Junkfood Cinema: Prophecy

By  · Published on January 14th, 2011

Junkfood Cinema: Prophecy

Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; the only way to win is not to play. Well sucks to be you my friend because you followed a search engine rabbit hole right into the fleshiest film feature this side of Fat Guys at the Movies.

This is the internet column that gives far more credit to certain films than they probably deserve. Every Friday I roll out the red carpet (well, more like brown shag carpet fraught with Nesquik stains) for one of my favorite bad films and proceed to roast it like a vulgar, slightly less inebriated Dean Martin. But, like any good roast master, I wrap it up by lavishing praise upon my beloved stinker. No matter how bad a film may be, and how completely aware of its faults one may be, there is usually something to love about it.

To cap off this roast, I will pair the film with an appropriate snack food item to prove once and for all that apart from being fundamental reading is fattening.

Today’s treat: Prophecy

What Makes it Bad?

If you’re like me, you love Christopher Walken. The guy is such an odd duck and his personality allows him to create some of the most strangely iconic characters in American cinema. While that’s all well and good, we’re not discussing his film this week. I’ll think you’ll find today’s film has suspiciously less Walken as well as lacking one pivotal article in the title. The Prophecy is a movie about a killer bear. Yup, a killer bear.

The characters in this film are walking riddles wrapped up in carbon-based enigmas. First, we have Armand Assante who JFC readers may remember from his Titanically bad “performance” in Judge Dredd. This very Italian Italian-American Italian actor steps slightly outside of his wheelhouse to play a Native American named John Hawks. It’s as if someone over at Vaguely Racist International & Co. noticed that the only problem with the Italian actors playing Native Americans on F-Troop was that they…talked too much. Forget the fact that it’s racially insensitive, and there were probably 549 Native American actors who are much better than Armand Assante, it’s a totally acceptable piece of casting as long as we limit his dialogue. Oh, and the “hero” of the film, what the hell does he actually do? The paper company executive invites him to work in an EPA capacity, but they keep talking about it as if it’s not his actual affiliation. He is credited as Dr. Verne in the credits and is introduced examining sick children so the easy deduction is that he’s a doctor. But then he says that his specialty is rat bites and gas leaks. WHAT?! Good luck with your Monster.com profile buddy.

Cruelty to animals in film is a touchy subject for me, whether real or implied. Prophecy features some of the most bizarre animal cruelty I’ve ever seen. Let’s start with the helicopter dog; tragically not so called because he is also a pilot. I’ve written epic, bilious rants about how much I hate dog murder in horror films; my biggest pet peeve, as it were, within my favorite film genre. And while yes, there are implied dog deaths in Prophecy, the ultimate display of canine cruelty is the dog that is airlifted into a scene. What makes it so cruel is that there is absolutely no good goddamn reason the dog couldn’t ride IN the helicopter instead of being precariously dangled thousands of feet in the air!

When our hero sees the dog under the helicopter, he asks the paper company exec, “what’s that dog doing doing up there?” To which the exec replies, “that’s all that’s left of our search party.” No no sir, he didn’t ask what that dog was. He specifically asked what it was doing HANGING FROM A HELICOPTER! But much like the the screenwriter, the exec can’t come up with a good reason. There is also a scene featuring a raccoon seizing with rabies; an effect I can only gather was achieved by actually giving the raccoon rabies. I’m calling the ASPCA to file a 32 year retroactive complaint.

This film demonstrates a gargantuan half comprehension of science. On the one hand, they settle on mercury as the source of all the chaos. Mercury is a very volatile, dangerous substance and its adverse effects have been well documented throughout history. Funny, the one effect omitted from every history and/or science book is its propensity to gigantify woodland critters. It’s funny because they came so close to scientific soundness and then took an Alice in Wonderland magic mushroom approach to exposition. Hey, if I crack open a thermometer and guzzle down a mess of mercury, could I wake up 2 feet taller with an NBA contract?

Why I Love It!

This is one of the great late 70s monster movies. It was directed by John Frankenheimer of The Manchurian Candidate and The French ConnectionII. It builds a decent atmosphere and the tension, once it actually gets rolling, is very well done. But what I really love is the design of the bear monster. It is a big, scary, mutant bear for Cthulu’s sake, how can you not love that? It’s the movie we all wanted Yogi Bear to be, and by “we all” I mean “me.” The monster vaguely resembles Man-Bear-Pig from South Park but with the added perk of also seeming strangely cyborg in nature. But hey, at least its offspring is super freaky. I’m already kind of leery of camping in general so the idea of a bear the size of a condo stalking through the trees is enough to make me spend my vacation “rouging it” in a Radison. Plus, that melon-farmin’ bear can swim! So you’re no safer from this monstrosity in a canoe than you are up a tree. That’s actually not a reference to the old adage but rather a warning that this mutant bear can and most likely will knock that tree the fuck down.

The kills in Prophecy are fantastic! Obviously I can’t begin to talk about the glorious dispatching in this film without mentioning the sleeping bag kill. A young girl completely seals herself in a sleeping bag to combat the cold, only to wake to the sounds of growling from which she desperately wants to escape. She manages to stand while still encapsulated in the sleeping bag and begins hilariously hoping away just before she meets the business end of a mutant bear claw. She is then immediately transported to the broadside of a boulder in an explosion of feathers from the down stuffing of the bag. Phenomenal impact and jaw-dropping brazenness. It seems a bit crass of me to have such a big problem with dog murder in film and not bat an eyelash when children are violently shaken loose from the mortal coil, but then there we are. Prophecy also does a really terrific job of balancing graphic violence with implied, off screen violence so as to not be too exploitative.

Junkfood Pairing: Bear Claw

Too easy? Bite me. Or rather, bite into this delicious pasty. Best pray it isn’t full of mercury, lest your tongue swell to the size of a Volvo and eat the rest of you.

Longtime FSR columnist, current host of FSR’s Junkfood Cinema podcast. President of the Austin Film Critics Association.