Synopsis: Six campers go on a camping trip in southern California where they are promptly stalked and killed by a ghoulish man who ultimately is just looking for a little love.
Three young couples head to the wilderness of the California hills for a weekend away camping and enjoying nature. Little did they know that 20 years earlier a group of Gypsies had perished in a fire at the same location leaving a badly burned child to wander the woods. One couple gets killed by an unseen assailant during the night. Thinking that they headed home, the rest of the group continues on as they are stalked from a distance. Their only hope is a park ranger tracking them down in an attempt to warn them.
You know this trope, any horror fan should. Young attractive people are systematically killed by a disfigured entity seeking revenge for a wrong they experienced long ago. It was used again and again throughout the 70’s and 80’s. The Prey takes that trope and attempts to create something unique but really ends up making an 80-minute nature documentary interspersed with some violence, gore and nudity. I was almost waiting for David Attenborough’s voice to start narrating.
Aside from a first-person camera perspective leering at the people from a distance coupled with heavy breathing, the killer isn’t seen on screen until the 68-minute mark. The best horror in this movie is the last 15 minutes or so where the killer chases the final 2 girls with the ranger fast approaching to rescue them. The rest of the film is filled with inane dialogue and shots of nature worthy of National Geographic.
This is Edwin Brown’s first and last attempt at anything other than X-rated fare which is common for a lot of low-budget directors of the time. It does have a few names you might recognize though like Jackson Bostwick who was the first Captain Marvel from the short-lived Shazaam television series back in the 70’s. There’s also a brief appearance from Carel Struycken who played Lurch in the Addams Family films of the 90’s among other various creatures of TV and film throughout the years.
With the short runtime, I wasn’t expecting much but still found myself completely bored. From what I understand there is also a 97-minute cut of this flick that digs deeper into the backstory of the killer, eliminating most of the nature footage and adding more nudity. A stunt that the director confirmed was all Essex Productions and none of his doing so I’m kind of curious what that looks like. Guess I’ll have to track down the Arrow DVD release. As for this theatrical cut? As a nature documentary, it gets an “A”, as a horror movie it gets a “D” teetering on an “F”.
This one is currently streaming on Tubi if you’re interested. If you do decide to subject yourself to this flick, my advice is to watch the opening and skip to the final 15 minutes. You won’t miss anything important other than a banjo solo and an improvised joke by Bostwick among what looks like scenes shot specifically to fill time.
Join me again tomorrow as we continue this strange journey down the horror rabbit hole. Please let me find something good…