From Midnight Releasing, the same folks behind Vampageddon, comes Brett Kelly’s 2007 film, PREY FOR THE BEAST.
Brett has an almost Roger Corman-esque career in Canada, churning out such films as AVENGING FORCE: THE SCARAB, BONESETTER, IRON SOLDIER, She-Rex, and PIRATES: Quest For Snake Island. Needless to say, Brett Kelly embraces his limitations as the means of delivering a product in an area not known for producing films of any sort. As a Canadian based film maker, Brett tries to fill as many positions as he can building a career of not only starring in his features, but also serving as a writer, director, and editor.
Prey for the Beast starts off like many monsters films that laid dormant gathering dust on video shelves of the late 80s. A couple goes camping only to be torn apart my a creature lurking in the woods. This uneventful open sets the tone of the film. Happy people in the woods, picked off one by one by a furry monster, as the rest of them run in all the wrong directions in hopes of survival. From here we follow 4 buddies out for a Man’s Weekend of drinking and scratching testicles. Hoping to lift the spirits of a friend whose marriage went south thanks to a cheating wife (played by Brett Kelly, the friend – not the wife), this group paddles into the wilderness DELIVERANCE style to bond through survivalist living. There they encounter 4 girlfriends out for tanning and fun in the sun. Unbeknownst to them all, there is a biologist/journalist on the hunt to photograph a legendary animal that roams this forest. Cue the mangling! Of course his bloody stumps where legs should be is what shifts gears on the Care Bear picnic between these 30 somethings. As the group copes with discovery they are not alone, the hulking creature begins to corner them and rip them apart. Oh how will they ever survive?
There’s not entirely anything new that you haven’t seen in a plethora of man versus nature or man in a monster suit movies. The formula is time tested and kid approved. Movie Camera + Blood + Monster Suit = Movie. I do enjoy that Brett takes the high ground in some key points of the story. When the men are joking about they make a note of “No Gay jokes”, which I feared this film may have sinked into for the sake of a quick bit of levity. Another instance is when one of the guys pulls out a bag of pot to share with the ladies that he stole while snooping around his son’s room. Just as they start to dig in the seeds and stems, they realize it’s oregano in the baggie with a note from the son, “Survival begins with trust.” These little nuances separate good scripts made in the indie world from bad scripts made in the studio world.
The instances of gore are a little too far and few between for such a flesh hungry beast, but when they’re delivered it’s exactly what you spent too long waiting for. The monster itself looks like the love child between Big Foot and a Tauntaun from STAR WARS. When he runs all I could think of was the TV show ALF where that alien from Melmac wound bound about chasing house cats. The main problem is seeing the creature full force in daylight. I admire that there’s no CGI, this is painted foam at its finest. You never see the creature truly flex its muscles. The trouble is making a feature film out of a Halloween costume. While it may win over a Masquerade Party, it stands as feroucious and believable as HARRY & THE HENDERSONS. At most you’re spending your time trying to figure out what the hell this creature is supposed to resemble rather than paying attention. Is that fat Sasquatch or one of the Power Rangers villains?
For a low budget feature, this film has some absolutely amazing cinematography. Don’t expect David Fincher style 360 degree shots, but rather well framed shots that follow the action, add to the suspense, and keep the pace of the film moving. One compliment every DP wants to hear is that the daylight exteriors were uniform throughout, though I kept waiting for that dreaded nightfall. For running around in what lloks like a State Park, the camera captures more than the best it can in such limited conditions. The cast acted and reacted the best they could, and I’m confident they could hold their own and deliver if the Sy Fy Channel starts casting any new creature features. The tension inside the group dynamic is sympathetic as they, and the audience, try to make sense of what’s going on.
There’s several story elements I felt could have been explored further to full incorporate the story and deliver a higher caliber film. This film almost breaks the fourth wall in referencing exactly what we’re thinking with certian plot beats, particularly similes to Deliverance and elements found in most horror films. A back story of how the town knew of this creature would have helped in the understanding of its continued existence. One point that peake my interest only to be cast away is if someone is bitten by the creature they become infected, almost to a zombie like state. How this would played out through gestation would’ve been interesting to see. Why the group never runs away sooner is beyond me, perhaps to draw out the action or suspense or just my frustration. Escape is alwaysan option for these folks, even if they don’t realize it. As an audience, we always need that impending doom in our horror becuase we’ll fill in the hope for redemption after we’re done being scared. And the whole rush to escape the woods before nightfall is unbelievable as it’s daylight for far too long. The cover of night would have made for scarier instances with the creature, but there’s always room for a sequel.
Another highlight were the supplemental trailers from Brain Damage Films. There’s the stonerific Skeleton Key 2 and the ultra-violent trash fest that looks like BARB WIRE with zombies known as Johnny Sunshine. There’s also BLADE meets BLOODSPORT in Fist of the Vampire and Scooby Do hangs out with Dr. Satan in Fright World. All in all, an interesting roster from Brain Damage Films to keep an eye on for fans of how-low-can-you-go-budget films. A Production Photo Reel also offers a few snapshots behind the scenes of this picture.
Ultimately, this film is like eating a Hot Pocket. You never really knew you were craving it, it’s probably not that good for you, and you’ll probably enjoy it a lot more stoned. This could have played as one of the most kick-ass “Are You Afraid of the Dark” episodes ever with some quick editing and truly that’s the audience this should target. Brett Kelly is making the type of films that could easily play in drive-ins and cineplexes if Hollywood fell into the ocean after a catastrophic earthquake. One can dream…