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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.76%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 11.76%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap76.47%

1 review, 11 user ratings

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Prophecy (1979)
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by Jack Sommersby

"Lame Monster, Lame Movie"
1 stars

Died a pretty quick box-office death, and deservedly so. Let's hope all those involved had secured their next deal before this catastrophic mess was inflicted upon unsuspecting moviegoers!

Prophecy is a somewhat-atmospheric but painfully dull horror movie that takes itself way too seriously and is too ponderously drawn-out to work up much in the way of suspense. It's one of those nature-gone-amok ecological tales whose high-mindedness takes precedent over any decent narrative and technical attributes -- the story and characters are purely incidental; and though there are a couple of decent fright moments, you don't get the kind of unbridled kick from them that you should because just about everything surrounding them is so direly dull. You get the feeling no one derived any particular pleasure from the making of the movie, and in turn the audience is left slogging through such a miasmic mess with the eagerness of going out into the pouring rain to retrieve a soggy morning newspaper. Speaking of which, there's a ton of rainfall throughout, which may seem appropriate being that the story takes place in the a densely-wooded forest area in Maine, but after a while it simply gets annoying because it's obvious this is just an excuse to keep everything dank and dark -- the movie won't serve well as a travelogue for the state: there isn't a non-overcast day to be found throughout the protracted running time. The screenplay is by David Seltzer, whose demon-child classic The Omen from the year before was a first-rate shocker; but as opposed to that Richard Donner-directed box-office smash, Prophecy hasn't an iota of organic clarity. It's a Big Message melodrama masquerading as a monster movie, with endless scenes of uninteresting characters endlessly spouting uninteresting dialogue that never seems to be getting the story anywhere; and the actors, who look whipped from the mere effort of trying to bring anything genuine out of the material, wind up with movie on their faces more often than not. There's Robert Foxworth as a big-city, public-health doctor sent to inspect the surroundings of a paper company suspected of dumping pollutants into the area's water supply, and Talia Shire as his mopey-dopey wife who comes along for the heck of it. They're having marital problems, gosh forbid, so this gets dragged into the equation for the sake of padding; and it doesn't help that Foxworth and Shire, far from the most outgoing of thespians, have never been as neurasthenic. So a clunker of a hero and a heroine; boo-rah. Richard Dysart is the treacherous, temperamental company man who tries to say with a straight face that he's complying with environmental law but is so one-dimensionally evil he might as well have cloven hooves for feet. Armand Assante is the Native American activist hell-bent on stopping the company's pollution and encroachment on Indian land, and is so quintessentially noble he's more a righteous poster boy than a three-dimensional human being. Oh, and there's a very tall actor who plays the part of the mutated, toxin-spawned bear-like creature that's busy crunching people's heads off like Tootsie Pops and mauling their bloody intestines out as if that kind of thing were going out of style.

The real shame here is the participation of a high-echelon director like John Frankenheimer, maker of the standout thrillers The Manchurian Candidate, Seconds and Black Sunday, who's definitely slumming with his enervating, punch-the-time-clock work that fails to get any forward momentum going. Granted, Seltzer hasn't done him any favors by failing to install a decent framework to build from (the point-of-view keeps shifting, with the save-the-forest subplot slowing the proceedings to the point of near inertia), but Frankenheimer just doesn't have it in him to get right in there and enjoyably work us over with jolts and frights. His approach is inappropriately methodical and overly studied, as if he were trying to pull some subtext out of the nether regions where there is none; and the slow, slow build-ups to the killings you could time a few eggs to. Prophecy is forever dawdling, and it's so painfully paced you have too much downtime to spot and contemplate numerous plot holes that something of this genre should be just about immune to. It's almost as if Frankenheimer thought he were concocting a "thinking person's" horror picture, but it doesn't have a valid thought in its head, only a barrage of preachy didactics pertaining to do-no-wrong Indians and malfeasance-laden corporations -- he's telling(!) us a few things, in case we haven't got the point. (If you're going to indulge in this kind of thing, fine, but do it tactfully and intelligently, like author Robert C. Wilson did in his fine horror novel Crooked Tree.) And though it's been shot in widescreen by the usually-stalwart Harry Stradling, Jr., the movie still feels cramped -- there's not a single composition that's been given room to breathe; and the visual scheme is unappealing and ugly. That leaves the monster and its sadistic shenanigans, and both are substandard due to poor special effects (this ain't no Alien/Carlo Rambaldi job, that's for sure), Frankenheimer's inability to craftily do the less-is-more routine to help camouflage this (the beast winds up exuding as much primal terror as a tipsy bumblebee), and a lack of imagination in the staging (though a frenzied teenager getting pulverized against a giant rock while trying to hop away in his sleeping bag is pretty nifty). Suffice to say, Prophecy doesn't offer up the kind of goods to satisfy fans of the genre, and not enough tantalizing out-there stuff to pull in non-fans through enthusiastic word-of-mouth. This is the kind of ultra-negligible cinematic offering that builds up the monster aspect and then loses sight of it, and then when it is picked back up it's no more novel than a standardized villain in a slasher flick -- it doesn't really do anything memorable; and to add insult to injury, it's supposedly finished off with a mere bow-and-arrow at one point just so it can come back to life, as we well know it would, to possibly pave the way to a sequel, something we well know wouldn't be even remotely welcomed. With its countless mistakes and innate incompetence, Prophecy is the pits.

The bare-bones DVD offers up the movie in its correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio though with no special features, not that any sane-minded person would want to see a making-of featurette of this turkey.

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originally posted: 09/10/11 01:48:47
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User Comments

3/25/18 morris campbell seen this years ago it sucked then 1 stars
9/12/11 Marc Kandel should be remade w/ Will Ferrell playing it straight and Paul Rudd in drag as Talia Shire. 3 stars
3/02/07 action movie fan cheap with bad f/x an embarassment to frankenheimer 1 stars
2/03/07 ES I liked the idea of mercury poisoning causing mutations in wildlife. Dated FXs though 3 stars
7/12/06 David Cohen Nothing ruins a horror movie faster than giving it a "message" 1 stars
6/28/04 gag suck this darkofnight &jack sommersby!!!! i agree wiv eric!!! 5 stars
2/08/04 darkofnight You can almost smell the bullshit. 1 stars
1/26/04 Eric One of the best triloghys ever.Walken is the man.Good to see Danzig in pt.2 5 stars
11/06/03 American Slasher Goddess One word:GODAWFUL. 1 stars
1/01/03 Jack Sommersby Murky, inept horror flick that's simply an embarrassment. 1 stars
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  02-Oct-1979 (PG)
  DVD: 08-Jan-2002



Directed by
  John Frankenheimer

Written by
  David Seltzer

  Robert Foxworth
  Armand Assante
  Talia Shire
  Richard Dysart

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