Prophecy (1979)

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Prophecy (1979)

Post  BoG on Fri Apr 20, 2012 12:19 pm

One of the last of the innumerable eco-horror sci-fi thrillers of the seventies (preceded by Frogs/1972, Day of the Animals/1977, etc. etc.), this one had the potential to be the presumptive masterpiece of that decade; it had the advantage of master filmmaker John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May) at the helm. But, Frankenheimer was out of his element and also troubled by his alcoholism at that point. The result was a mash-up: a commentary on egregious corporate corruption towards a toxic environment mixed with old-fashioned monster scares.

The corporation in this case is a local paper mill in the wilderness of Maine. It's represented by Richard Dysart's manager character and some of his thugs; they're up against the local Indians, repped by rebel Armand Assante and wife Victoria Racimo. Besides the clash over the environment, there are mysterious grisly deaths - the first sequence at night features some employees getting slaughtered in the woods. It seems like a rogue killer bear is on the loose - or something even worse..?  Enter the new element: government medical investigator Robert Foxworth and his pregnant wife (Talia Shire). Foxworth uncovers the problem of mercury poisoning; only, it turns out that there have been unforeseen side-effects: local fauna such as fish in the area are much larger than normal, there are crazed racoons and, finally, a mutant monster which resembles a disfigured bear. As the 2nd half begins, the main characters find the creature's offspring and, from then on, they are on the run, chased by a very angry mama monster.
Most of the film's detractors and those who make fun of the film concentrate on the poor special FX. These do indeed look rushed and not inspired. There's nothing there except for very quick camera cuts and usually the camera lingers too long on the poor monster suit or the below par puppetry. This was still scary enough to offer nightmares for many kids, prompting a visceral fear of the woods and what might be in there. But, once you get past a certain age and especially seeing this a 2nd time, most of it becomes laughable. I wasn't able to muster much sympathy, for example, towards the pregnant Talia Shire character in the middle of a kiddie monster movie. This is like an exaggerated version of the film Grizzly (1976), and the monster here also reminds me of the later Rawhead Rex (1986), featuring another constantly-roaring/howling monster. It is somehow re-watchable, though. BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10

Prophetic Trivia: screenwriter David Seltzer also wrote the novel, which added many layers to the characters and the story.

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