Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Vamp or Not? Prey

This 1978 film, directed by Norman J Warren, was brought to my attention by Leila and, to be fair, she admitted that she was unconvinced by the vampness of the film but she did say it had overtones and that she felt it to be, to a degree, the spiritual sequel of Vampyres. To look at that aspect first, it clearly is not actually a sequel to Vampyres but it does star Sally Faulkner, who was in the earlier film, and it has a certain feel to it that is reminiscent of the earlier film – so I can see where she was coming from. Many thanks to Crabstix who bought me this film as a birthday present.

The film begins with a conversation between two people, it is clear that it is between the occupant of a landing craft (Kator) and a mother ship, though the screen is black. Suddenly Jessica (Glory Annen) awakens and bright flashing lights fill her room. She rushes to find Jo (Sally Faulkner) to tell her, but Jo is dismissive. Jessica and Jo are lovers but Jessica has slept in another room because she has been having nightmares – this one about her friend Simon, who always seems to be in her nightmares. The film cuts to an outside shot and we find ourselves looking through a POV camera, and hear growling. A door handle is rattled, but the door is locked.

A couple are in a car and the man –Anderson (Barry Stokes) – is getting a little too frisky with his lady friend (Sandy Chinney). She tells him to stop and he gets out of the car to urinate. He hears someone in the bushes and throws a stone. He hits the target but the something grabs him. We see a brief flash of an inhuman face and get a glimpse of fang. The woman screams and runs from the car and Anderson is dragged away. There are flashing lights. The woman runs into Anderson, relieved as she thought him injured or dead. Of course it is Kator and as he holds her we hear a sucking noise.

Essentially the lovers meets the impostor Anderson, who gives his name as Anders Anderson, and he ends up staying in the house, which is setback in large grounds. They believe him to be mentally subnormal – as he seems to have little concept of day to day notions, even suspecting that he is an escapee from a mental institute.

It is a bizarre and surreal world we have entered. The women are vegetarian lesbians with little contact with the outside world. He, unbeknown to them, is a carnivorous alien. Every time he tries to eat the food they provide he vomits, as it is not meat. It is clear to us that he has an agenda, confirmed by the conversations he has with the mother ship. More interesting, however, is the relationship between the two women.

Jessica, a Canadian, seems too naive and dominated by her lover. Jo, in her turn, is very overbearing, and very much a man hater. She also seems to want to keep Jessica from having any other friends, of either gender. As the film progresses she reveals herself to be more and more deranged, an absolute psycho in fact. The performance is stunning and makes the film worth watching on its own.

Anders is almost a catalyst for the events that occur between the two women. For example, he eats their chickens during the night and the discovery of this sends Jo into a terrifying rage, directed at the fox she suspects has killed them and leading to a hunt through the grounds that shows a psychotic and armed Jo. In an earlier incident Jessica tries to find clothes for Anders and discovers the bloodstained clothes of her friend Simon – realising that Jo murdered him. Yet despite Jo’s rages and the fact that she killed Jessica’s friend, Jessica seems unable to leave her, until the film’s climax that is.

Of course, in terms of looking for vampiric content we must look to Anders. He is carnivorous, but it is flesh and not just blood that he craves. He is able to shapeshift, taking on the human form and flipping to a form with red eyes and elliptical irises and a maw of sharp teeth. The film shows us this in flashes at first but eventually we see his full form. There is something catlike about it. We do not know, however, whether the shape shifting is a natural ability or produced technologically. All in all I cannot really say that this is vampiric, he is simply a carnivorous alien with an agenda.

Stokes performance is brilliant, he really does seem alien, lost in this human world and not understanding base concepts. There is a scene where the girls throw a party and Jo forces Anders to wear a dress and have makeup on. Stokes plays the scene in such a deadpan way it really works. The image of him made up, in a dress sniffing the air as he hunts the girls, in a game of hide and seek, is bizarre but also disturbingly effective. I have heard his performance described as nonsensical and plank of wood – unfair. He was alien and confused, yes, but some of the little looks he throws belay the criticism and reveal that he gives the performance that the character demanded.

Some of the ideas are a little patchy or lacking in logic. This probably has a lot to do with a combination of a ten day shoot and writing the script on the fly. At one point Anders approaches the car that was owned by Anderson and there are cops there. He flees when they ask if it is his car and then hunts and kills them. Now we had heard a radio bulletin about the missing people and their missing car and then we have two missing coppers and an abandoned cop car. That would have been enough to get the full force of the law out, but nothing is mentioned about it again. In another scene Anders nearly drowns because he tried to walk on water, not knowing what it was. You’d think that an interstellar traveller would know the concept of liquid, even if he didn’t know water per se.

The film is known to be a sexploitation but… it isn’t really. Two sex scenes that are plot centric do not a sexploitation make. What it is, essentially, is a quirky British horror movie, with a fantastically deranged performance by Faulkner. There may be a lack of locations, being set entirely in the house and the grounds, and the lighting might be a little on the poor side but it is a satisfying low budget, surreal horror that is not, unfortunately, a vampire movie but is well worth seeing.

The imdb page is here.

No comments: