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Many years ago I saw a movie on HBO called Savage Harvest, which starred Tom Skerritt and focused on the horrors inherent in an African lion attack. For some reason people seem to have a real soft spot for "lions attack!" movies; hell, even Bart & Homer Simpson consider it a fairly worthwhile sub-genre. I guess there's just something primevally spooky about being devoured by a ravenous lion, which helps to explain why we've just been given yet another "lions attack!" horror flick: The cleverly-titled Prey.
Here's the set-up: Peter Weller just married Bridget Moynahan -- and his kids are none too happy about the situation. Combine that with the fact that the new family is stuck in the deepest depths of Africa during an unexpected lion-fest, and we've got a recipe for obviousness. While out with her new stepkids and an ill-fated guide, Moynahan is forced to deal with a pride of (very) hungry lions, majestic beasties who seemingly have no problem chomping down into man-flesh if the situation arises.
Meanwhile Weller heads off to find a Great White Hunter to help him track his family down ... but there's a lot of Africa out there; an Africa filled with inordinately ravenous lions.
So there's your set-up: a hottie and two screeching kids trapped in a truck while hungry lions hide in the distance -- and Dad (plus a pale imitation of Robert Shaw) go on a search to rescue the folks. Every once in a while some red-shirt guide or helpful native gets gored (but good) by the local lions, which definitely ups the carnage factor but does very little in the departments of excitement, jolts or intrigue.
Aside from the somewhat sketchy CGI work used to make the lions' teeth pointier (and kills goopier) there's nothing here you haven't seen in any old Lions Gone Wild movie. Weller glowers and growls, Moynahan worries and whines, the kids scream and slobber, the lions eat a bunch of minor characters, and then a truly uproarious finale kicks in. It's just like the end of Jaws only without all those pesky components like logic, sense and intensity.
While not entirely without merit (the thing moves quickly along and is rather well-shot), Prey is grade-A conventional all the way. You know who'll survive (and who'll be lunch) by the end of Act I, which doesn't really add much tension to Acts II and III. And for every satisfyingly nasty lion attack, there's one or two moments of CGI over-reliance that serve only to yank you right out of the mood.
Still, I've always been a sucker for Animals Attack! movies, and this one manages to be a half-decent time-waster, if only in a 'rainy matinee' sort of way.
Audio/Video: The anamorphic widescreen transfer does a fine job of bringing the (surprisingly) crisp African cinematography to life, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track does a fine job with the screams and the growls.
So it's obvious, predictable, and (at times) quite a little bit silly. Prey belongs to one of those special little sub-genres that'll always earn a little break from me: If your movie features lions eating people, I'll probably enjoy it -- even if it's as obvious, predictable and periodically silly as Prey.