18 December 2014

(1980)

A shock ending (boasting one of slasherdom's only 'alterna-familys' no less!) is not what one would expect from a standard "killer in the woods" flicks so common in the wake of the success of 1980's Friday the 13th.

Surprisingly, that's exactly what you get in The Prey, the nature heavy backwoods slasher directed, produced and co-written by Edwin Scott Brown. Is it a work of art? No. But certainly The Prey doesn't lay claim to the worst horror title either and indeed looks more honest with each passing year...

Northpoint, Keen Wild is the type of place in the wilderness that gets ravaged every so often by wildfires. Such a fire swept through here in 1948.

1980, the present. Middle-aged couple Frank and Mary Sylvester (Ted Hayden and Connie Hunter) are camping. Mary decides to take a walk by the lake and hears a scream. She rushes back to the campsite to find the decapitated body of her husband. She too is killed.

A few weeks later, three couples arrive for a hiking trip. The group is comprised of Joel and Nancy (Steve Bond and Debbie Thureson), Skip and Bobbie (Robert Wald and Lori Lethin) and Greg and Gail (Philip Wenckus and Gayle Gannes).

Before they head up into the mountains, Ranger Mark O'Brien (Jackson Bostwick) tells them to be careful. Unbeknownst to anyone, a deformed creature is on the loose.

During the hike, Gail falls behind and she gets the feeling she is being watched and followed. Skip finds a pipe that belonged to Frank Sylvester. Night falls and the group sits around the campfire, telling scary stories and frying fish.

Bobbie becomes furious when Skip jumps out at her and nearly frightens her to death. His punishment? Bobbie refuses to "put out" for him that evening.

While making out with Greg, Gail is convinced that an animal is nearby. When Greg leaves to investigate, Gail is smothered with a sleeping bag. Greg's lantern goes out and as he lights a match to relight it, his neck is slashed.

There is no trace of the couple the next day. Although they have no idea what happened to Greg and Gail, the group votes to continue their hike. A note is left behind for the missing two.

Inspector Tile (Jackie Coogan) gets a call from Sgt. Parsons (Garry Goodrow) reporting the disappearance of the Sylvesters. He is told they went up to Northpoint three weeks before and never returned. Both teachers, they did not show up to their jobs when the school year began. A ranger will be sent to look for them.

Speaking with Ranger O'Brien, Tile describes a fire up at Northpoint years before...and how a family of gypsies was killed in a cave they were living in. He recalls that when the replanting of the area was to begin, he caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a young male survivor burned beyond recognition. O'Brien agrees to help search for the Sylvesters.

Joel and Skip decide to climb down the side of a huge cliff while the girls sunbathe. As Joel goes first, Skip stands at the edge of the rock and is grabbed from behind by the creature...who twists his head around. Before Joel can see what's happening, the creature cuts the rope and sends Joel plummeting to his death.

Nancy and Bobbie find Skip's body and see that Joel's rope was cut. The creature goes after them and Bobbie inadvertently steps into a trap. She is swung into the side of a rock and her face is smashed against it.

Ranger O'Brien, who has heard the commotion, shoots a dart at the creature but it has no affect. The creature picks him up and promptly squashes him.

Nancy is left alone and helpless. In due time...nine months perhaps...a cry is heard from a cave. It is the sound of a newborn baby...

The Prey is aided by a game and understated cast that includes Jackson Bostwick (one of TV's two Captain Marvels in the '70s Shazam program) and some terrific special make-up and effects by John Carl Buechler. Contrary to what many have said, the lingering shots of various insects and animals is a nice touch.

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