Horror Movies

PREY. Original and Eccentric Science Fiction Horror

For a film produced on a shoestring budget, Prey features surprisingly skillful execution.

Maciej Kaczmarski

15 January 2024

Prey is one of the most original and eccentric horrors in the history of British cinematography.

Jessica and Josephine are a lesbian couple living in a grand rural estate. They spend their time strolling around the area, lounging in a greenhouse full of exotic plants, and taking care of chickens. The women live in seclusion not only due to their inclinations but also because of Josephine’s possessiveness, as she tries to “protect” the submissive Jessica from the world. One night, a spaceship with a carnivorous, shape-shifting alien lands in the nearby forest. The monster accidentally kills a couple it encounters and assumes the form of the murdered man. It then appears at Jessica and Josephine’s home. The visitor simulates a leg injury, evoking pity from the first woman and suspicion from the second. Tired of the monotony of life in isolation, Jessica is excited about the guest’s presence and invites him into their home, while Josephine shows hostility. Tension builds between the three characters, intensified by the fact that Josephine harbors a dark secret.

Prey was created within ten days for just over 50,000 pounds (today, accounting for inflation, it would be around 400,000). The script was written on the fly during the filming, which took place in a forest behind the Shepperton film studio due to budget constraints, and actors had to wear their own clothes. The low budget is also evident in the appearance of the alien when it reveals its true face – only colored contact lenses, artificial fangs, and makeup resembling a hybrid of a human and a cat were used. To increase the film’s appeal in foreign markets, the creators added an erotic scene with partially naked actresses Glory Annen (Jessica) and Sally Faulkner (Josephine). However, this did not help, as The British Board of Film Classification gave Prey an X rating (for adults only), thereby condemning it to limited distribution. As a result, plans for a sequel under the working title Human Prey were abandoned.

It all only superficially resembles B-class films that proliferated in British cinema in the 70s and 80s because Prey, although undoubtedly modest and inexpensive, is a surprisingly ambitious and multi-layered production. The film has received serious analyses regarding topics such as sexuality, sexism (mutual!), gender conflict, love, jealousy, racism, ecology, and even Hegelian dialectics of master and slave. Critics have noted similarities between Warren’s film and D.H. Lawrence’s story. To the undersigned, Prey was associated with Michael Faber’s later book “Under the Skin” (and to a lesser extent with its 2013 film adaptation directed by Jonathan Glazer, which also omits the “meaty” aspect present in Prey) and two older films by José Ramón Larraz – “Vampyres” and “Symptoms” (in the first, Sally Faulkner also played). In all mentioned works, the chosen genre (horror, science fiction) seems to be only a superstructure for a completely different, deeper issue.

For a film produced on a shoestring budget, Prey features surprisingly skillful execution. Paradoxically, minimal financial resources turned out to be a salvation for the creators because it allowed them to focus on character development rather than special effects; the variable dynamics of Jessica and Josephine’s relationship are particularly interesting. An additional asset is the contrasting nature of the film. Its unhurried action mostly takes place in the sunny light of beautiful spring days, in the lap of nature and within the interiors of a magnificent home located in a bucolic rural area. This filming style contrasts with the horrific events on the screen, creating tension and unease. The film is almost intimate in its claustrophobic atmosphere of threat, yet its starting point verges on comedic absurdity. On the other hand, the same could be said of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece, “Alien.” Prey may not be of the same class, but it is definitely worth watching.”