Prey/Alien Prey (1977)

Prey (1977)‘Could the little green men have landed at last?’

Two women living in an isolated house in the woods invite a mysterious stranger to stay the night. Unfortunately, he proves to be a carnivorous alien in disguise, who is on a survey trip trying to locate new sources of food…

The big screen in the UK was a wasteland for Science Fiction in the 1970s. What aliens there were plied their trade on television, either battling ‘Dr. Who’ or being attacked by Martin Landau on ‘Space 1999’ who always shot first and sometimes bothered with a few questions afterwards. By the latter half of the decade even Hammer Studios had shut up shop, their gallery of monsters killed off by a mixture of a dwindling box office and attempts to bring their adventures into the present day. Even the global phenomenon of ‘Star Wars’ (1977) failed to provoke much of a reaction. Enter director Norman J. Warren.

Our story opens with pretty young brunette Glory Annen waking from a nightmare to see flashing lights outside her bedroom window. Nearby, a romantic liaison on lover’s lane comes to a less than satisfactory conclusion when the man (Barry Stokes) is slaughtered after investigating the obligatory rustling in the bushes. Only he reappears a few seconds later and sinks his teeth into his girlfriend (and not in a sexy way). Yes, the aliens have arrived and they have very sharp teeth. Meanwhile, Annen has rushed to the bedroom of her lover (the older and seriously uptight Sally Faulkner), only to have her experience dismissed as a dream. Later on, the trio meet in the woods and the soft-hearted Annen invites Stokes to say, which proves to be a seriously bad idea.

Shot in only 10 days on one location and with a basic cast of three, this film neatly epitomises the challenges of low-budget filmmaking. That Warren knew how to frame a shot is not in doubt. That the cast knew how to perform for the camera and screenwriter Max Cuff knew how to pen a competent script is not in question either. Sadly, resources were obviously so limited that there is no significant story development whatsoever, and we are (mostly) stuck between four walls for 80 minutes with the shifting relationships between our principals. There are some twists to the tale but they’re not exactly difficult to spot and it’s fair to say that the results do drag a little.

Prey (1977)

‘I think this bath water may need changing…’

Stokes’ alien makeup is actually not bad (there are no other SFX) and the girls put him in a dress for a house party, his understanding of human social interactions being a little …underdeveloped. In fact, his behaviour is so strange that the women think he has escaped from a nearby asylum, which does beg the question of why they let him stay in the first place! There’s also a weird, slow-motion scene in a pond with loud electronic music that seems to belong in another film entirely.

Warren began his career directing soft core porn in the 1960s, before achieving a kind of respectability with low-budget horror ‘Satan’s Slave’ (1976). That film starred Michael Gough, who found his greatest fame late in life as Alfred to Michael Keaton’s ‘Batman’ (1989). Subsequent Warren projects included Science Fiction sex comedy ‘Outer Touch (aka ‘Spaced Out’) (1979), also featuring Stokes and Annen, as well as horrors ‘Terror’ (1978) and ‘Bloody New Year’ (1987). There was also another unfriendly ‘close encounter’ with the tasteless ‘lnseminoid’ (aka ‘Horror Planet’) (1981), which introduced the world to the concept of gory alien glove puppets.

This is a very minor effort; decently acted but hamstrung by its obvious lack of budget.

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