Saturday, October 25, 2014

#193: Prey (Norman J. Warren, 1978)

Also known as Alien Prey, Norman J. Warren's 1978 low-budget sci-fi/horror film is probably the weirdest British-Canadian werewolf-alien lesbian-sexploitation man-who-fell-to-earth gender-bending cannibalism film I've seen this year, or ever. This is such a bizarre film and a prime candidate for cult-film discovery. Any movie with mostly negative responses from the partially illiterate bores who dominate the Netflix user reviews section has to be doing something interesting, and Prey is in that company. I feel it is also important to note for the 10-year-old boy in us all that three of the crew members have the following names: Nigel Goldsack, George Boner, and John Chubb.
Prey begins with flashing lights and the transmission of a message back to space, its consequences unknown to us until the end of the film. The lights awaken Jessica (Glory Annen), a childlike and occasionally childish young woman who has inherited the stately country mansion she lives in with her older and more experienced lesbian lover Josephine (Sally Faulkner, whom you may remember from another '70s lesbian sexploitation/country-set horror film, Vampyres). We soon learn that Josephine has an unhealthy control over Jessica, and she doesn't let Jessica go anywhere alone or even use the telephone. There are insinuations that Josephine may be responsible for the deaths of Jessica's parents and a male friend who doesn't come around anymore. Josephine is almost a right-wing construct, a man-hating, militantly vegetarian, predatory lesbian who exploits the younger, submissive, naive woman for her own carnal pleasures, which the film takes great enjoyment in showing in a few lengthy sex scenes, but the tone is so strange and the course of events so wild that it's unclear whether Warren's film is a reactionary bit of gay panic or a sly parody of those attitudes.
The flashing lights, of course, herald the arrival of a werewolf-like alien (of course!) who quickly kills a young couple making out in their car in the woods. The wolf-alien assumes the form of the man he kills and wanders the countryside until he ends up in Jessica's barn. Josephine tells him to get lost, but Jessica begs her controlling lover to let the man stay awhile because he seems dazed and injured. Josephine unhappily relents, and the confused alien gets an earful, eyeful, and mouthful of human customs, most of which confuse the hell out of him.
The alien, who is in way over his head with the pretending-to-be-human thing, tells the women his name is Anders Anderson and is quietly but hilariously gobsmacked by everything from the couple's pet parrot to iced tea, water, games, plants, rocking chairs, and salad. (However, he quickly takes to champagne and guzzles about 10 glasses of the stuff.) Barry Stokes is great as the spaceman/wolf in human disguise. He doesn't overplay the inherent comedy in the situation and gives a dry, natural, subtly funny performance as a deeply confused being trying to play it cool as someone who isn't confused and failing badly. The women guess that Anders is an escaped mental patient, but they keep him around for a few days anyway. Jessica, starved for a glimpse of life outside the country mansion, is desperate for company, while Josephine is simultaneously fascinated and threatened by his presence.
What follows is a thoroughly strange unraveling of the power balance in the house. Josephine begins losing control, and Anders learns some interesting things about behavior, relationships, and the protein content of humans. This process includes intense parrot-staring, a lengthy game of hide and seek where Anders is put in a dress and makeup by the women, a dead fox, a cake to commemorate the fox's death, dead policemen, a slo-mo near-drowning set to some crazy analog synth music, gratuitous nudity, physical altercations, sex, and flesh-eating. Also, this line of dialogue: "What do they call you?" "Jessica Anne. But everyone just calls me Jessica."
Warren has made a compellingly odd, unique little film on a shoe-string budget. This is a deeply strange film, and I'm glad I saw it even as I don't know what the hell to make of it. I am also now intrigued to see what else Warren has given the world, which includes such titles as Loving Feeling, Her Private Hell, Evil Heritage aka Satan's Slave, Terror, Spaced Out aka Outer Touch, Horror Planet aka Inseminoid, Gunpowder, and Bloody New Year. I have the feeling I'm missing out on a treasure trove of insanity.

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