Sunday, 15 March 2015

March Monsters: Prophecy (1979)

Prophecy (1979)
Director: John Frankenheimer
Starring: Talia Shire, Robert Foxworth, and Armand Assante
Running Time: 102 min

  This movie should be awesome!  Not only does it have the director of  such extraordinary films like "The Bird Man From Alcatraz", "The Manchurian Canidate" and "Grand Prix", John Frankenheimer but the script was written by David Seltzer, who also wrote "The Omen" "Punchline" and "My Giant", which are all scary movies in some regards.  So I've given my socks notice that they will be knocked off while I'm watching this horror tour de force!

  Dr. Rob Verne has been working the city streets helping poor families in the city get the medical attention they need.  After seeing another family about their baby being bitten by rats, Dr. Rob is fed up and going to throw in the towel, he's done with rats all around. No more!  Luckily, his friend from the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA offers him a two week break from the rat eating baby system that has infested his city to help find a solution in a very volatile discussion between the logging industry and a group of Native Americans about land ownership.  That sounds waaaaay more relaxing, so Dr. Rob and his wife, Maggie fly out to the Androscoggin River in Maine to deal with some century old land agreements.  However, Maggie has a secret of her own and is afraid to tell Rob that she is pregnant because he thinks there are already too many unloved and unfed children in this world already and he's not bring anymore kids into a horrible world like this one.  Soooooo, she keeps that tidbit of information to herself and waits for the best time to surprise him.
  When they arrive at the logging camp, Bethel Isely the director of the paper mill, greets them and tells them that they have had some trouble with some of the Native Americans or Opies (O.P = Original People) lately.  Apparently, people have been going missing in dem der hills and they think that the native Americans have had something to do with the disappearances.  However, the Native Americans believe that it is the vengeful spirit of the forest called the Katahdin, who is murdering people because he has been awakened and it's trying to take back it's forest from the loggers.
Whether it's Native Americans or a vengeful spirit, Isely, Dr. Rob and Maggie still head into the forest to try and resolve the issues.  However, they come across a roadblock, set up by a group of Native Americans and led by John Hawks to stop them from getting into the forest.  The refuse to let Isely through and like usual it turns into a chainsaw vs axe battle of the greatest proportion!  Sadly John Hawks is defeated and before he is decapitated, his girlfriend unlocks the chain to let them through to the forest area.  Once they get through, Isely drops Dr. Rob and Maggie off at their cabin.
  Before Dr. Rob does any work, he heads out to do some fishing and catches a couple of fish for supper.  While out on the boat though he sees the most enormous salmon he's ever seen devour a duck and heads home to tell is wife.  While Maggie cooks their supper, Rob recounts this amazing fishing story to her and then they eat the fish from the lake.  After supper, Maggie tries to tell Rob about the baby but he is too wrapped up in the excitement of what happened today and tells her that she should already know how he feels about babies.  After dismissing Maggie about the baby talk, Rob cuddles up to her looking for some loving but that is quickly interrupted by a bang on the door.  Rob answers the door and it's a cute little raccoon... who jumps up and attacks him!  This adorable rabid racoon is trying to bite Rob's face off and Rob eventually just has to throw the creature into the fireplace, where it burns to death.  A little freaked out Rob and Maggie go to bed after a memorable day.
  Meanwhile, a family has gone camping in the woods in the same area and just as they are going to bed, this mutated bear type creature attacks them!  The creature kills the family and leaves the camp looking for other intruders.  The next morning, Dr. Rob and Maggie are being given a tour of the forest by John Hawks and his girlfriend and they come across an enormous tadpole.  Dr. Rob thinks that there might be something in the water affecting the creatures and people of the forest.  After some tests, he discovers that there is a mutagen in the water caused by excessive mercury deposits from the paper mill.  This mutagen will cause birth defects and progressive nerve damage to anyone or anything who ate or drank anything from the lake, like that fish last night Maggie.  Can Dr. Rob get this lake cleaned up before his mutant baby arrives or is it to late and the creatures from this lake & surrounding area are seeking their revenge against man for his eco unfriendliness? 

  This was enjoyable and not really what I was expecting at all.  Like a number of horror films from the 70's, like "Food of the Gods" and "The Long Weekend", there is a focus on the environmental impact of man and his eco-presence in nature.  Director Frankenhiemer and writer Seltzer can be a little heavy handed at times but it is good to see that a larger budgeted film can share an environmental message and still depict man eating mutant creatures in it as well.
  The creatures looked great and were very scary to watch.  I was really surprised that Frankenhiemer approached the death scenes in the this film with a no holds barred attitude.  One scene, which I found both amusing and particularly vicious was when the bear/mutant/thing killed the kid in the yellow sleeping bag.  Most of the time in larger budget films, they leave the kids/teens alone and they become annoying sad sack appendages to the to story but not here, that bear thing squished him like a banana.  It was great and it allowed the real story develop!  Also I like that as the movie progressed, more and more of these mutant creatures started attacking them.  It wasn't just this bear thing, Seltzer and Frankenheimer did a nice job creating a terrifyingly fun gaggle of creatures for our protagonists to encounter in this film.  

  Although I feel that this was and still is an important message, I think it does over shadow the fact that this is a horror movie at times.  I feel that there wasn't quite enough creature stuff going on during the second act.  The creatures mostly show up at the end in a very well done, escape the forest kind thing but I wish there was more scary scenes peppered into the second act.  Dr. Rob's search for why things are happening really dominates and slows the film down for me. 
  Also, I was surprised that there was no epilogue to the film.  There were a few questions that weren't answered at the end and I was a little disappointed.  However, I did like the ending and a nice surprise pops up before the credits role. 

  With that said, this is an interesting and insightful ecological horror film that has some great monsters going to town on human beings.  There is a decent story and even though the second act drags a bit, the third act makes up for any time spent drudging through sciencey things.  Also, the effects department did a fabulous job and the creatures looked pretty amazing.  So, if you're looking for a horror movie that talks about the environmental impact of chemicals in the water and has some fun scenes of mother nature getting revenge, then move your styrofoam containers over and throw this in yer bio degradable player.

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