Prey (1977)

It’s time to get back into the works of one Norman J. Warren.

Think back to earlier this year when I discussed the movie Terror.  This was about a witch cursing a family that ultimately leads to both cousins having to deal with some freaky shit around them.  This time around, we don’t have a set of long-lost cousins, but instead with Prey, we have a pair of lesbians that live in a remote area of England dealing with an alien with a voracious hunger.

Now, when I intro-ed Terror, I made some observations about Warren’s work.  Specifically, I wanted to call out certain ideas that he would have and then mix them with other ideas to create this very strange mixture of characters or situations for his movies.  In fact, allow me to quote myself from that article:

He seems to have ideas, even if what he starts with isn’t that groundbreaking.  Want to tell a ghost story?  Well, he’ll tweak it here and there and include a time element and give you Bloody New Year.  Want to tell a story about an alien coming to Earth?  Well, how about we throw in abuse and a lesbian couple and a sinister reason for the alien to be here and give you Prey.  How about yet another alien story, but this time include impregnation and have the mother of the new alien/human hybrid become murderously protective of the monster?  Yeah, we’ll call that Inseminoid.

Admittedly, Prey is absolutely what made me a fan of Warren’s and someone I wanted to see more from.  I’m not sure which one between this, Inseminoid, Terror, or Bloody New Year I saw first, but it was this movie that made me want to ask “Who made this?” only to discover his credits included all these titles.  You’re probably just thinking it was the lesbian story, or that one of the lesbians was Glory Annen, that draws me to it.  That’s only partially true.  What it is that I find so interesting is that the relationship between Glory Annen and Sally Faulkner’s characters is strange, and reveals something deeper to the movie that I’ll discuss more when I start breaking down the movie.  It really makes Prey more than just a story about an alien who wants to eat two women out in the middle of the English countryside.

Sally Faulkner

We should talk about our two lead actresses, the older of the duo is Sally Faulkner.  She had lots of roles through the late 60s and into the 70s.  Deep-cut, Classic Doctor Who fans would know her as the feisty Isobel Watkins who plays a fairly large role in the serial “The Invasion” during Patrick Troughton’s time as the Second Doctor.  Glory Annen is a little more interesting for her private life.

Annen was a Canadian actress who left for the UK when she was 17.  There, she studied drama and ultimately landed several roles playing a pretty and innocent girl who likely was just on the verge of diving headlong into sexual desires.  This would at least be the case with her best known work, the Australian sexploitation classic Felicity.  (100% I’m covering that someday.)

Behind the scenes, Annen would eventually have a long term relationship with Ivan Allan, a champion race horse trainer.  When their relationship ended after a domestic abuse incident, Annen refused to leave the extravagant home they shared.  He lawyered up and it ultimately led to a landmark British court case, Clibbery (Annen) v. Allan.  This case would establish that parties to ancillary relief court proceedings may generally expect the information they provided about their finances remain confidential and protected from the public.

Glory Annen

However, since both have passed away (Allan in 2009 and Annen in 2017), the vast documents she provided about her relationship with Allan have started to become public and is being edited as a series of books and exposes of Allan, the British Courts, and the alleged criminality within the horse racing industry.

I got all the above summation of Annen and Allan’s personal lives from Wikipedia.  I urge people to go out and read more about all this stuff because it is really interesting – particularly because both people are dead and it’s only from supplied affidavits and court interviews.

But enough about that stuff, right?  I’m sure you’d like for me to start talking about an alien fox creature that can turn into people and wants to eat everything on Earth like it’s a fat guy at a Ponderosa buffet.

The movie begins with a radio transmission of someone reporting back that they are in orbit and then they are given the command to proceed with their mission.  In a home, Jessica (Annen) is woken by a nightmare then by bright flashing lights. She goes into the other bedroom to wake Josephine (Falkner).  Jo thinks Jessica is just simply having a nightmare and that the lights must be coming from the nearest town.  Outside, though, we see through the eyes of a growling, snarling creature lurking about.

That creature comes across a couple making out in their car.  The couple is attacked and we see our creature, a cat-like or maybe fox-like creature is hungry and ready to eat.  He’s been on a big, long space trip, of course he’s ready to eat!  He kills the man and takes his appearance (that of actor Barry Stokes).  When the girl thinks she’s safe in her boyfriend’s arms, he crushes her to death and apparently eats her too.

The next morning, Jessica convinces Jo to go take a look in the woods to see if anything did indeed land despite the radio report saying it was likely just some low atmospheric shenanigans.  It’s here that you begin to see something really weird about Jessica and Jo’s relationship.  At the breakfast table, Jo chastises Jessica for drinking Coca-Cola and smoking.  She treats Jessica like a child.  So you might think they are more like a daughter and step-mother with the father now passed away or possibly an aunt and niece sort of relationship.  There’s a clue dropped by Jo about possibly not being interested in men as a general rule, but you don’t think too much about it other than a woman who is just fed up with men being men and what have you.  But outside, we see this:

This doesn’t look too much like a familial relationship, now does it?  More on this later.

