GORE IN THE STORE
Directed by John Frankenheimer.
Starring Talia Shire, Robert Foxworth, Armand Assante.
Horror/Sci-fi, USA, 102 mins, cert 15.
Released on Blu-ray in the UK by Eureka Entertainment on 16th August 2021. RRP £20.99.
If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise…unless you were expecting mutant bear monsters and Armand Assante, then in which case it’s business as usual in John Frankenheimer’s surprisingly entertaining eco-horror PROPHECY which is seeing a snazzy Blu-ray release for the first time in the UK from Eureka Entertainment.
The film, which seamlessly combines a biting social commentary on the cruelty of capitalism alongside a scene of a deformed bear actually biting a man’s head clean off, follows Dr Robert Verne (Robert Foxworth; here looking like the Hollywood version of Noel Edmonds) after he is offered a job by the Environmental Protection Agency to write a report on a dispute between a logging operation and a Native American tribe in the woods of rural Maine. His pregnant wife, Maggie (Talia Shire), accompanies him there too for some reason.
Lumberjacks have gone missing and a search and rescue team have ended up dead. The mill director, Bethel Isley (Richard A. Dysart), believes that the tribe are doing that old Scooby Doo trick of making up a monster to scare them off. But is it simply a trick or is it really the Katahdin; a “sort of a bigfoot, only uglier, larger than a dragon, with the eyes of a cat”?
PROPHECY had the misfortune to be released the same year as the critical and commercial horror smash ALIEN, and, with all due respect, this sure isn’t ALIEN. Therefore, the contemporary critical consensus was that this, in comparison, was a laughably unsuccessful failure.
Admittedly there are goofy and unintentionally funny moments such as an extreme raccoon attack, and the swiftly brutal death of a sleeping bag ensconced camper, but I actually found the film effectively tense and moody (if never outright frightening).
Also, refreshingly for this type of film, the acting was universally solid with some decent writing. For instance, the antagonistic mill owner is surprisingly well rounded and gets a last act redemption.
It is a shame that a film dealing with the exploitation of Native Americans didn’t cast someone from that community as John Hawke, but Armand Assante does do a respectful enough job and gives a compellingly anguished performance.
Unfortunately, Talia Shire doesn’t get much to do, and I’m disappointed that her character’s cello playing skills are never utilised in the plot. Sometimes it’s unclear why she is even in the scene (why is she having the tour of the paper mill?!?) but she does the best that she can with an underwritten role.
For a B-movie it looks and feels, for the most part, like it is a much classier film (possibly assisted by this great looking Blu-ray HD transfer), although this notion is dissuaded a tad when you first see the mutant bear. It looks pretty good in some shots and absolutely terrible in others (especially when it’s running). However, the baby mutants are much more effective and genuinely distressing to look at.
There are not a ton of special features on this disc but, with the director being deceased and the main stars unlikely to want to revisit a critically panned flop, this is understandable. However, there is a really interesting 20 min long interview with a charismatic mime artist, Tom McLoughlin, who played the bear (and later went on to direct FRIDAY 13TH PART VI!). Then there’s also a much shorter interview with the screenwriter David Seltzer and lastly a few of the standard extras that you’d expect; two commentaries (with film writers rather than people involved in the film though) trailers, TV and radio spots and a stills gallery.
This release also comes with a nice booklet containing two excellent articles; one with the film’s A.D Venita Ozols-Graham and another giving the overall context of the movie written by Craig Ian Mann.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that PROPHECY is a minor hidden gem. It certainly has its fair share of flaws, but it’s definitely got something about it. It’s a very self-assured, solidly put together B-movie, that feels slightly off the beaten track. And, if none of that sells it, at one point you get to see a very disinterested dog being airlifted.
Reviewed by John Upton