PREY (1977)
Norman J. Warren
Redemption USA/Image Entertainment

After his impressive genre debut with SATAN'S SLAVE in 1976, British director Norman J. Warren was still trying to inject fresh blood into the U.K. horror/exploitation film long after its demise in the mid 70s. Warren is in a class with a "new wave" that included Pete Walker and José Ramón Larraz, all who were crafting films very dissimilar to what Hammer and Amicus were doing years earlier, and his PREY (aka ALIEN PREY) provides a very unusual narrative for something guised as a science-fiction effort.

An alien with a canine-like appearance arrives on earth, only to attack a young couple making out, and manifesting the body of the male. Choosing a name for himself, Anderson (Barry Stokes) stumles on the large cottage home of two lesbian lovers, the dominant Jo (Sally Faulkner) and the sweeter Jessica (Gloria Annen). Thinking that Anderson is hurt, they let him in and allow him to stay for a while. Being from another planet, Anderson acts unusual, not eating any of their food, and only indulging in wine and any living animal he can find outside the grounds. His presence brings much tension to the women's relationship. Growing increasingly tired of Jo's obsessive behavior towards her, Jessica starts to fall for Anderson. Jo (who is revealed to have a devious background) attempts to sissify their male visitor by dressing him in make-up and an evening gown, in one of her more desperate attempts to challenge the outside threat. Anderson's animal-like behavior and true essence eventually leads to the girls' downfall, with much morbid excitement occurring in the last 15 minutes or so.

The idea of an alien coming to earth and stealing the identity from a human had been done in sci-fi movies since the 50s, but with PREY, the approach is much different. Here, the extraterrestrial doesn't set out to conquer an entire town or a nation off the bat, but rather, he spontaneously infiltrates the residence of a romantic couple with domestic problems, and the setting presents one of isolation. At the end we discover what this alien's mission really is all about, but the intriguing story centers on how he makes life hell for these two women (who write him off as an institute escapee), and all the odd behavior that goes along with this. The film is very low budget, but is well acted by the three principals, and it never tries to override its limitations, therefore succeeding. The make-up by Harry Frampton is limited but nicely done, allowing Anderson to slip into his monstrous state (complete with fangs and red contact lenses) during his fits of rage, and although there is an extensive lesbian love-making scene, it seems totally essential to the plot and not just added for the sake of exploitation. PREY is not nearly as gory as most of Warren's other horror films, but things do get bloody when necessary, and this is one of the director's best.

Redemption has released PREY on DVD through Image Entertainment, with a print that's not really up to par. It's full frame and looks to be a bit out of proportion, as evidenced by the opening and closing credits which are very tight. The print source has some muted colors and lots of speckling and blemishes abound, but once your eyes settle in, it's easy to take the transfer for what it is and enjoy the show. The mono audio has its limitations but is not bad at all.

Extras include a video interview with director Warren, and although it's labeled as "brief," it runs for nearly 30 minutes! Warren is a charming guy, as he talks about his entire career from his two 60s sexploitation films, to all the horrors, and he tells us how difficult it was to make these movies with all the problems (mostly financial) that would arise. Warren also shows great interest in doing another horror film, despite the state of the industry in Great Britain, and it would be wonderful if he could get a major project off the ground. The camcorder-lensed interview (conducted by a British journalist) is great, but hampered by poor audio and extremely shaky photography. Also included are the Cert X British trailer (which is letterboxed and actually has better quality than the feature) and a still gallery. (George R. Reis)