Sunday, August 29, 2010

'Prey for the Beast' is not worth digesting

Prey for the Beast (2008)
Starring: Ray Besharah, Lisa Aitken, Mark Courneyea, Brett Kelly, Anastasia Kimmett, Amanda Leigh, Sonia Myers, Jodi Pittman, and Lenard Blackburn
Director: Brett Kelly
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Visitors to a remote corner of Canada's grand wilderness are stalked and killed by a cunning monster with mysterious powers. Two groups of campers--one consisting of all-male Beautiful People and one all-female Beautiful People--join forces in order to survive.

"Prey for the Beast" features a great creature. I often knock low-buget horror films like this because they include monsters that look cheap and goofy instead of impressive and scary.That's not the case here. The monster in this film is very made, its attacks are convincing, and it holds up nicely to the extended shots that its featured in. It's a rareity among films at this production level, and I congratulate Kelly and his special effects team of Ralph Gethings (who did the gore effects and make-up) and Matt Ficner (who built the monster suit) for excelling in this area.

The script for the film is also pretty decent. Its characters are a bit on the generic side for the most part, but its got some nice concepts and a climax is well-paced. It also gives the creature a suite of unexpected powers, such as the ability to animate the corpses of victims it doesn't fully consume and a venom that causes paranoia and hallucinations in those who survive its attack. One is also left with the impression that the creature has the ability to teleport itself from place to place and turn invisible at will, but I don't think that was intended by the filmmakers. Rather, I think the creature's amazing ability to stand unseen directly behind its intended victims is a reflection of the Ed Wood Problem as it is manifested in "Prey for the Beast".

"The Ed Wood Problem", so named because it was an ever-present elements in the movies and written by Edward D. Wood Jr., is what occurs when the script calls for a certain kind of location, the actors behave and deliver their line as if they're in that location, but even the most unobservant viewer can recognize that what's on the screen and what the actors are describing or reacting to are two different things. In an Ed Wood picture, this problem would typically manifest itself through characters commenting on how fancy or opulent a room was while standing on a set that made a flophouse look luxurious.

In "Prey for the Beast", the Ed Wood Problem has a script that calls for a wilderness far removed from civilization, a deep, dark forest that is hard to access and in which human feet rarely tread. What we have seems more like a place that's no more than 100 yards from the visitor's center of a national forest or large city park. (The Problem starts maniesting early in the fllm with the film's mail title credits running over stock footage of a mountainous forest and wild giver, intercut cut with four of our soon-to-be-beast-prey charaters pulling across a placid lake in a rowboat; by none of the characters possessing any camping gear worth noting; and by the survivors of the beast attack reaching a road, a shack, and ultimately a picnic area, within no more than half a day's worth of hiking.)

The setting for the film doesn't feel as remote and isolated as it needs to, and this is a major strike against any real suspense and terror being generated as the film unfolds. It also leads to seeral eye-rolling moments of unintentional hilarity when the monster is lurking a mere two-three feet away from its victims, yet they do not see it. This is because the action is supposedly taking place in thick, old-growth forest and not among the thin forest the actors are actually performing in. It keeps the viewer from taking the film seriously and it keeps the film from having any real impact, despite the effective creature design and well-done gore effects.

Actiing that is more suited for stage than film on the part of most of the cast, and illogical behavior on the part of several characters (because if they didn't do something stupid, the monster wouldn't have a chance to kill them) also serves as a drag on the overall level of enjoyment derived from watching the film. The only castmembers who didn't have me cringing at some of their line-readings was director Brett Kelly, Anastasia Kimmet, and Lisa Aitken.

If you're a fan of low-budget monster movies, "Prey for the Beast" is worth checking out for its well-done monster. The rest of the movie is fairly mediocre. There are a couple of jolts here and there, but even at its scant running of just over an hour it feels over-long and there are more than point where you'll wish for the pace to picked up a bit.

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