Even though I’m programmed to blindly adore all killer-in-the-woods flicks, I too can decipher the difference between a competent movie and one held together by gum and prayers. THE PREY (1984) ever so slowly leans, if not loiters, towards the latter. Director EDWIN BROWN is clearly hell bent on shaking me off his trail but I won’t quit. I keep hanging on. Every time I find myself losing steam and ready to pull the plug he does something so perplexing I must stick around. This is what I love about unpolished, lowbrow movies. When somebody does not know what they are doing, they end up places nobody else would go. There’s a scene in which a handsome yet borderline imbecilic park ranger (played by SHAZAM!’s JACKSON BOSTWICK) comes across a corpse being devoured by vultures that just squeals lunacy. The camera shows the ranger, the corpse & the vultures in rotation with screeching blasts of music and it’s so puffed up and relentlessly overemphasized that it feels pulled from a comedy sketch. I wouldn’t want to miss something like that even though I did require toothpicks to hold my eyelids open by the time that particular bit dropped like a sack of wet laundry.
As adrift and lackadaisical as THE PREY may be, I have to be honest and admit that it also looks exactly like the inside of my mind. When things are peaceful, random furry animals appear and prance around and when things are bad, you get squirming centipedes and army ants eating worms to an alarming doorbell buzzer score. On the film’s behalf, around the time I had finished knitting a sleeping bag in my mind to count sheep in, a semi-worthy monster does indeed show up! Eureka! He’s played by CAREL STRUYCKEN, “Lurch” of THE ADAMS FAMILY (1991), which is fitting because JACKIE COOGAN, “Uncle Fester” from the original T.V. series can also be found in this movie reluctantly learning to love cucumber sandwiches. The monster’s oatmeal ugliness comes courtesy of JOHN CARL BUECHLER and who can resist a lumbering oaf with a giant bumpy head and choking paws? Is he enough to save the film?
Well, no. But THE PREY does close on an effectively ghoulish note and has at least one worthwhile kill. Plus everybody knows this time of year is perfect for its man vs. nature (not to mention mutant wielding an axe) motif. In addition, there’s just no denying that it’s endearingly good-natured not counting the off-screen rape. For example, the park ranger who I should probably not have found as charismatic as I did, tells a really long, hopelessly unfunny joke to a baby deer in this. A baby deer! I had to watch THE PREY on YouTube so maybe the picture quality hampered my enjoyment a little. I can’t believe I’m typing this but I’d actually, God help me, love to try it again cleaned up on DVD if ever the opportunity arose. That makes me sound like a masochist but I’m not-ish. Really what’s a little torture in exchange for a few sparkling moments of distinct eccentricity? Lameness abounds but it’s so hot this summer that camping via YouTube is not such a bad idea at all. Maybe there’s a monster in these woods but at least you won’t die from heat stroke! Aw, look! There’s a little baby raccoon washing his hands! How cute is that?