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31 Nightmares

31 Nightmares

Friday, May 18, 2018

Prey


Prey (aka Alien Prey)
1977
Normal J. Warren

Josephine (Sally Faulkner) and Jessica (Glory Annen) are lovers who are hidden away on an overgrown estate. Their relationship is strained by Jessica’s desire to go out and have sex with other people. If that wasn’t enough, a man named Anders appears on their grounds. He seems distant and confused most of the time, also not at all forthcoming with the fact that he’s a shape-changing monster here on Earth to size up its invasion prospects.

Prey mixes and sex and SF/Horror to some middling results. Director, Norman J. Warren would later go on to direct Horror Planet (1981) (or its much better title Inseminoid ) which was also an attempt at merging these elements. Prey is a much more serious venture and as a result, it lacks the camp value that made Horror Planet mostly tolerable. That is not to say Prey is terrible but its presentation is dour throughout as the viewer is trapped in an unpleasant situation with three unlikable people, while we wait too long for the inevitable reveal of the monster.

"What is this human thing called kissing? Oh, and am I drinking Perrier-Jou√ęt Grand Brut? It is a delight."
A film set in a single location with only three principle characters lives or dies on those performances. I think all three actors do the best with what they are given. Sally Faulkner has the most interesting character in Josephine, a woman who is controlling but losing her grip on her lover and is now faced with a person whom she doesn’t know how to deal with. Glory Annen’s Jessica is bratty, loud, and often annoying. Perhaps that was the intent, but then I have to wonder how or why someone like Josephine would put up with her for very long. It makes sense that the Anders, as an alien, is the hardest to pin down as a characterization. His behavior is truly odd, he doesn’t know what most things are, expect he can occasionally figure it out from context. He is also a terrible swimmer which is played out in a ludicrously long slow-motion scene. Anders never feels like a threat until he is one, which perhaps the cleverest element of this whole film.

Prey brings with it the promise of sex and horror, but in reality, it is restrained with both of them. I have to commend Warren on at least making an effort to show sex between Josephine and Jessica in a more naturalistic way rather than making it an exploitative moment. It isn’t wholly successful in that regard but for a low budget horror movie from the 1970s, it's remarkable. There isn’t much in the way of on-screen bloodletting save for a couple of moments. They aren’t bad, but the horror feels very undercut by Anders silly black doggie nose as he transforms.

Walkies?
The real question about Prey is, what is the subtext here? Are all of our characters predators and prey in some fashion? Does Josephine prey on the young Jessica, while Jessica, in turn, preys on Anders, who’s planning on eating them both anyway? Does Anders represent the predatory masculinity that Josephine fears? Whatever the actual undercurrent is here, it feels very muddled.  Just when the movie seems to ponder its interpersonal dynamics too long it quickly reminds you this mostly about a flesh-eating werewolf from space who hangs out with some lesbians for a couple days.

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