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Reviewers of the film are quick to undercut its actual effectiveness as a
film without realizing that many parts of the film succeed, including the
tension of the characters against the beast, the horror of the beasts'
attacks, the helplessness of man within nature, etc. Reviewers would be
accurate to attack the cheesy effects, hokey dialogue at times and overall
loss on energy in the film toward the climax, but there's much more going
Prophecy is, at best, a) a departure for John Frankenheimer, b) a 70's horror movie with a social conscience and, c) not withstanding amateurish special effects, predictable dialogue and long-view shots of Talia Shire looking petrified beyond speech, an actually entertaining, somewhat surprisingly satisfying film. The novel created an intelligent, often compelling case for early environmentalism and the frightening consequences of doing nothing in light of the dangerous contamination of the Earth. Prophecy as a film suffers from a deplorable special effects deficiancy (case in point: at one point in the film, the monster is clearly "walking" on the dock with the courtesy of a mechanical dolly and hydraulic levers...uggh) as said before, but looking beyond this, the film's plotline does build tension, though it loses steam in the end, concluding with a rather lamely tacked-on "surprise" ending that is more befitting of the TV networks in the 70's. Frankenheimer captures a "land-locked" Jaws-like eating machine on film with a vengeance, and the subsequent carnage is, while unfortunate, in light of the circumstances that created the beast, understandable. The focal point of the movie, the beast itself, operates as a deranged ecological locomotive ( actually sounding like one onfilm at times ) hell-bent on taxing mankind for its misfortune.
Remarkably ( and most likely accidentally) the film achieved a perfect "of the moment" time slice capture of the late 70's era, replete with the worries, political movements, ambiguities and uncertainties of the time all woven within the backstory of the Indian's struggle against the papermill, global overpopulation, bigotry and commercialization at the expense of nature.
Beautiful scenery ( courtesy of British Columbia, circa 1978/1979), believable performances, particularly from Richard Dysart and Armand Assanti, combined with circumstances and sequences never actually realized on film before combine to make a pretty meaty B movie. Case in point, the opening sequence with the dogs and the cliff, the tunnels of the Indian village and their subsequent use later in the film. I saw this film when I was 11, and the memory of the camping family and their fate in the film has YET to leave me. Don't think I've ever camped again without recalling that scene...
I recommend the film without taking it as seriously as it seems to take itself, though the message of environmentalism is one worth listening to. The plot device of methyl mercury poisoning in Minimata, Japan is based on true life actual events, and is considerably more frightening than the sum of this movie, but is worth researching sometime.
I saw this picture on Betamax in '81 or '82 and it really got under my
Frankenheimer's monster movie is partly responsible for me getting into
business (along with Jaws, Alien, Raiders, Blade Runner, not that I'm
inviting such comparisons). I actually had occasion to have a smoke and
briefly with Robert Foxworth about the making of the picture when I was
on a made-for-TV suspense pic in Atlanta. He was approachable, friendly
enjoyed talking about that show. He said that they had lost a stunt
and narrowly escaped losing a cast member or two when their first
construction truck/picture car (the 4wd monster truck our ensemble try to
escape in) took a dive off a cliff. They had to scramble to find another
and finish the picture. RF also said that Frankenheimer was an
chef and had occasionally treated the DP and Cast to gourmet meals.
Prophecy is now on DVD, presented the way it was originally shot. I think I bought my copy for less than $15. All of the criticisms of this film are true, and it does not belong in the first Frankenheimer potential box set with "The Train," "Manchurian Candidate," and "Seven Days in May." But with this marginal script and genre, bound together with a tired, preachy and inaccurate environmental message, Frankenheimer managed to put together a monster picture that has surprisingly stout legs. Remember, Paramount released this monster muppet against "Alien," arguably the best film of its kind ever made. The monster grizzly is enraged, frightening and unpredictable. It is key to the film's suspense. If the Emmerich/Devlin team gave 'Zilla the same qualities, suddenly that film is worth watching for more than the effects. Prophecy had virtually no effects by today's standards. They had to make up for this with shooting and editing; a.k.a. conventional, hand-crafted filmmaking. I may indeed be prejudiced, but I still like this movie with all of its problems.
It did have its share of cheesy moments, but Prophecy is one of the
best rampaging-mutant movies I've seen - and I've seen quite a few.
Some users have complained that the terror shots are too few and far
between, but this is an ancient and now-lost film-making technique
called 'building suspense'. Personally, I think it enhanced the shock
value of the monster (which, by the way, still manages to give me the
occasional nightmare, even as I approach 30). The scene where Foxworth,
speaking into a tape recorder as he puzzles out the environmental
disaster, gradually realizes the nature and extent of what he's facing,
is a true cinematic gem. If this were a 'serious' movie, it would have
been worth of at least a nomination, and the chainsaw/axe duel is
intense. However, horror movies rarely win awards.
