What do vegetarian lesbians, murder, and invading aliens have in common? The obvious answer would be Norman J. Warren’s cult classic Prey, a dark and twisted film that takes the audience on a claustrophobic trip with a trio of characters that are two parts Lewis Carrol and one part Hitchcockian. There have been many alien invasion flicks over the years, ranging from classics like Ray Harryhausen’s Earth vs The Flying Saucers to big blockbusters like Independence Day, but with Prey, we got a more intimate and warped take on the genre.
The British film Prey opens much as you’d expect a typical 1970s slasher film would start: with a young couple having a romantic tryst in their car when they have a close encounter of the most violent kind. In this movie, that doesn’t mean a chainsaw-wielding maniac, but instead, this terror comes in the form of a shape-shifting alien named Kator (Barry Stokes), who brutally murders the couple and then takes on the form and appearance of the male victim. As cinematic villains go, one will have to admit that Kator is a rare specimen: a blunt metaphor for violent masculinity of the male species — despite being an alien, Kator is decidedly male — and when his scouting mission to Earth results in an encounter with a couple of lesbians, the metaphor moves from subtext to just plain ol’ text.
Our cast of characters is rounded out by Jessica-Ann (Glory Annen) and Josephine (Sally Faulkner), a lesbian couple who live in a nearby manor house. It was Jessica who witnessed strange lights in the sky, but her lover Jo has no time for fanciful notions of space visitors. Jessica is a flighty and meek young woman who wants to see more of the world or at least more than what can be found in the woods surrounding this house, but her paramour Jo is a domineering partner who has no interest in risking her partner encountering rivals. The character of Jo is your typical psycho-lesbian that has popped up in countless thrillers over the years but this cliché is turned on its head when the next rival turns out to be a carnivorous creature from outer space. In films of this type, Jo would normally be the villain of the piece, and it would be up to the arriving hero to rescue Jessica from her evil clutches, but in Prey, the would-be saviour turns out to be even more dangerous than the jealously crazed lesbian lover.
It’s when Kator, now going under the assumed name of Anders, arrives at the manor house that things go from being simply horrific to the bloody bizarre. At first, Jo considers Anders to be a trespasser, which he is, but Jessica notices his limp and forces Jo to offer him aid. This was a mistake. It turns out that Kator is an advance scout for an alien invasion force and he’s been sent here to see if Earth is worth the effort. The film’s eighty-five-minute run-time consists of “Anders” acting all creepy, Jessica ranging from being terrified to full-on excited, while Jo covers the ground between suspicion and jealousy. The story’s location is mostly within the manor house and despite its size, it still manages to give us a rather nasty claustrophobic feel, mostly due to Jessica appearing to be a trapped rabbit in her own home, with a few excursions into the surrounding woods that only adds to one’s feeling of isolation.
As mentioned, the character of Jo is your typical deranged movie lesbian, one who considers any man a threat, and we quickly learn that she murdered a man who may or not have shown a passing interest in Jessica. The odd thing is, when Jessica discovers proof of the murder, she quickly goes from being rightfully afraid of Jo to pretty much brushing it off as “old history,” and then having some robust sex with the murderess. It’s clear that Jo’s love for Jessica is an unhealthy one, but that path clearly goes both ways when it comes to how Jessica feels about Jo and as a result, neither character comes across as all that sympathetic. The intrusion of Kator/Anders is a catalyst for the destruction of a relationship that was most likely doomed from the start, which makes the whole theme of “heterosexual temptation” brought forth with Ander’s arrival rather moot when you consider that Jessica was doomed no matter what choice she made. His arrival does put Jo on a war footing — whether she wants him gone or dead is constantly in the up in the air — and this eventually leads to a bizarre scene where they celebrate the killing of a fox, which had supposedly been killing their chickens, and then Anders is given a very feminine makeover for the festivities.
To say that Prey is a bizarre movie would be a vast understatement. With its off-putting views on homosexuality, masculinity, and relationships, it’s definitely not your average fare for horror fans, but the trio of actors manage to ground things as much as possible. Then we have the whole alien invasion aspect which often seems like an afterthought. Now, we do get a couple of scenes of Anders turning into puppy-faced Kator to perform a killing or two, and he does radio his mothership with updates from time to time, but the film’s focus seems more on the homoerotic elements of the plot than it’s science fiction components. Overall, the film works as a solid horror/thriller with the “outer space” element being a little icing on its cake of bizarreness. Prey is a hard film to recommend to your average horror fan, but if you go into a viewing of this film with an open mind, you will most likely be entertained.
Prey (1977) – Review
Movie Rank - 6.5/10
If one can embrace the premise of humanity hanging in the balance on a dog-faced shape-shifting alien’s encounter with a couple of out-there lesbians then this film can be considered a worthwhile expenditure of time but if you are easily offended you may want to give it a miss.