Back in 1983 several Slasher films emerged in theaters including Sleepaway Camp, Curtains, and also a lesser known one called The Prey. A low budget film made with an estimated $150,000, The Prey may not be one of the first Horror films to jump to your mind, but is a worthy Slasher flick to reflect on as it turns 40 years old.
Directed by Edwin Brown, who co-wrote the screenplay with his wife Summer Brown, there are a lot of interesting pieces of detail surrounding The Prey. First, Edwin and Summer (who also acted as the producer on The Prey), were actually making their first non-pornographic film debut. Previously the two had worked strictly within adult films, that was until 1979 when they worked on Human Experiments; a film that is notoriously considered one the Video Nasty in the UK during the early ‘80s. That in mind, The Prey was their first full-fledged film of this type, and more influenced by Horror favorites such as 1978’s Halloween.
Exploring the Horror more deeply with The Prey, interestingly enough even though the film was released in 1983, it was actually shot in 1979. Done so over a 10 day clip, they incorporated ample footage of animals in their natural habitat to add an element of being alone out in the wild. Initially envisioned to be shot in the Colorado Rockies, but not so due to costs, Idyllwild, California (where Suicide Rock is located) was selected.
With these elements in mind, they also casted Debbie Thureson, Steve Bond (known for his modeling, as well as role in General Hospital), Lori Lethin (Bloody Birthday 1981, Return to Horror High 1987), Jackson Bostwick (who portrayed Captain Marvel in the 1974 TV series Shazam!), as well as Jackie Coogan (Famously remembered for his role as Uncle Fester in the 1960s TV series The Addams Family). Additionally, Carel Struycken, who went onto play Lurch in the popular ‘90s The Adaams Family film series, was cast as the deformed killer in The Prey.
A solid group of actors and actresses, The Prey also features special effects work from John Carl Buechler; who would go onto direct 1988’s Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, but also providing special effects from A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, also from 1988. If that was not enough to interest Horror lovers, Don Peake, who composed the score of Wes Craven’s 1977 classic The Hills Have Eyes, would write/compose the soundtrack for The Prey.
All these factors in mind, The Prey was at last released on November 4th in 1983 by New World Pictures; theatrically premiering in places like Louisville, Kentucky. From here it landed on premium television stations in Canada, before popping up on Showtime in the late summer of 1984, going on to additional theatrical screenings through that year. Unfortunately the film did not play too well with critics, however, perhaps some missed the film’s best attributes. For one, it is not an A-typical Slasher, because rather than excessive butchering, it relies primarily on backdrops to create an atmosphere. Furthermore, the story, while not a masterpiece, is quite interesting, leaving plenty to the imagination.
Overall, The Prey is one of those early ‘80s Horror films that is largely forgotten. This could be mostly because after the 1988 VHS release, the film did not make the jump to DVD or Blu-ray until 2019. A massive three decade plus gap where potential new audiences could not see it, finally, Arrow Films released a 2-disc Blu-ray in 2019. Perhaps your best way to view it, the 2019 set features a newly restored version of the theatrical cut, plus 2 additional cuts of the film. Beyond this, The Prey has also made it to several streaming services in recent years. So, if you are hunting for a new ‘80s Horror flick to check out, even 40 years later, The Prey is worth taking a look at.