07 September 2009

PREY (2009)

Released 7th May 2009
Out on DVD 30th June.
(Directed by George T. Miller, written by Miller and John V. Soto, Topcat Films)

Posters for Prey plague train stations in the inner south east like a bad hangover. Prey is a schlock candy horror film featuring an unintelligible Aboriginal curse, Natalie Bassingthwaighte, CGI black snakes and a lesbian kiss. It hopes so bad to be a cult film. It ran for one week in three Australian cinemas taking an abysmal $342 in its opening weekend. Some movies fail in their intended form and then experience a revival as cult; a lesson is the 1930s anti marijuana propaganda film that became a runaway comedy hit four decades later. Reefer Madness, this is not.

Candy horror sells because it is bad; hammy dialogue, joyously dismembered jocks and more corn syrup than Coca Cola Amatil USA (Fact: Coke in the US does not contain sugar cane but corn syrup, something about subsidising corn farmers). These flicks feature the kind of imagery the government should use in anti drug advertising; we’re talking ice and crank- let alone the humble cannabis sativa. So why do people gorge on this stuff like a fat Spanish kid on chorizo sausage? It’s pure escapism; whether well produced or not, it is supposed to be obscene yet entertaining. Very occasionally candy horror is successful as a cautionary tale like Teeth (2007), directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein, which features a young a girl cursed with ‘vagina dentata.’ Men beware of the female that creates eunuchs.

Prey starts as a 4WD road movie; six characters are pulled together in a useless and jarring montage of their daily lives to ‘go out west for a surf.’ Cue disjointed back story about a road accident twenty years earlier and a revenge seeking Driza-Bone wearing orphan out for blood. The characters are as predictable as they are cardboard –cardboard ready to be scrapped in the recycle bin of senseless homicide. Included in the doomed posse is a gay guy, a hippy and the token Asian but we couldn’t care if any of them die. People cheered when Paris Hilton’s character was expunged in House of Wax. Here, you will yawn as they bloodlessly perish with little imagination or movie magic. The story telling is as incoherent as it is narcoleptic. Visually shoddy and bland; this film is the Kraft Singles of horror and pulls no punches. This film could have been funded by the Mormons- there is no gore, sex or swearing. This leaves the viewer feeling empty and cheated of thrills, however cheap.

Here, the Australian bush comes off static, devoid of the tension and mystery that made Wolf Creek work. Unfortunately, the bush is not the most underdeveloped character in this movie. Natalie Bassingthwaighte, in her feature film debut, blunders as Kate. Kate isn’t in need of a visit to a combined gyno/dentist like the heroine of Teeth. An obstetrician is more fitting, as is later not all too clearly implied, her boyfriend’s sperm has been imbued with a malevolent snake’s. Bassingthwaighte’s performance, punctuated by half-arsed shrieks and laziness, just cacks. It fails to meet the lowest expectations, even for those familiar with her Xanax-numb television skills.
Producer, Iowan expat Bobby Gelinksy confessed that 40% of the film’s four million dollar budget was spent on securing Jesse Johnson in a lead role. Jesse’s claim to fame is being Don ‘Miami Vice’ Johnson’s son. In one scene he approaches Indigenous art with dim-witted derisiveness and you get the feeling he’s not acting. Irreverence is one thing but the scenes involving references to Indigenous culture are uncomfortable viewing. The Driza-Bone killer uses rock art and an incantation to summon the said CGI black snakes; “Spider eats the fly, bird eats the spider...” Who’s writing this stuff? White supremacist Mother Hubbard?

Prey misses the mark by an excruciating distance in a genre that revels in being low brow. The opening credits feature previews of cult horror flicks; the Freddy Kruegar films, Fire Starter, The Exorcist and the freaky Jeff Goldblum movie, The Fly. All this serves is to make you wish you were watching one of the classics.

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