Wednesday, October 16, 2013

31 DAYS OF FRIGHT: Never Bring an Axe to a Chainsaw Fight and Other Lessons of PROPHECY

Made in that more serious time known as "the 1970s" when everybody was ginned up on post-Watergate suspicion of the government and environmental causes like "no nukes", PROPHECY was one of those flicks I'd always passed on in favor of something more, well, fun-sounding. Plus, I'd never heard anybody rave about it, John Frankenheimer seems like an odd choice for a monster thriller, it's rated PG, the cast of minor-league all-stars doesn't exactly inspire enthusiasm (Armand Assante aside), and I'd always kinda confused it with THE MANITOU. So there you have it.

But when a copy turned up in a box of DVDs I was sorting through I knew it was time to finally break down and give it a watch.

Rob (Robert Foxworth) and Maggie (Talia Shire) are the world's most depressing couple to hang out with. He's a permed, self-righteous do-gooder doctor that treats inner city babies and wants to punch out landlords for the crappy conditions of their buildings. She's a sour-faced orchestra cellist who recently discovered that she's pregnant but is afraid to tell Dr. Perm because he's anti-bringing-children-into-this-horrible-world.

When his buddy (Graham Jarvis) offers an opportunity to do a nebulous-sounding environmental survey in Maine, Rob jumps at the chance for a getaway (despite the fact that Maggie has to come along for the ride).  Arriving in the secluded Northeast forest, the pair find themselves in the middle of a land rights tussle between the paper company with designs on logging the shit out of the forest and the original people (or "OP") who want to protect the land... possibly at all costs. This leads to things like Armand Assante – armed with an axe – taking on a logger with a chainsaw and Foxworth wondering why the fish are so damn big.

After a lot of talking about land rights (from the mill's mouthpiece played by Richard Dysart) and OP rights (from the aforementioned Assante as a downbeat American Indian named John Hawks) we eventually get down to business when a gaggle of characters and their pilot get stranded and stumble across some kind of mutant bear cub. Naturally, this brings out the mama "bear" who begins chasing the survivors through the Maine wilderness.

Despite a preachy, heavy-handed and talky first hour, PROPHECY eventually ramps it up and delivers some solid PG action including an exploding sleeping bag, decapitation, multiple inside-out-mutant-bear attacks and some Grade A "He's Gone Apeshit" acting from Foxworth and his perm. (The perm is especially spectacular.)

It's too bad the first part of the flick is such a downer, with lots of talk about mutant babies, Foxworth looking at everyone disapprovingly, Assante pontificating and Talia Shire screaming lines like "You were too busy playing God to be a HUMAN BEING!" and doing The Talia Shire Face she perfected in the ROCKY movies.

Complaints aside, the last half hour is classic "nature run amok" with bonus points given for the Inside Out Mutant Bear and my guess is that PROPHECY would probably play pretty good with an enthusiastic crowd. – Dan Taylor

PROPHECY is available from Amazon.

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