In Vietnam he was the best… now he has to prove it again!
Well it definitely has been a long time between drinks on this blog! My new four month old son certainly takes up a lot of my reviewing energy, that's for sure! But if any film could get me back in the mood for a review, it would certainly be Deadliest Prey. It will come as no surprise to my readers that Deadly Prey is one of my favourite action films. A perfect example on filming with non-actors on zero budget, done right. With it's over-the-top acting, brilliant synth rock score and Ted Prior's mullet, the film delivers on so many promises. So how does the sequel fair?
After serving 27 years in prison, presumably for the events of the first film, Col. Hogan (David Campbell) is released with only one thing on his mind - revenge. During his incarceration he had given orders for a new training camp to be established, this time with the addition of video cameras in the forest to broadcast the game over the Internet; this time he wants the whole world to see who really is the best. Mike Danton (Ted Prior) wakes one morning being asked of his wife to take the trash out (sound familiar?). When he makes it to his front gate, Danton is asked for directions by a passer-by in a van (cameo by Director David. A Prior himself). What happens next should be obvious to fans of the first film!
With his new army of soldiers by his side, Col. Hogan shows himself to the captured Danton who can barely believe that this is all about to happen again. Danton runs into the forest and proceeds to kill off the soldiers one by one, just as he did before, with whatever weapons he can lay his hands on. This time, however, Col. Hogan is expecting this and plans accordingly. Fritz Matthews returns as Thornton, however as he was killed in the first end - famously having his arm chopped off and then being beaten to death with it - this time Thornton is actually his twin brother out for his own revenge!
I had a blast watching this. An absolute blast. I was pretty apprehensive as to how this would shape up, as I'm sure many fans of the first film were. Sequels with such a gap between them rarely work (Predators, anyone?). Earlier this year I was excited to watch David's then-latest film, Night Claws, a film that reunited Ted Prior with David Campbell, and the addition of Reb Brown in a film about killer Bigfoot. Unfortunately for me, the all-star cast and premise didn't quite work out and I found myself getting bored during the second act. With that in mind, I had wondered if the gang could make a sequel to Deadly Prey work at all.
Thankfully my fears were unfounded. This is how you make a sequel to a cult classic - do the same thing again, with an additional revenge angle. That's all you need and that's what we received. Does it reach the highs of the first film? Not quite, but it gets damned close. After all, Deadly Prey has the 80's on its side - it is hard to compete with that!
From the opening scene that repeats the famous silhouette, to Danton taking out the bins (thankfully this time not in cut-off denim jeans!), to the chase through the jungle that sees most of the cast killed off by Danton's hunting knife, machine gun and Rambo-style traps.. I was hooked. The action barely holds up and Danton just keeps piling those bodies higher and higher. There are plenty of love-letters to the original film that I enjoyed as well. For example, in the first film, after what seems like only a day, Mike Danton is reduced to catching and cooking a rat for dinner. This time he is lucky to find a tin of dog food! It was also great to see practical effects shots, with all the explosions (except, I'm sure, the exploding helicopter!) being real pyrotechnics and lot's of fun knife-to-the-head gags.
If I had to pick a fault with the film it would be the addition of the computer hackers. The introduction of the Internet angle makes sense, but the three computer hacker characters, who stumble across the live feed of the action, made the film go from timeless muscle-bound action to 1995-era computer culture, and not very seamlessly. The hacker girl, Candy, with hot-blue coloured stripes in her hair and continual replying to every sentence with "true dat" started to get old very quickly. The characters do serve their purpose, however, and by using their skills to locate Danton and provide help add an extra dimension to the story.
I read an interview with Ted before seeing the film that talked about how he and David wanted to approach the sequel - should it be a parody of the first film, or should it be played straight? The most important part of The Deadliest Prey is that it is played entirely straight. Yes, many lines are tongue in cheek, but this is by no means a joke film. Ted, David, Fritz et al. give their best performance and it shows in the final movie. Col. Hogan is far more unhinged than before, consumed by 27 years of planning his revenge. Mike Danton has moved on with a new family but still has flashbacks to the first time he was hunted. And Thornton.. well, he's the same old Thornton (except that he's really his brother).
Coming out soon from David A. Prior's new production house Night Claws Productions is "Relentless Justice", starring Eric Roberts, Vernon Wells (Bennett in "Commando"), Mark Rolston (Drake in "Aliens") and of course, Ted Prior. I hope that it delivers as much as The Deadliest Prey did for me. Watch this alone or watch it with friends, you are guaranteed to have a good time.
The fact that this film was made at all is the highlight, but I'm definitely (and this is a huge spoiler) going for the scene that has Col. Hogan accidentally chop Thornton's arm off - just like the first film - and have Danton beat him around the head with the wet end. I think I cried at the awesomeness of this scene.
The film can be purchased directly from David A. Prior's website, www.deadliestprey.com (screenshots in this review taken from the site's photo gallery).