Prowl, the latest film from Scandinavian helmer Patrik Syversen, is kind of a tough nut to crack. It’s not that it’s overly complicated or hard to understand (in fact, it’s not very deep at all), but rather that it tries to pass itself off as something that it’s not. The word “vampire” is not uttered once throughout the film and the script breaks a huge mythology rule without any explanation, but make no bones about it: regardless of what it started out as, it’s a vampire movie and not a very good one at that.
Much like Manhunt, the director’s last film, Prowl is an aggressive effort that focuses on survival, though it’s not as 70’s like in its approach. Courtney Hope stars as Amber, an ambitious girl that wants a better life in the city, far from the Podunk town she grew up in. She sees her friends’ lives going nowhere fast, and realizes that if she doesn’t take the jump, she’ll never feel fulfilled. When she gets a callback to check out an apartment in Chicago, she quickly embarks on a road trip with her friends, only to be disappointed hours later when the van breaks down. After a trucker agrees to give them a lift, the group begins to suspect his intentions aren’t quite so pure when the truck begins to wildly swerve on the road, their friend riding shotgun in the cabin won’t pick up his cell, and the view from the trailer’s peephole indicates they’ve gone way off course. After the back door lifts and opens into an abandoned warehouse, the group soon realizes that they were the cargo and their destination is a hunting ground.
Although Prowl is dull once it gets to its more horrific elements, what it does fairly well is establish its group of victims. Amber has a very identifiable reason for leaving and her friends, while mostly well-intentioned, are appropriately douche-baggish, making the connection between her yearning for a better life and what it would be like if she stayed behind that much stronger. These are the kind of people that get drunk and high when locked in a semi-trailer with the hope of someone getting naked and making out with two chicks at the same time (… not that there’s anything wrong with that). The fact that they’re not exactly refined or likable actually works to the film’s advantage, since the cast decreases by more than fifty percent once they step foot into the warehouse.
After the cannon fodder is spent, the film takes a downshift towards the uninteresting and becomes nothing but a long chase scene, further dragged out by Amber and her friend Suzy (Ruta Gedmintas) making terrible decisions like running upstairs to hide instead of away from the industrial park to escape, made even more ridiculous by the fact that they have seen the “creatures” climb up walls and leap from the ceiling with THEIR OWN EYES. Eventually cornered, Amber has a profoundly stupid third act revelation that makes little sense, yet manages to give her the same edge as her bloodthirsty assailants. Is there a significant event that triggers this development, aside from the fact that the experience has given her a boost of adrenaline? Or was it just thrown in because screenwriter Tim Tori had no idea where to properly conclude his story?
Maybe there’s a perfectly logical explanation, but if there is, it’s floating around with the rules and mythology of the creatures that are left ambiguous. If these blood drinking people who are dead and cold looking, with gnarly teeth, claws and glassy black eyes aren’t vampires, what are they exactly? Their look is practically ripped right out of David Slade’s 30 Days Of Night. Claims from the director that they left the “v” word out of the script on purpose because they’re supposed to just be aggressive creatures that happen to share ALMOST EVERY TRAIT with vampires makes it seem like they were trying way too hard to seem different while not actually being original at all. There are two exceptions to this rule, one of which is a huge spoiler, but the other is that one of the creatures is seen running around in the daylight, but I think that’s hardly enough to justify a total distinction between the two.
Prowl definitely succeeds in the gore department, offering up buckets of the gooey red stuff during almost every minute of the final hour, but little else is there for viewers to sink their teeth into. After a decent setup and somewhat tense road trip, the film attempts to distinguish itself by playing up its survival horror elements to mask the fact that it’s a very subpar effort that really isn’t much of a deviation from what it’s trying so hard not to be. Genre fans have seen Prowl’s premise played out dozens of times before, and it definitely hasn’t gotten any fresher with age.
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