Release Date(s)1983 (October 1, 2019)
Studio(s)Essex Productions/New World Pictures (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B-
- Extras Grade: A
Predating the slasher boom but never getting a proper release until 1983 (possibly even 1984), The Prey has, until now, remained dormant since its release on home video in the late 1980s. With many similarities to Friday the 13th, it was certainly one of many to be accused of ripping it off, despite the fact that its production actually preceded it. A basic tale about infatuated teenagers going out into the woods where there’s a killer on the loose seems humdrum on the surface, but is much more out of the ordinary than its trappings would suggest.
To be clear, The Prey is not a good movie at all. However, it offers more entertainment value than many of its successors. From the nature stock footage to Jackie Coogan pondering the merits of a sandwich to the laugh-inducing dialogue, there’s always something curious lurking around the corner. However, there are also stretches of time with little to no dialogue, or simple low grade exchanges, with no score or story momentum. The bloodshed isn’t plentiful in terms of the body count, but a couple of bits of nudity and sporadic gore gags (as well as monster makeup by the late, great John Carl Buechler) keep things firmly placed in R-rated territory.
The Prey runs for a lean 80 minutes while its international version counterpart adds an extra 16 minutes to the running time. This version trims out portions of the nature stock footage, reorders a couple of scenes, but most importantly, adds in a lengthy flashback explaining the origins of the killer, which was added later by home video distributors against the filmmakers’ wishes. Aside from the kills, the most memorable aspect of the film is its ending, which is far too good to spoil, but gives the story a unique punch to the gut to go out on, which is both outrageous and comical.
The Prey makes its Blu-ray debut in a 2-Disc set from Arrow Video with a new 2K restoration of the theatrical and international versions of the film, which have been sourced from the original 35mm camera negative. Needless to say, it’s a dramatic improvement over its analog counterpart, but not without a few flaws. It’s a natural and film-like presentation featuring heavy grain but crisp detail, aside from the stock footage which is softer and less refined. Detail, even during night scenes, excels. The color palette offers lush foliage, though not without occasional flicker during the stock footage. Black levels are deep with minor crush built in, while brightness and contrast levels are more than adequate without appearing blown out or smoky. Leftover damage is relegated to minor scratches and speckling, though there is noticeable wobble throughout, which is more pronounced in certain areas than others.
The audio is presented in English mono LPCM with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s far from stunning, but represents the film well enough. Dialogue exchanges, at least those that are firmly in the foreground of the track, are discernable. Sound effects are a tad weak for the most part, which could be chalked up to the budget. Don Peake’s score, which is reminiscent of a TV movie score (which makes sense as he was mostly doing TV during this period of time), offers the most clarity. There isn’t much of it as the film plays silent for the majority of its running time, but it does pop up effectively. Leftover damage includes mild hiss and occasional thumps.
This release also boasts a nice extras package, courtesy of Red Shirt Pictures (spearheaded by Ewan Cant). Disc One, which contains the theatrical version of the film, features an audio commentary with Arrow Video producer Ewan Cant and author Amanda Reyes, both of whom are big fans of the film and provide plenty of information about its cast and crew, as well as a lighthearted discussion of its content; Gypsies, Camps, and Screams, a 27-minute interview with actress Debbie Thureson; Babe in the Woods, a 14-minute interview with actress Lori Lethin; Gayle on Gail, a 12-minute interview with actress Gayle Gannes Rosenthal; The Wide-Mouthed Frog and Other Stories, an 18-minute interview with actor Jackson Bostwick; Call of the Wild, a 7-minute interview with actor Carel Struycken; In Search of The Prey, a 14-minute location revisit with Ewan Cant and actress Debbie Thurseon; the Texas Frightmare Weekend Experience, which features options to watch the film with a live audience track, followed by a Q&A afterwards, or to watch them separately from each other; a TV spot; the home video trailer; a 58-minute audio interview with director Edwin Brown; and a 74-minute audio interview with producer Summer Brown. The last two items of interest also double as audio commentaries.
Disc Two, which contains the international version of the film, also includes a composite cut, combining both versions of the film which a final runtime of 103 minutes. Additionally, there are 46 minutes of silent outtakes from the film, including alternate scenes and angles. Also included in the package is a “Keen Wilderness” camping permit reproduction and a 28-page insert booklet featuring cast and crew information, Tracking The Prey by Ewan Cant, Restoring Something That Never Existed: Reconstructing The Prey by Joe Rubin, and restoration details.
Slasher fans are bound to rejoice with the kit glove treatment of The Prey on Blu-ray. It’s not one of those lost classics, but it’s up there in terms of hidden gems like Blood Rage, The Mutilator, and The Slayer for its entertainment value, unintentional or otherwise. To boot, it’s a great disc overall.
– Tim Salmons