were working on and had abandoned. I hear that the shorter version of The Prey chops out this flashback, which would leave it clocking in a good deal shorter and more focused on the standard but occasionally competent backwoods slashing. I probably should have watched that one. As it stands, the best moment in The Prey is one in which a sheriff discovers the gustatory pleasures of cucumber and cream cheese on oatmeal bread. Unlike the film, that is one sandwiched concoction of disparate parts that I can heartily recommend.

No comments:

Post a Comment