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¡¡¡¡Horrors Elsewhere?is a recurring column that spotlights a variety of movies from all around the globe, particularly those not from the United States. Fears may not always be universal, but one thing is for sure?¡ª?a scream is understood, always and everywhere.

¡¡¡¡Although the British film industry struggled to stay afloat throughout the 1970s, there was no shortage of creativity and bravado in the few homegrown movies coming out. A notable example of such cinematic boldness is Norman J. Warren¡¯s 1977 film Prey¡ªthe hurriedly made and unofficial adaptation of D. H. Lawrence¡¯s The Fox stands out when analyzing the decade¡¯s genre offerings. The film is replete with depth and discussion about gender and sexuality. This peculiar story centers around couple Josephine (Sally Faulkner) and Jessica-Ann (Glory Annen) opening their pastoral home to a suspicious stranger (Barry Stokes). What the women do not realize is, their unexpected and very odd male guest is really Kator, an extraterrestrial scout sent to survey the planet.

¡¡¡¡Prey came together in a matter of weeks; outlining, pre-production, and shooting all happened over the course of one month. Max Cuff¡¯s script was still a work in progress, so the actors were never completely sure what was in store for them until the day of filming. Satan¡¯s Slave director Warren had little time to prepare before the 10-day shoot commenced on the bucolic backlot of Shepperton Studios. The crew¡ªmany of whom were coming straight off The Pink Panther Strikes Again¡ªhad to make do with a ¡ê60,000 budget, including having some of the cast provide its own wardrobe, letting stuntmen and non-actors play speaking parts, and using props and sets left behind by other productions.?

¡¡¡¡A sequel called Human Prey was in the works at one point and would have picked up where the first movie left off. Now knowing Earth was overflowing with food ¡°high in protein,¡± Anderson and his kind proceeded to round up humans like livestock in the follow-up. Stokes would have had the chance to play multiple roles since the other aliens also adapted Anderson¡¯s appearance. On account of the original film¡¯s meager success at the time, the sequel was ultimately abandoned.


¡¡¡¡This tinderbox of a movie begins with Jessica awakening one night to the mysterious sounds of Kator¡¯s arrival on Earth. She instinctively rushes to Jo for comfort despite recently moving into her own room to evade a spell of recurring nightmares. What is happening nearby, however, is real; a parked couple is killed by Kator, who then assumes the dead man¡¯s appearance. The next morning, Jo and Jessica find the alien, now humanlike and going by the name of Anders Anderson, limping around the manor.

¡¡¡¡The domineering Jo views Anderson as a threat to both her relationship and her own preconceived notions about the opposite sex. She immediately lumps their guest in with other men who she believes are all inherently weird and animalistic. The longer Anderson stays though, the more she becomes perplexed by his atypical behavior and obsessed with discovering what makes him tick. Her wretched need to find his Achilles heel is why she allows him to stay the night. Meanwhile, Jessica is equally bothered by Anderson; she is thrown off by his utter sexual apathy toward her. He is not aroused by either woman, and for the time being, Jo and Jessica let their guards down and behave openly as if he does not even exist. They make love¡ªa protracted and tender scene largely ad-libbed by the uninstructed actors¡ªwith the door unlocked and ajar.


¡¡¡¡Things finally start to boil after Anderson kills Jo¡¯s nuisant fox. The animal supposedly killed her beloved hens in the middle of the night¡ªthe only animals Jo showed any affection for in the film, possibly because they are female¡ªand she flew into another fit of rage after discovering their grisly slaughter. Yet once Anderson presents the fox¡¯s carcass, Jo softens for a moment. Perhaps her overstated antipathy toward men is based on choice rather than reason. As part of a celebratory dinner, they plaster Anderson¡¯s face with makeup and put him in a full-length dress. What could be viewed as a form of acceptance¡ªthe women do not see Anderson as a man no longer and therefore, they can trust him¡ªis also part of Jo¡¯s test; she still wants to see Anderson¡¯s soft underbelly, so to speak. While Anderson is unbothered by the dress because human gender norms do not exist where he comes from, Jo now sees him in a completely different light. She temporarily abandons her disdain for men and attempts to kiss Anderson while he is in full makeup and wearing a dress. Much to her own surprise though, Anderson recoils and effectively rejects Jo. She then soon resumes her previous stance on him and all men.

¡¡¡¡With a title like Prey, the movie undoubtedly looks to analyze its predatory relationships. The most obvious is Anderson, who dawns an admittedly goofy-looking and wolfish visage as he hunts down pesky coppers and foxes. The other discernible and pressing predator-prey relationship is Jo and Jessica¡¯s. While the manor belongs to Jessica¡¯s family, Jo has moved in and completely taken over. Further exerting her control over her latest dalliance, Jo disposed of Simon, a previous rival for Jessica¡¯s affection. Annen¡¯s character discovers the bloodied evidence, including a large and phallic switchblade, in Jo¡¯s belongings and starts to question who she should really be afraid of now¡ªher lover or the weird man in their house. The confusion worsens during a game of hide-and-seek as Jo plays the apt role of hunter; Anderson tells Jessica she¡¯s ¡°like a caged animal¡± while they are holed up in a closet. She claims she is free to do whatever and go wherever she pleases, but deep down, Jessica knows she is only kidding herself.


¡¡¡¡It is reasonable to believe Jessica invited Anderson into her home to satiate her longing for male companionship. Earlier, her request to go on a brief trip by herself is met with angry disapproval from Jo; she tells Jessica they ¡°can¡¯t risk it.¡± It is clear Annen¡¯s character yearns to see other people, but Jo has since isolated Jessica from not only society¡ªthe two are local pariahs based on Jo¡¯s ¡°you know they talk about us¡± comment¡ªbut also her own sexuality. Jessica misses Simon, and as audiences have since learned, his sudden disappearance is deliberate. Jo literally eliminating the competition and denying Jessica the right to explore all sides of her sexuality is uncomfortable to watch. In its own unique way, though, the movie pegs the erasure that bisexual people endure.

¡¡¡¡There are mixed messages here about Jo and Jessica as well as sexuality in general. On one hand, the two women¡¯s love is depicted frankly and without euphemism; Jo is blunt when expressing their status to Anderson. They also have problems other couples can relate to on some basic level¡ªJessica with her desire for independence and experience and Jo¡¯s jealousy and control issues. Had Jo been swapped out with a male actor, though, the script would require only minor revisions. The stereotypic gender dynamics remain intact regardless of the fact there are two women in this relationship. In contrast to the way other queer folks were routinely represented by the media in those days¡ªthey were caricatures, mentally unsound, or criminals¡ªJo and Jessica are still handled with some thoughtful consideration in spite of the blatant toxicity in their relationship.

¡¡¡¡Prey is oppositely minimal and intimate in comparison to movies where alien invasions are often carried out on a grander scale. The story lacks big, external action and instead relies on the three main characters¡¯ innermost disturbances and darkest natures manifesting under duress. In the meantime, this brooding thriller cooks on a low flame until the explosive denouement comes into view. Punctuated by violence and sexploitation, and made tenser with Ivor Slaney¡¯s synthesized score, Warren¡¯s radical and layered sci-fi-horror film earns its complicated legacy. It goes without saying, not everyone will take a liking to this uneasy ¡®70s oddity, yet there is so much here for fans of experimental cinema to enjoy and analyze.


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