Directed by James Tucker
Vista Street Entertainment VHS
Fifth grade was merciless and cruel. Because of budget cuts, there were nearly 40 kids in my class. Someone was always getting spit on or bitten or sucker punched. Half the class was always in detention. By the time June rolled around, Mr. Rokke had been torn apart, chewed up, and spat out by all of us. Except me. I was, of course, an exceptional student, eager to please, eager to get into Harvard. On the last day of school, Mr. Rokke thought, fuck this, I hate these goddamn kids, and he turned on The Naked Prey (1965). It followed the same premise as “The Most Dangerous Game,” which we had read in class. This movie is not appropriate for fifth graders. Not just because it’s racist, but also because in it, a man gets cooked alive on a rotisserie and another gets trapped in a ring of fire with a venomous snake. It’s a movie that received an Academy Award nomination. But, it’s not something you show to a class full of real life savages. The girls started crying and the boys tried to recreate the torture scenes using the class nerd. Mr. Rokke had to turn it off halfway and spent the rest of the afternoon fearing angry calls from parents. I’ve never finished the movie. I’m sure it’s great.
This is all to say that there have been many successful films loosely based on “The Most Dangerous Game”: Predator, Hard Target, Running Man, Battle Royale, The Naked Prey. But there have also been many unsuccessful films with the same premise.
Let’s talk about Human Prey.
Dr. Dorn saunters through a parking garage, only to find two mulleted thugs breaking into his modest Nissan Sentra. He gets a savage beatdown, which happens behind a car. You and I both know that this is a total rip-off. If you want to show a beatdown in your movie, then show a beatdown in your movie. Otherwise, just have your characters hug it out and talk about their feelings.
Now Dr. Dorn wakes up in a waterbed next to a hooker. She has taken his wallet. A scuffle ensues. A knife is involved. But the most notable part of this scene—save the waterbed—is Dr. Dorn’s purple bikini briefs.
“Bastard you stabbed me! Help me!”
“I didn’t do it!
“Your ass is gonna fry!”
“No, goddamn it!”
Brief word about waterbeds: You can still buy them today. In the 21st century. At Sam’s Club. I looked it up. And guess what? They’re not cheap.
The same thugs who beat up Dr. Dorn return. Only this time, Dr. Dorn is prepared. He has a knife and he’s hungry for vengeance. The most notable part of this scene is that one thug’s wearing neon sunglasses and sweatshorts. Comfort is king, even when you’re a gangster.
Turns out, Dr. Dorn is a shrink. He talks to people about their problems. But clearly he has his own problems, the biggest of which is that he mumbles quietly. It’s impossible to understand what he’s saying. But, this may or may not be a bad thing because he spends a lot of time talking into a tape recorder. There’s nothing less exciting than watching a guy mumble a soliloquy into a tape recorder. It’s excruciating.
Meanwhile, a hooker is late for work, which seems unrealistic because the time is 5:30 pm. Hooking is a late evening affair, though I guess there are exceptions. There’s a hotel near my office called La Semana (“the week”). They have hourly rates and I’ve seen a guy walk in with two hookers for some afternoon delight. The hotel has one-and-a-half stars on TripAdvisor. One reviewer wrote that there was no bathroom door and holes in the ceiling. Another said there were orange stains on the sheets. This can only mean one thing: Garfield was slaughtered there. RIP, old friend.
Dr. Dorn picks up the hooker, who performs the most uninspired strip tease ever committed to video. Things don’t go well for her, and now a fiery lady detective and a partner battling the bottle are on the case.
But now Dr. Dorn has collected some victims in the forest. He’s holding a gun and he’s dressed like Elmer Fudd. It’s hunting time! You think, now it’s finally going to get good! But you are mistaken. You are very, very mistaken. Human Prey is sluggish, sloppy, and impossibly boring. This movie lacks energy. It lacks a sense of fun. It lacks passion and ambition. It lacks the joie de vivre we desire from DIY action. The dialog is dull, the characters are charmless, and the editing is almost as lazy as the plot. Tension fails to build, so the storyline thins and stagnates into a fetid pool of I-don’t-give-a-shit. There’s no violence or gore, which, come on, is a necessary part of any movie that features dead hookers and human prey. The biggest thrill is when Dr. Dorn gets stabbed lightly with a stick.
At some point in the movie, Dr. Dorn yells wildly, in agony, “It’s over! It’s overrrrrrr! Agghhhhh”
But it’s not over. The suffering continues long after you turn off the VCR.