New DVD label Brain Damage has just released an opening sextet of low-budget horror films onto UK disc, at the most welcome RRP of £2.99. PREY FOR THE BEAST is the first in their fledgling catalogue ...
The film opens in familiar style with a young couple camping in the woods, about to get amorous in their tent one night when they are disturbed by noises outside. When they venture out to investigate these sounds (always a bad move), something in the night attacks them ...
From this oft-used introduction, we then meet our protagonists - a group of men led by budding survivalist Frank (Jodi Pittman) looking to escape to the country for a long weekend away in a bid to cheer up their friend Bud (director Brett Kelly), whose wife recently cheated on him.
They enjoy their first afternoon in the woods by taking a canoe trip down the river then setting up camp within the trees and cracking open the beers. A little bit of weed, a spot of light banter and a resolve to ban all talk of their wives, and the boys seem set to have a whale of a time.
Not too far from them, are an unrelated group of women sunbathing at the edge of the river. They rush into the woods when they hear Frank playfully fire off the pistol he's brought with him, and meet up with the merry bunch of wasted men. Everybody seems to be getting on so well. Only, they don't know what we do by now: something lurks in the woods, and is waiting to kill all would-be campers ...
Meanwhile, two people who are aware of the monster in the trees are a nervous journalist who has ventured into the green Hell to get a photograph of it, and the reluctant guide whose been paid to take him there. We first meet them as they are attacked by the off-screen creature, the guide being torn to shreds and the journalist losing his legs in gory fashion.
While Frank teaches the girls how to use his gun, Bud sneaks off into the woods and stumbles across the incapacitated journalist. Before dying, the journalist warns Bud of something dangerous lurking nearby. Understandably, Bud darts back to camp to tell the others. Perhaps harder to fathom is why the group, having checked out the journalist's remains for themselves, don't just flee home sharpish.
Fortunately for us though, they're not bright enough to do this. They do panic a little, but at least stick around long enough for the amusing man-in-a-suit monster to cause some mortal damage. Thankfully, the interesting development of Bud's character provides a modicum of storyline to follow during the final 45 minutes of running and screaming ...
PREY FOR THE BEAST is a brisk 75-minute romp that looks to have been shot quite literally for peanuts. The digital camerawork is proficient enough to watch but cannot prevent the film from looking and feeling like a homemade affair.
To give him his due though, director Kelly (THE BONESETTER; ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES) does his utmost to lend style to this no-budget effort, utilising imaginative camera angles in even the most mundane scenes (a conversation at a kitchen hob, for example), and employing well-executed edits during the gore scenes to disguise the obvious lack of a decent FX artist to hand. An early aerial shot is also highly impressive even though we can see the shadow of the helicopter that was used (!). The handheld camerawork brings a welcome rawness to the film, as do the cheap but canny sequences where filters are used to let us see through the beast's distorted vision.
Pacing is adequate, performances are fine, breasts are nice and big while contained in tight T-shirts, and Jeff O'Brien's script offers better dialogue than you'd expect.
But the real star of the show is the beast itself, first seen via flashback 25 minutes into the film. Looking similar to a wild boar cross-bred with the Sasquatch that slashed girl guides to ribbons and tore a biker's cock off in 1981's NIGHT OF THE DEMON, it's an unintentionally hilarious mound of fur that elicits grins whenever it's on screen.
The movement of the beast is slow and clumsy, which further adds to the unintended comedy value: how could this cumbersome thing ever pose a threat to these eight adults?!
Still, the cast play along with commendably straight faces as Kelly keeps the editing tight and photography of the Canadian countryside surprisingly keen. O'Brien's screenplay never deviates from bouncing between macho jokes and violent set pieces. Ultimately then, PREY FOR THE BEAST emerges as an enjoyably cheesy load of old tosh. It's pretty much precisely what that cover artwork suggests it is: shallow, crap and undeniably fun.
The disc is a fairly basic one. The film is presented in full-frame and looks pretty good. Colours are strong, flesh-tones are accurate and detail is reasonably sharp. Some scenes are overly dark, but I imagine this is due to the exterior locations and lack of artificial lighting available. Also, some scenes where the camera moves tend to have a dragging effect. It's not too frequent or distracting, but it is noticeable.
English 2.0 audio is a tad quiet in some earlier scenes, but develops into a more consistent offering as the film progresses.
A static main menu opens the disc and from there an animated scene-selection menu allows access to the main feature via 4 chapters.
The only extras as such are short trailers for other Brain Damage titles SERUM, DEATH OF A GHOST HUNTER, TORTURE ME NO MORE (misspelt on the disc as TOTURE ME NO MORE), SILENT BLOODNIGHT and SECRETS OF THE CLOWN, along with a trailer for PREY FOR THE BEAST.
In summary, PREY FOR THE BEAST is a short, cheap and gory slice of cheese that can't help but echo James C Wasson's classic Bigfoot gorefest NIGHT OF THE DEMON at times. It's nowhere near as much fun as that film was, but is arguably no worse made. For £2.99, it seems churlish to complain too loudly.
Review by Stu Willis
|Released by Brain Damage|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|