David A. Prior's classic direct-to-video DEADLY PREY and the HD video sequel THE DEADLIEST PREY make their Blu-ray debuts courtesy of Slasher Video and Olive Films just a few months after his sudden death at age fifty-nine.
Booted out of the military for his unorthodox training techniques, Colonel Hogan (David Campbell, EVIL ALTAR) finds the backing of amoral businessman Don Michaelson (Troy Donahue, SEIZURE) who has a need for mercenary assassins for overseas business. Hogan has decided that war games are ineffective and instead has his trainees – lead by Lieutenant Thornton (Fritz Matthews, KILLER WORKOUT) – to abduct able-bodied men off of the streets to hunt down and kill on their woodland training ground. With Michaelson breathing down his neck, Hogan steps up the training. Unbeknownst to Hogan, and unfortunately for the trainees, Thornton has inadvertently abducted 'Nam vet Mike Danton (Ted Prior, POSSESSED BY THE NIGHT) who was Hogan's best soldier before he quit the army for civilian life. Danton makes short work of Hogan's men – among them former buddy Cooper (William Zipp, JUNGLE ASSAULT) who owes him a favor for saving his life – but finds Thornton a more formidable rival. Meanwhile, Danton's wife Jaimy (Suzanne Tara, THE DANGER ZONE) looks to her ex-military father (Cameron Mitchell, THE TOOLBOX MURDERS) to track down her missing husband.
The first production of video distributor Action International Pictures, DEADLY PREY was the fifth directorial effort by David A. Prior following his debut with the unintentionally dreamlike slasher effort SLEDGEHAMMER, and the fourth to showcase his brother Ted Prior. Performances are mostly undisciplined with even the more experienced actors coming off poorly (Mitchell looks like he can barely tolerate Tara's delivery and Donahue just seems anaesthetized), Prior wooden but improved over their earlier collaborations, and PRISONERS OF THE LOST UNIVERSE's Dawn Abraham an oddly irritable evil sidekick to Hogan while Campbell and Matthews fare best going off the rails. The body count is the film's raison d'etre; and after a first act of mostly squib-less bullet hits, the second half boasts some fun stabbings, scalpings, impalements, limb-lopping, and even a grenade to the crotch. The climax is fairly downbeat with an ending that is more open than sequel-begging; which is just as well, since a sequel would not follow until twenty-six years later.
Although DEADLIEST PREY is more of a retread than a sequel, the Priors know how to play with audience expectations informed by the first film; familiarity of which enriches ones appreciation of a film that might otherwise be indistinguishable from the glut of HD-lensed action films making use of the same cameras, the same CGI helicopters and pyrotechnics (although there are some satisfyingly icky practical effects during the climax), and the same cost-effective backdrops. Hogan getting out of prison after a twenty-five year sentence and out for revenge. How will he accomplish this: by kidnapping Mike Danton again and sending his new troupe of mercenaries to hunt him down and kill him; this time, however, it will be broadcast all over the internet so he can show everyone who is the best. Even twenty-five years older and a few pounds heavier, Danton is still able to make short work of his foes; but Hogan has more tricks up his sleeve, including Thornton's twin brother out for vengeance. Danton, on the other hand, seems to have learned nothing since his new wife (Cat Tomeny) and son (Prior's son Michael) are snatched once again by Hogan's new sadism-loving female sidekick Sophia (Tara Kleinpeter, SKYHOOK) while he is busy running around the woods. Fortunately, Danton not only as an ally in another old buddy (Art. James, NIGHT CLAWS) but also a trio of hackers (Bleeding Skull!'s Zack Carlson, Everything is Terrible's Dimitri Simakis and Suki-Rose Simakis) who have traced the video feed in search of excitement. Producers A. Wade Miller (METAMORPHOSIS) and Fabio Soldani (THE DRAGON WARRIOR) cameo as Hogan's new financial backers (although not for long).
Although produced by Action International Pictures, the film wound up being released on tape by Sony. Slasher Video met with some controversy online when they asked fans if they would like Blu-ray releases for titles for which they could find no film elements, and surprised and stupefied them by going to the expense of producing Blu-rays for these titles; as such, DEADLY PREY is presented on Blu-ray in a 1080i60 MPEG-4 AVC 1.33:1 pillarboxed encode from a PAL Beta SP tape master that looks pretty much the way an upscaled DVD of a tape master would look. The master has a few barely noticeable video defects that make it all the more regrettable that the film elements are lost. THE DEADLIEST PREY (previously available on DVD direct from Prior's own Night Claws Productions), on the other hand, was shot in 4K with a Red Epic camera and looks considerably slicker even if the cinematography is not any more stylish. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo track is slicker and technologically advanced over the original's mono track but not as gimmicky and adventurous as one might hope (although it provides a more dynamic presentation of the recycled/possibly re-recorded theme music).
DEADLY PREY is accompanied by interview with make-up effects artist Jack Hojohn (14:46) who discusses his early fascination with monsters and make-up effects (experimenting first with the Dick Smith make-up kits) and a few early projects before DEADLY PREY. Of the film, he recalls waiting around to do effects and serving as boom operator in the meantime. A lot of the film was shot on Matthews' property where the actor was in charge of the pyrotechnic effects. "Dubbed Prey" (6:09) is a handful of scenes dubbed in Russian while the outtakes (3:49) are alternate takes of action and pyrotechnic scenes (including one or to botched ones). The film's video trailer (0:52) is also included along with a photo gallery. DEADLIEST PREY features four short interviews Ted Prior (7:01), David A. Prior (2:53), David Campbell (2:58), and Fritz Matthews (3:45). They all express surprise about the film's cult following, with Ted Prior learning of it while attending a Cinefamily screening with his son, and their enthusiasm about doing a sequel. David Prior reveals that the script took only a few days as he stuck to the first film's formula and the production was tacked on to the end of RELENTLESS JUSTICE (on which Campbell had a supporting role). Matthews disappeared from acting a while after DEADLY PREY and founded a church in his home state. He got back in touch with the Priors after a local fan sent him a link to a blog post David Prior wrote about him (before Matthews reestablished contact, Will Haagersen's character was intended to replace him). Although he has been "saved", he does not regard Hollywood and moviemaking as bad, and enjoyed working on the film. (Eric Cotenas)
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