JANUARY 30, 2011
Well, I knew it couldn’t last. After two above average After Dark entries (Husk and Seconds Apart), we have Prowl, a typically forgettable/somewhat bad offering that doesn’t add anything new to its sub-genre(s) and does a fairly lousy job with a lot of the basics. In short, it’s the type of movie that’s barely worth a rental, let alone showcasing theatrically. But on the other hand, if this is the worst of this year’s lot, then it’s been a pretty good year for the series.
The biggest problem with the film is its woeful script. The concept is fine, but everything about it is botched, as if they were going out of their way to ruin their story. For example, our heroine wants desperately to escape to “the big city” (she repeatedly says “the big city” even though it’s Chicago – why does she refer to her specific dream in such a generic way?), and this being a horror movie, she needs one friend’s car and four other friends to join for the ride. And again, it’s a horror movie, so of course the car breaks down, literally inches from the town line. The visual gag is fine, but the script beats us over the head with it – she actually says “It’s like the town won’t let me leave!” But their proximity also renders the rest of the movie idiotic, because rather than simply go back into town and see if they can find another car (or rent one, one kid is 21 even though he looks the youngest), they flag down a truck and hitch a ride. The script even tries to seem smart by having the kids take pictures of the truck and send them to other friends as “insurance”, but nothing comes of this plot point when they are inevitably kidnapped, so it doesn’t matter.
Another big blunder is that they kill off almost all of the kids at once, which means that the bulk of the action involves our Final Girls running away from vampires, hiding, getting found, running... lather, rinse, repeat. Once a rather silly twist is revealed, it gets mixed up a bit, but it’s still rather monotonous. Worse, the action is poorly shot/edited – it’s often too dark to really make out much of the image, and the editing would make Michael Bay sick. And you might be thinking “It’s a vampire movie, it has to be dark!”, but you’d be wrong. Well you’re right, Prowl is wrong. These vamps CAN go in the sun, so I’m actually kind of baffled why they didn’t just set the whole movie in the daytime, which would have been interesting.
But like I said, the concept is fine. It’s not often the breakdown and vampire genres are combined, and the idea of bringing junkies into a deserted warehouse to let vampires both feed AND train to be better hunters is pretty cool (anything that kills junkies is fine by me, actually). There’s also a decent 5-10 minutes in the middle when the kids are aware that they’re in deep shit, prior to any of them being killed – we stay in the truck, as unsure of what is going on as the characters are, and director Patrik Syversen quickly creates (and maintains) tension out of the situation. It’s like a different (better) creative team took over for a while, and it's almost worth watching the film just to enjoy this taut sequence.
Also making it somewhat worthwhile is Courtney Hope as the heroine. She got saddled with some inane dialogue, but that’s not her fault, and of far more importance to her future as a scream queen, she was just as good as the action heroics as she was at screaming and being a potential victim. Also: hot. Always a plus. The other kids are pretty bland, though they looked (and, assuming the IMDb is correct for the few birthdays I checked, ARE) roughly the age that they were playing, which is one of those “why do I have to consider this a plus” things, but ‘for what it’s worth’ and all that, I suppose.
And as I said early on, if this is the low point for this year’s fest, then this new direction was a worthy endeavor. It’s not a good movie, but it’s hardly a disaster on the level of Lake Dead, Unearthed, or The Graves. Sometimes I wish movies were more like TV series, where the pilot or first couple episodes are shaky but they find their footing and become really great shows after some minor tinkering or a change in focus (Supernatural and Community being two examples). Movies like Prowl don’t get that chance, which is kind of a shame - they were onto something here, but they didn’t quite make it work. Oh well.
What say you?