They go looking for whatever the lights were the night before and Jessica discovers the torn up remains of three rabbits.  Jo says a fox did it.  They take a break and Jo mentions that the people in the village talk about them.  Jessica asks why and Jo responds that they must be jealous.  Jessica then says it seems like long ago when her parents “left” and she’s glad that Jo decided to stay on because she’s taught her “so many beautiful things.”

Jessica says she wants to go away for a little while.  She wants to see more of the world and be with other people.  Jo is adamantly against it.  She thinks Jessica will go off and get screwed up.  Not only does Jo not want to talk anymore about this trip business, but they are interrupted by an injured man calling himself Anderson coming out of the guest house.  Jessica brings him home against Jo’s wishes so he can get healed up and have some water and food.  He starts asking weird questions like what is this thing in the cage (a bird), what are dogs (they are things that drool and bark lots), what are plants (things that many try to keep but most end up killing), and will other people come here to this house?

Oh and also…  His name is Anders Anderson.  That’s not suspicious at all, is it?

Jessica says she thinks Anders is an escaped mental patient.  She thinks maybe it would be a good idea to call someone, but Jo scolds her and tells her to never call anyone.  Jo decides that they should invite Anders to dinner, if for nothing else, to test whether or not he actually is mental.  Jo goes outside to tell Anders he might as well stay for dinner and was curious where Jessica went.

Then, for a very strange way to transition from one scene to the next, Norman J. Warren decides to insert where Jessica is – at the pond with her blouse open.

I mean, don’t get me wrong…  I appreciate the sentiment that I needed to see Glory Annen’s boobs, but there’s absolute no reason for this to be in the movie, or used to transition from a scene to the next.

Anyway, Anders hears on the radio that the police are investigating the abandoned car of the guy from the night before that got eaten.  He goes to take a look, but the fuzz is there poking around.  They chase him into the wooded area and he kills them both.  At dinner, Jo tells Anders they are vegetarians…  And that she and Jessica are lovers.  When he eats some salad, he barfs all over the place.  Jessica goes to get Anders some more clothes to wear.  As she does, she learns what happened to Simon, the last male visitor to come calling on Jo and Jessica – he was apparently stabbed to death and stuff.

Jessica talks to Anders about being frightened, but Jo interrupts them.  When Jessica leaves the room, Jo blames Anders for the way Jessica is being.  Jessica tries to get into the trunk that stored the bloody shirt and knife that killed Simon.  Jo interrupts yet again.  Jessica takes Anders to a room that he can sleep in or be alone, but he should lock the door.  She doesn’t have time to say why only time to say he must do it while she goes to Jo’s room for some sexy lesbian love-making.

So here’s the deal.  Obviously Anders is a crazy alien fox creature.  Additionally, Jo is controlling and jealous.  She apparently maybe worked for Jessica’s parents then just stayed there after they died.  I guess partly as a tutor, partly as a guardian?  Either way, it is pretty obvious that Jo has been grooming Jessica for years.  What makes this more problematic is that it’s obvious Jessica is not full gay – bi, bi-curious, playfully interested, sure, but NOT gay.  She comments on the attractiveness of men.  She talks about needing someone else to talk to about this stuff.  Jo is overly critical of the way Jessica behaves but also treats her like a little child.

Jessica appears to be trapped between two very dangerous people. As as as the audience is concerned, it might be best to be around the devil we know (Anders) than the one we’re not totally sure what she’ll do (Jo).

The next morning, Jo is going to collect eggs for breakfast (not a vegetarian food, but whatevs) and she finds her chickens have been slaughtered.  She goes absolutely batshit over it.  They all decide they have to go and get that damn dirty fox for killing those chickens.  It also looks as though Jo was actually trying to shoot and kill Anders.  She gets upset about missing the fox, but I’m not totally buying it that was what she had her sights set on.

Oh…  Also…  Looks like the fox has already gotten into the hen house if you catch my drift.

When Anders returns to the house after catching the fox with his bare hands, Jo agrees to have a party to celebrate.  Jessica says they should get all dressed up but not sure what Anders could wear.  Jo says she has a perfect idea.

Nailed it.

Jo and Jessica begin dancing and when Jessica has to go check on the cake she’s baking, she says Jo and Anders should dance.  They just look at each other – Jo with the angriest glare and Anders with a look of uncertainty.  Jo even tries to move in for a kiss and Anders is like, “Aw hell naw!”  Jessica comes out with the cake and offers the first cut to Anders, pissing Jo off terribly.

By the way…  If you haven’t noticed – Jo is insane.  She looked like she was going to devour Anders.  She has giant mood swings.  She obviously takes pleasure in cuckolding him by putting him in a dress and making up his face.

