Directed by John Frankenheimer [Other horror films: The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)]
I knew next-to-nothing about this late 70’s ecological horror film before I started it. In fact, I didn’t even know it was ecological, so you know I was going in blind. I like a lot of stuff about this film, but a few factors keep it from being an overly solid movie, such as some special effects issues and the run-time.
Robert Foxworth (who has been in a handful of other horror flicks, such as The Devil’s Daughter from 1973, It Happened at Lakewood Manor from 1977, and both Deathmoon and Damien: Omen II from 1978) did great as the main character, and I rather liked most things about him. Talia Shire (Connie from The Godfather movies), playing his wife, rather humanized him at times, and also did well in some emotional scenes. Armand Assante was fun too, playing a Native American of strong conviction. Lastly, Richard Dysart was also solid, though his character wasn’t particularly likable.
There’s a lot going on in this one that needs to be unpacked a bit. A dying Native American community in Maine dealing with the racist attitudes of the management of a paper mill and, of course, the authorities who back the prominent businessmen as opposed to the minority community. Also, ecological damage done by the paper mill to cut the costs of operation, which happens every single day in the USA. This, along with the casual racism (and toward the beginning of the film, poor black communities in rat-infested tenements, and the racist, greedy landlords who owned them was taken aim at also) show this a movie of strong social conscience, which I deeply appreciated.
Problematically, the horror aspects weren’t all well-done. The design for the mutated bear didn’t do that much for me, but worse still was it’s overly jerky, fake movements. When it didn’t move, it was almost tolerable, but in action, I thought it looked rather ridiculous. Also, the movie, at about an hour and forty minutes, feels too long. I suspect some would say the beginning is boring, but I was pretty engrossed in all that went down (including the look into the paper mill, which I found rather interesting). It wasn’t until the horror really started up as the focus that I felt like it was dragging, as ironic as that sounds. If ten minutes were cut, and they shorted the somewhat disappointing conclusion, I think it would have ran a lot smoother.
Kudos to the scenes, though, in which the main characters are searching for clues at a murder scene in a heavy downfall of rain. I really liked that sequence, and though there was no horror present, it did feel rather suspenseful in it’s own way. That, and the paper mill sequence, felt pretty unique to this era of movies in my opinion.
There are a lot of things I find in Prophecy to enjoy, and overall, it’s definitely a film I could see myself watching again, but it doesn’t quite get to the level I wish it did. As the movie stands, I’d probably say that Prophecy is somewhere around average, but depending on your particular tastes, it may waver from below average to just above. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’d get much higher, but you never know.
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