I do laugh during the sleeping bag scene, though. Can't help myself. And the viewer can clearly see that the monster morphs from fifteen feet tall to eight feet tall when it goes from close-ups to action shots. The creature itself is terrifying, in my opinion. Anyone who can't suspend their disbelief enough to overlook a few flaws in the special effects techniques probably shouldn't be watching monster movies, anyway.
This is one of the prizes of my video collection, if I ever find it on DVD, I won't hesitate to add it to THAT collection, as well.
Maybe it's because the setting of the movie- New England- is where I spent
many an idyllic vacation with my family, but to see this creepy-looking
mutant bear running around in the forest is really terrifying.
John Frankenheimer directs a nighmarish film that should not be seen alone.
I saw "Prophecy" on a double bill with the original "Friday the 13th," another bloody romp in the forest. The Jason film was second on the bill, and would've been unimpressive on its own, but was rendered especially impotent to this viewer after having all the bejeezus scared out of me by "Prophecy."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Saw this at a Drive-In with Friday the 13th, thought this film was better. The plot is great, unlike most films of this type,(SPOILERS AHEAD)the local papermill uses a chemical to soak its logs in, the EPA is brought in to check things out, the Native Americans are wanting the White people to stay off their land and quit demolishing their land, and then there is a deformed mother bear looking for her cubs. This and the fact that a search party winds up missing, a family is killed, and the papermill is blaming the Native Americas, and the horror is growing inside a person. Great movie, one of my favorites, never gets old. 10/10 and Highly recomended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's been years since I saw Prophecy on the big screen, 24 in fact, but
it impacted me so greatly that I own it still today.
This film has its campy moments, some performances appear hesitant and unsure, and some of the dialog really makes you roll your eyes and laugh. But the message of this movie sticks with you forever.
This is the movie that contains that memorable scene of the camper, all zipped up in his bedroll/sleeping bag, trying in vain to hop away from the monster. You may remember this scene as it was used in many ads for Paramount, for years to come.
The message of this film is simple: the Earth is our Mother, and only we can save Her.
As a horror movie, it's extremely good, even by today's standards.
It was well-written, well directed and for the most part well done.
As I said before, it has its campy moments, but overall, Frankenheimer (who's got so many films to his credit I won't bother listing them here) did a wonderful job of getting the message across, even if it was through a creative media such as a film of horror.
It gets a 7.9/10 from...
the Fiend :.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw Prophecy when I was 13 in the there, and it is exactly the kind
of movie that I love to watch even now 25 odd years later. It is a
horror with a great combination: A disgusting, if campy, host of
mutants; a plausible foundation for the existence of the mutants; and
some great "outright screamer" scares.
If you are watching Prophecy for slick effects, don't waste your time. If you are looking for a thoughtful script that provokes a life altering change in paradigms, don't waste your time. If you are looking for a great "turn the lights out" scary movie that has some solid "darn-near-soil-your-underwear" surprises, this is a pretty good start.
The challenge that many contemporary horror flicks have even today is the inability to do the one thing that Prophecy does. It gives you a plausible premise (ecological damage resulting in mutations), reasonable (if nowhere near Academy award winning) acting, and, the coup de grace, a boatload of drawn out suspense scenes.
The majority of commenter's that dislike this movie base their disgust on the effects (which aren't great, but hey ever had someone pop a paper bag near you when you are nervous anyway) or the acting. It's just a good mutant horror flick folks, I doubt anyone sensed as they did the movie that it would be on the AFI top 100, relax.
Spoilers below: There are four scenes which I find make this movie a great "scary" flick.
1)The search and rescue team at the beginning which is a great suspense piece.
2)The Indian tunnels 3)The drive through the forest (which seems to go on forever, but is worth it when the mutant finally arrives, just for the scare) 4)The grand finale at the lake What I liked most about this movie is it's ability to provide me with a lasting scare (or scar). I doubt I'll be in space anytime soon to face-off with an Alien. I don't buy into all of the occult pieces. I doubt that Satan or his child really care to waste their energy on my sorry . But, I go camping all the time, and after Prophecy, I don't care how cold I get I will never sleep in a mummy bag, I live in logging country and I will never eat the fish from a lake near a paper mill, and I will seriously think about going back to suburbia if I see tadpoles the size of bass.
That is the real treasure in Prophecy, a scary movie that does what it is supposed to do, scare you. Forget the ecological message of the film, forget the social message of the film, suspend disbelief and take a fun ride for the shear joy of being scared by a horror flick.
Only one movie and one book have scared me more than Prophecy did, 7 and It, respectively. Perhaps, I was too impressionable at 13, but Prophecy is the kind of flick purist horror fans should love, just a darn good scare and a "that could happen to me" feeling that may keep you awake at night on a couple of deep woods camping trips.