They play a game of Hide and Seek.  While Jo is it, Anders tries to talk to Jessica about her being a caged animal.  Jessica says it isn’t like that at all.  She can go anywhere she wants whenever she wants.  When it is his turn to be it, he tells Jessica that he can find her by smell.  That’s the not weirdest thing in this second round because Jo plays Hide and Seek with a goddamn knife!  She tells Jessica he is dangerous and apparently she wants to kill him because she found what was left of the fox.  Only the skin was left.  All the meat was gone.  Unfortunately for Jo, she tries to show Jessica the remains of the fox, but it’s gone, probably because Anders has hidden it.

After confronting Anders, he tells Jo that maybe he should probably go in the morning.  She hisses, “Yes!”  The next morning, Jo follows Anders with the intent to kill him, but when Jessica gets out of bed, she calls to Jo and she returns to the house.  Meanwhile, Anders tries to hunt a swan but realizes he can’t swim when he jumps into the pond.  We’re then shown this slow motion shot of the girls trying to help him and bring him back to safety and we can’t help but notice the water is really gross.  Like, originally I thought it was just muddy or something.  But the water looks like that black slick thing in Creepshow 2.  It’s legit black, not brown like gravy or muddy water.  Black like it is oil.  Makes me wonder what the hell is wrong with England if their pond water is black.

After the girls get cleaned up, Jessica says she is leaving with Anders.  She and Jo have a huge shouting match about Jessica leaving and not wanting to be kept prisoner in her own house by Jo, etc.  Anders, at one point, is in between the two ladies just looking on like I would when I see this kind of shit go down at the local Walmart.

“Erm… I… I just need to grab that can of peas right there on the shelf… Um… Ladies? Excu… Nevermind. I’ll just get another can of baked beans instead.”

It gets worse when Jessica goes outside and sees that her old parrot’s cage has fallen and it is gone.  That’s been an interesting parallel throughout the movie.  Anders is constantly staring at the bird and poking at it and watching it like he wants to eat it.  The first time we saw the bird, Jo called it an “old mangy thing” and is very dismissive of it.  Basically that bird is what Anders thinks Jessica is.  Caged, underappreciated, you get the gist.

What’s most concerning, though, is, just like at Walmart, this confrontation ends with blunt force trauma to the fucking head.

Anders takes Jessica upstairs and Jo gives him money for his trip to get lost.  She then tells him to not come back.  However, he doesn’t even leave the property before coming back.  As Jo goes out to dig a shallow grave, Anders goes back to the room where Jessica was sleeping off that head bashing.  Jessica asks Anders to help her get away from Jo.  She shows him her knife that was used to kill Simon.  He says something about her being owned by Jo or something, and she says she will belong to whomever she chooses.  She then says if she belonged to him would her with him.

This leads to her sexing up Anders but for him to going full animal and he kills her by tearing her throat out.

Let’s unpack that for a second.  Jessica, a girl who has been guilty of nothing but not leaving the oppression of Jo’s creation sooner, is first given massive head trauma by Jo during a spat about wanting to leave, then is killed while trying to have sex with the alien fox monster man.  That’s… pretty harsh.  I guess that poor girl was just doomed to die anyway because, what’s that I kind of blew past in an earlier paragraph?  Yeah, Jo was digging a shallow grave for Jessica.  Basically, Jessica had no possible way to survive.

Anyway, so Anders is full on fox monster guy now.  He eats Jessica’s throat.  Then, when Jo stumbles upon the grizzly scene, she immediately barfs (as you do), and runs away.  She eventually trips on her own shovel used to dig that grave and falls into it.  Anders stands over it and it is heavily implied that he finishes her off.  In the closing moments, Anders radios his people and tells them the buffet is now open and come to Earth because humans are dumb and really high in protein.

For the most part, I think this is a really interesting movie that is carried by only three actors.  There’s a lot of opportunity to understand what is going on between Jessica and Jo.  Jo is much scarier than Anders because she is the scorned, the one who believes she’s been wronged.  It’s probably not too far of a stretch for people to look at this movie and say that Jessica’s fate is more of a product of a deviant lifestyle.

However, I offer a second reading.  It’s less about deviation leading to doom, but the domination of Jo and her alarmingly wide mood swings that makes things destructive.  When you are around people who are unstable, their instability will spread out and start to change situations from something safe to being completely and totally unpredictable.  This often leads to unpleasant situations for everyone around that nutty person.  Jo’s controlling nature, keeping them separate from everyone else (while I will say the people in the village likely WOULD be talking about the two lesbians living outside of town in the big house), and being so angry at a drop of a hat (not to mention her being a murderer), I’m not terribly surprised that they didn’t live to the end of the movie.

You have to be careful of those you choose to be in your life, be it a controlling lover or a fox-man-alien-dude.

That wraps up this week’s B-Movie Enema.  Next week, I’ve got some more Bolo Yeung!  It’s time for us to take a look at Chinese Hercules!

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