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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Prey (Blu-ray)
The Prey (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video // R // October 1, 2019 // Region A
List Price: $39.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted October 1, 2019 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

Joel (Steve Bond) and Nancy (Debbie Thureson), Gail (Gayle Gannes) and Greg (Philip Wenckus), Skip (Robert Wald) and Bobbie (Lori Lethin) are three young couples that decide to into the mountains of Keen Wild to camp out at a remote area called Northpoint. Of course, they're unaware that recently Frank Sylvester (Ted Hayden) and his wife Mary (Connie Hunter) were murdered in that very area. When our sextet arrive, they stop to get their permits and meet kindly ranger Mark O'Brien (Jackson Bostwick) who shows an interest in the lovely young ladies and warns them all to watch out for bears.

A short time later, the six set up camp and, after goofing around for a bit, have a campfire and then get around to getting down! It's a big old make out fest and while Gail proclaims that there's something out there watching them, the rest of the crew pays her no mind. The next morning when everyone wakes up, Gail and Greg are nowhere to be seen. Unaware that they were brutally murdered in the night by a hulking and fiercely burned behemoth of a man, the only survivor of a fire that killed his gypsy family, the other four assume that they've gone off home without them. They leave them a note just in case and carry on with their trip. Elsewhere, Ranger O'Brien is told by his boss, Lester Tile (Jackie Coogan), that the Sylvester's haven't returned from their trip and are long overdue to have done so. O'Brien grabs himself a tranquilizer gun and sets out to find them, just as unaware as the remaining four campers that someone or something is out there in the woods looking to kill…

Filmed in 1979-1980 by director Edwin Brown, whose other fourteen directorial credits are adult films like A Thousand And One Erotic Nights and Every Woman Has A Fantasy, this one was produced by Essex Productions, a company that specialized in, yep, adult pictures. It was eventually picked up by New Word Pictures in 1984 where it appears to have had a small theatrical run before showing up on TV and then getting a VHS release via Thorn/EMI in 1988. Surprisingly enough, it never received a DVD release, but Arrow Video's two-disc Blu-ray special edition goes a long way towards making up for that. More on that in a bit.

As to the different versions of the film, Arrow presents three of them across the two discs in the set. The first disc contains filmmaker-approved US theatrical cut that runs eighty-minutes, the international cut that runs just under ninety-six-minute and a composite cut (which gathers all of the footage from the theatrical and international cuts) that runs just under one-hundred-and-forty-three-minutes. What are the main differences between the theatrical and international cuts? The biggest difference is that the international cut includes a length scene (almost twenty-minutes long!) where we see, via flashback, the exploits of the gypsy tribe from which our killer stems. In this sequence we see adult film stars John Leslie, Eric Edwards and Arcadia Lake all engage in some lengthy softcore bumping and grinding. This inserted material does explain why the gypsy camp was attacked and burned, but man oh man does it slow the film down. Even if you can appreciate the actors in this scene it's way too long and way too plodding. It was also put in there by the distributors, not by Brown himself. That is the biggest difference, however, the international cut removes some material that is included in the theatrical cut, including some nature footage, some bits from the campfire scene and a scene where Ranger O'Brien plays his banjo. The theatrical cut is definitely the more efficient version of the movie, but it's great that both cuts are included here as well as the composite (which will clearly be the de facto choice for those who ‘want it all' when it comes to The Prey!).

The movie itself bears some similarity to films like Friday The 13th and more closely Just Before Dawn but given that it was made around the same time as those two pictures you can't really call it a rip off. The first half of the picture is a bit on the slow side, but the third does see the picture shift into high gear and provide some decent enough tension. A young John Carl Buechler did the makeup effects for the film and while they aren't always the most realistic, they're well done and neat to see. The locations used for the film are appropriately scenic and remote, making them the ideal setting for a film like this. The cast are all fairly disposable but hey, Steve Bond would go on to a decent sized role in Andy Sidaris' Picasso Trigger, Lori Lethin has previously made Bloody Birthday and would later star in Return To Horror High, Gayle Gannes previously appeared in Human Experiments and Jackson Bostwick played the lead in the Shazam! TV series a few years prior. The Jackie Coogan in this film is the same Jackie Coogan that acted alongside Charlie Chaplin in The Kid in 1921, he went on to a pretty successful career in TV and film. As the actor who plays the killer? It's hard to recognize him under the burn makeup but if you look closely at the eyes you can make out Carel Struycken, who played Lurch in the nineties Addams Family films and The Giant in Twin Peaks.

