“The Naked Prey”
The concept of “hunting humans” has been popular cinematic fodder for over 80 years, since The Most Dangerous Game came out in 1932. This isn’t the first specifically to target women – the Roger Corman produced The Woman Hunt did so in the seventies – but the prey in that needed male help to accomplish much, which isn’t the case here. The heroine is Diana Kelper (DeLuca), whose new dance job turns out not to be quite as expected – she’s more or less coerced into working as a stripper, unable to leave until she pays off the debts to the man who brought her in. The only way to do that is to turn tricks on the side, but her first client is Colin Mandel (Garfield), who is interested in a longer-term relationship. Specifically, one where he can take his female victims into the remote wilderness, where they wake up, unclothed and eventually on the wrong end of a crossbow bolt or bullet. However, with Kelper, he may have bitten off more than he can chew.
It’s a good concept for a movie – all the more striking when you discover real-life serial killer Robert Hansen basically did the same thing for real, up in Alaska – and much credit to DeLuca for a performance which retains her character’s dignity, more than you’d imagine from the pretty lurid plot-line. The problem is mostly the script. The two obvious flaws are, firstly, it takes too long to get to the interesting stuff (from both exploitative and less prurient views), instead, meandering around pointless subplots such as a new local cop (Shiver), who has suspicions about all the missing persons reports, but blah blah blah. And secondly, way too much idiocy is required by Diana for reasons of plot. For example, at one point, she completely has the drop on her tormentor, having knocked him out with a rock. Obvious things to do would include, keep on smashing his skull, taking his weapon, or at least removing his boots and clothes for your own use, since you are buck-naked. Nope: she just runs off. Really?
There’s some discussion over the ending: some have said it feels tacked on, but I liked it, and felt it pointed towards a potentially more-interesting sequel, with Diana swapping roles and becoming the hunter rather than the hunted. But it isn’t quite enough to salvage the overall movie, with the weaknesses noted above enough to negate the more positive elements.
Dir: Thom E. Eberhardt
Star: Danielle DeLuca, J. D. Garfield, Arron Shiver, Joe Mantegna