Sunday, June 17, 2012

Horror Film Review

Prowl (2010):  Now that was unexpected.  From the trailers, I was afraid this was one of those ridiculous torture-porn flicks like Hostel.  I was also nervous because this movie is produced by After Dark, a company that pumps out tons of horror and hits the mark maybe 10% of the time (that's an incredible 90% suck rate).  Prowl falls into the 10% group, thank God, and I was so ready for a horror film that wasn't utter crap.

Six friends pile into a van with booze and dope, they do not travel to a creepy cabin in the woods.  See, Amber (Courtney Hope) is desperate to escape her small town life and an apartment in Chicago is being held for her, but only for a day.  The van breaks down, of course, and they flag down an 18-wheeler.  The trucker, Bernard (Bruce Payne), reluctantly lets them ride in the trailer where the only cargo is a small stack of mysterious boxes.  Party time!'s over. 

The truck stops in a huge abandoned warehouse complex.  Bernard's no where to be found.  The five friends tentatviely start exploring.  Friend number six, Eric (Oliver Hawes) rode upfront with Bernard.  Sorry Eric.  Anyway, within a matter of minutes, the jock friend, Peter (Joshua Bowman) and the pretty boy friend, Ray (Jamie Blackley) are whisked away and made dead by some kind of large creatures.  Ray's girl, Fiona (Perdita Weeks) doesn't last much longer.  Her demise is intense and bloody.  So less than 30 minutes in, it's Amber and her best friend Suzy (Ruta Gedmintas) against a butt-load of nasties.  And we don't know what they are. They're humanoid, so...zombies?  Demons?  Aliens?  Then a woman (Saxon Trainor) who apparently controls these blood-thirsty bastards shows up and the movie takes a bizarre turn.  I assumed the rest of Prowl would just be Amber and Suzy running and screaming and getting killed in a most grusome manner.  Ah, no.  The filmmakers went a different way.  And boy, did I not see that coming.  An incredible twist that I won't reveal, but I will say I was mightily impressed (after I got over the initial shock, that is). 

So what's wrong with it?  A few little things, if I'm honest.  Why didn't their cell phones work?  No explanation.  Why the perodic shots of Amber running on a road somewhere?  Weird.  And what the hell are those critters?  I know what they want me to think they are, but it's never confirmed.  It's also never confirmed what the cargo is Bernard was hauling.  And finally, the movie's too short.  81 minutes may be long enough for run-of-the-mill torture porn; it's not long enough, however, for what Prowl turned out to be.  I wanted more.  A lot more.  Nevertheless, what I got was a fast-paced, tension-filled, bloody endeavor that eschews cliche and loves to keep you on edge. 


Acting:  Stunning performances by Hope as Amber and Gedmintas as Suzy.  The word "pathos" actually popped into my head while watching.  That's never happened before.
Story:  You'll think it's familiar but you'll be wrong.  I hadn't a clue where the plot was headed. 
Direction:  Relentless.  With only 81 minutes to play with, there wasn't time to screw around, and director Patrik Syversen did not.  One tiny request...if you're gonna use the hand-held camera, please turn on the "steady shot" feature.   
Production Values:  I hear tell that it was filmed in Bulgaria.  Doesn't really matter since most of the film is set in the massive warrens of the warehouse complex.  An impressive set, the warehouse.  I'd describe it, but I'd need a few pages.  Otherwise, it has an undeniable Hollywood quality, so it looks and sounds good. 
Gore/FX:  Oh, the blood flows, spurts, really.  The gore isn't gratuitous.  Just enough to keep it honest. 
Scares:  One honest to God, pee your pants scare and a smattering of lesser ones.
Ending:  Not a perfect wrap up by any means, but Suzy and Amber survive.  Sort of. 
Verdict:  Should you see Prowl?  You should, yes.  It's well made, well acted, and contains a groovy twist. 

Rating:  3 out of 5

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