PREY (1978)
Norman J. Warren
Redemption USA

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 1970s. 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, the title it was given on U.S. home video) provides a very unusual narrative for something guised as a science-fiction yarn.

An alien with a canine-like appearance arrives on earth, only to attack a young couple making out, manifesting the body of the horny male. Choosing a name for himself, Anderson (Barry Stokes) stumbles on the large cottage home of two lesbian lovers, the dominant Jo (Sally Faulkner, VAMPYRES) and the sweeter Jessica (Gloria Annen, a Canadian by birth, as is her character). 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 a good amount of 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 1950s, 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 simply 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 finest.

Redemption previously released PREY on DVD through Image Entertainment in 2004, and this 2009 edition looks to be culled from the same film source, yet the colors appear less oversaturated. It's full frame and looks to be a bit zoomed in, 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 accept the generally clean and well-detailed transfer for what it is and enjoy the show. The mono English audio has its limitations but is not too bad at all.

The 2004 DVD included a 30-minute interview with director Warren. That’s not present in this package, but rather, we get several brand new supplements, including a running audio commentary with Warren, lead actress Faulkner and editor Alan Jones, moderated by Rebecca Johnson. It’s a fun commentary as the participants reflect on making the film in the Spring of 1977 in and around Shepperton Studios with a small crew and cast. The always charming and sincere Warren remembers most of the smaller details, but all the participants have a good laugh while re-watching their work and seemed to have enjoyed themselves greatly while filming it. Warren, Faulkner and Jones are back on camera for “Aliens, Lust and Terror,” a featurette which lasts nearly 42 minutes. The interviews are shown individually (rather than intertwined) and Warren naturally gets the majority of the screen time, as he discusses this film, his film career in general, and the ins and outs of low budgets he was frequently allotted, as well as projects that never got off the ground. Faulkner and Jones (also engaging interview subjects) discuss some of the other works in their careers in addition to the film in question. Rounding out the extras are a Cert X British trailer (which is letterboxed and actually has better quality than the feature itself), a still gallery (of color and black & white stills) and trailers for a handful of other Redemption USA DVD releases. (George R. Reis)