The Video:

The theatrical version of the The Prey is presented on disc one, a 50GB disc, in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer of the original 35mm negative taken from a new 2k restoration and it looks excellent. There's a tiny bit of noticeable print damage, white specks and what not, and a small blue scratch that shows up for a little while at one point, but otherwise the image is quite clean. It shows very strong detail, depth and texture and retains plenty of natural film grain. There are no problems with any noticeable edge enhancement or noise reduction issues nor are there any problems with compression artifacts. Skin tones look nice and natural, color reproduction is accurate and black levels are strong. Even the night scenes show good shadow detail. The other two versions of the movie rely on the negative for most of their running time and inserts for the gypsy flashback footage, but this material has also been very well preserved and/or restored, when watching the international or composite cuts, you don't see a drastic drop in quality or anything like that. Overall, the presentation here is a very good one, and miles above the old VHS release (previously the only way to see the movie on home video).

The Audio:

Each version of the movie is presented in an English language LPCM Mono track with optional English subtitles provided, and the more or less sound the same. Quality here is solid. Dialogue is easy to understand and nicely balanced. There are a few scenes where the characters speak in whispers, but they're meant to sound that way. No problems with any hiss or distortion, the score sounds nice and clean with good depth.

The Extras:

Extras, and there are a lot of them, are spread across the two discs in the set as follows:

DISC ONE:

Aside form the theatrical cut, the first disc also includes a new audio commentary Made For TV Mayhem's Amanda Reyes and Arrow Video's Ewan Cant that is quite worth your time. Each commentator provides a separate purpose here. Cant, who is admittedly an obsessive fan of this film (this seems quite clearly to have been a genuine passion project for him), and he's able to offer quite a bit of the obsessive details about the picture and those who made it that you'd expect from a good track. He covers the biographical information, the locations, the production history and all that good stuff. Reyes, on the other hand, delivers the analytical side of the talk (and if you've heard any of her podcast work you know she's quite good at that), diving pretty deep into some theories about how the film deals with man's relationship to nature, how and why the killer's victims are portrayed as helpless against him, the way that the killer is integrated not just into the film but his literal physical surroundings and more. The end result is a nicely balanced mix of facts and trivia and insightful analysis and it's a good listen.

From there, Cant moderates an audio Interview with director Edwin Scott Brown who talks about his background in the porno film industry, working with producer Joel Steinman on the project, producing the earlier Human Experiments and how that led to working with Steinman on this, his thoughts on the gypsy footage that he never wanted in the movie, who the film's real cinematographer was, how the movie was financed, films that inspired the script and more. Cant shows up again in an audio interview with producer Summer Brown where she talks about working with Edwin on the script, interactions with the producer, desired locations, influences, how they found their composer and more. Both of these play out over the feature, audio commentary style.

After that, we dive into the interview featurettes, starting with a new on-camera interview with actress Debbie Thureson entitled Gypsies, Camps & Screams that clocks in at twenty-seven-minutes. She talks about her early days in the business and how she got her start, some of the television work that she did in this period, getting cast in the feature and her thoughts on the picture and what it was like on set. Lori Lethin is up next in the fourteen-minute Babe In The Woods. In this piece she speaks about what it was like on set, interacting with her cast and crew, improvising with the rest of the leads during certain scenes and more. After that, in Gayle On Gail, Gayle Gannes speaks for twelve-minutes about how she got to become quite friendly with Edwin and Summer Brown after working on Human Experiments with them and how her work on this film lead to a career in BBQ! The Wide-Mouthed Frog & Other Stories spends eighteen-minutes with Jackson Bostwick, who speaks about getting into acting after spending some time in the military, landing the pivotal role in Shazam!, shooting on location, the schedule and more. Actor Carel Struycken shows up next in the seven-minute The Call Of The Wild where he talks about his production company, landing the role in this and a few other pictures, when he was on set and when he wasn't and some of the makeup work that was done for his character.

Disc one also holds In Search Of The Prey, a featurette where Ewan Cant and actress Debbie Thureson travel to the original shooting locations in Idyllwild, California and spend fourteen-minutes checking out the hills, valley and cabins that were used during the production. The first disc also includes a Texas Frightmare Weekend 2019 Audience Reaction Track that replicates the experience of watching the theatrical cut with an audience as well as a VHS trailer, a TV Spot and, for the BD-rom equipped, a PDF of the film's original script.

DISC TWO:

In addition to the international and composite cuts of the film, the second disc also contains an Extended Outtakes Reel that contains forty-five-minutes of never-before-seen outtakes from the film. There's some interesting stuff in here, including some footage of an alternate kill scene, some more material with the killer running about causing a ruckus. It's all presented without any sound but it's still great to see it included here.

Both discs fit nicely inside a clear Blu-ray case that also holds some reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn and a limited edition booklet featuring writing on the film by Ewan Cant and a piece on cutting together the international version by Joe Rubin along with credits fro the feature and for the Blu-ray release.

Overall:

The Prey isn't the be all, end all of backwoods slashers but it's pretty entertaining, particularly in its second half. Arrow has done a fantastic job bringing it to Blu-ray with three nicely restored cuts of the film included alongside a rather massive trove of extra features. Slasher fans and B-horror aficionados can consider this highly recommended on the strength of the package (though the movie is pretty fun too).

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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