Released by Paramount in 1979, Prophecy, along with Alien, Phantasm and
George Romero's Dawn of the Dead formed an unholy quartet of horror
movies that assaulted the hearts, minds and stomachs of cinema-goers
during that infamous 'summer of fear'. Of these four films probably the
most neglected, and deservedly so, is John Frankenheimer's ecological
horror film starring Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Armand Assante,
Richard Dysart and a carnivorous, drooling fifteen foot mutant bear.
Working from a ludicrous script by David Seltzer, author of The Omen (1976 & 2006), the film makes a plaintive plea about the dangers of a contaminating industry on the natural environment and how it could spawn obscene freaks of nature that may one day bite back. Seltzer specialises in films that explore the end of the world as exemplified in both incarnations of The Omen as well as his bug-movie The Hellstrom Chronicle (1971). Needless to say, Prophecy is equally dour in its predictions.
Tagged with the subtitle 'the monster movie', it has its moments of genuine suspense, especially in the impressive opening sequence where several mountaineers descend into a gloomy, Lovecraftian-like pit where the titular monster decimates them in the darkness. Unfortunately, there are not enough scenes of this kind and most other shocks in the film are not so cleverly engineered by the director. This is a shame.
The performances by Foxworth and Shire are heartfelt and everybody else tries hard but the material is so ridiculous that the results are sometimes painful to watch. The special effects by Tom Burman are not up to the standards of his work on Philip Kauffman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) or Paul Schrader's remake of Cat People (1982) and at times look distinctly fake and rubbery.
Now forget all my previously negative comments and go rent or buy this film immediately. Prophecy is the kind of z-grade, messy, misguided, big-studio trash that is so bad its simply quite brilliant. On the positive side, the film does build nicely towards its climax, wringing quite a few moments of suspense along the way. This isn't the Frankenheimer of The Manchurian Candidate (1962) or Seconds (1966) but Prophecy, though not an entirely successful synthesis of its themes and ideas, is a joy to behold.
PROPHECY is the kind of movie that makes you go, "Aw, man!" Not because it
just plain sucks, but because the movie never once lives up to its
potential. It repeatedly pulls its punches and draws back just as it's
The poster is probably the best thing about it, showing a creepy little mutant fetus floating in a womb. A movie about that thing? As an eight year old kid, I was the first on line! And, as an added bonus, it was PG, so I knew I could get in. Not to mention the fact that this was when Hollywood still had some balls, and a PG movie could still contain some hefty doses of gore and T&A.
I remember finding individual scenes to be pretty scary. A family is slaughtered while camping in one scene. A guy in an overturned jeep gets his head ripped off. And the giant mutant bear is, at times, genuinely freaky.
But even I, as a little kid, could tell that the movie was uneven and poorly paced. When the monster isn't attacking, it's yawn city, with Robert Foxworth pontificating endlessly to the point where, even though I agreed with every word he said, I wanted to bash his face in. And Talia Shire's eye-bugging and whining got pretty tiresome after a while as well.
You rarely, if ever, get a good look at the monster. That technique worked in ALIEN, but, whereas ALIEN kept the monster hidden through stylish photography and sly editing, PROPHECY is just poorly shot, badly lit, and sloppily put together.
Ridley Scott wanted to keep the alien partially hidden, so all you saw was teeth and claws and could put the thing together in your mind. I think John Frankenheimer just couldn't figure out how to hide the seams in the dime-store monster costume he had to work with, so just lit everything so dimly you could barely see anything. The monster is pretty grotesque and occasionally looks fearsome, but usually looks like nothing more than a big gray blob.
The baby monster bear that Shire cradles through the second half of the movie is much more freakish looking. PROPHECY is watchble enough if it shows up on cable one rainy day when there's nothing else to do. Just remember to watch it through an eight year old's eyes.
...... but the creature itself isn't half bad considering that this was
made in 79'- pre CGI. The film has some great expansive wilderness
scenery and an effective score by Leonard Rosenman. It has a great
opening which in a sense promises more than the rest of the film
deliversquite plodding for the most partbut this is really a minor
quibble. The acting is decent and there is enough tension generated by
the opening sequence to keep ones interest throughout the proceedings.
There is minimal gore, but the tone of the film is relatively intense and serious, with a violent undercurrent that is more implied than expressive and adds to some well mounted terror sequences. The last half hour certainly isn't dull and is filmed with panache and a great deal of swampy atmosphere.
This is a very hard US PG rating (pre - PG13 days). A brief fight scene involving a chainsaw and an axe (although by no means graphic) is like something seen in a more exploitative hardcore action film. Had the film makers pushed a little stronger and bloodied a little more and went for an R' rating, this film may have become a minor horror classic considering the talent involved. As it stands, its still a hoot and well worth a mention in your DVD creature feature collection.
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