The Monster Movie.
Year of Release: 1979
Genre: Horror/Science Fiction
Running Time: 102 minutes (1:42)
Director: John Frankenheimer
Talia Shire ... Maggie
Robert Foxworth ... Rob
Armand Assante ... John Hawks
Richard Dysart ... Isely
Victoria Racimo ... Ramona
George Clutesi ... M'Rai
Tom McFadden ... Pilot
Kevin Peter Hall ... Mutant Bear
Robert Foxworth and Talia Shire (Rocky, The Godfather) star as a doctor and his wife, who, at the request of a concerned friend, travel to Maine to research the impact of the lumber industry on the local environment. They begin to investigate a succession of mysterious and terrifying events: ecological freaks of nature (including fish that grow many times their normal size), and a series of bizarre and grisly human deaths. Veteran suspense director John Frankenheimer manages to present Prophecy as a "monster movie" as well as a suspenseful tale about the deadly forces which result from the pollution of the environment.
Prophecy, the movie that just goes to show, you can make as many poorly veiled political statements as you like, just so long as you've also got a monster that resembles a hot dog that's been in the microwave for about 20 minutes. This movie's really got a lot of nonsense getting in the way of the plot, but it makes it work. First, you've got some class warfare fuel going on with the evil slum lord that lets a pack of diseased rats roam, rent free, in the ghetto so they can om nom on low income families. Inequality, maybe would be a better way of putting it, because later we've got the same deal but instead of a ghetto, we've got a forest, and instead of black families, we've got Native Americans. Second, brief as it may be, the doctor makes reference to the ghetto slum while speaking with the Indians (it may not be politically correct, but I'll be damned if I'm gonna type "Native Americans" 20 more times, takes too long) where he mentions that he's just come from a place where 11 people were sharing a single room. That's population explosion talk. Third, and this is really the crux of the entire movie, pollution. All bad news, and all things that have no business taking up precious time that the inside out bear could be using to crunch on unsuspecting people. Now, I understand that the pollution angle is critical to the plot, the origin of species is important enough for smart people to dedicate their entire lives to studying, it's just a little heavy handed. But all is forgiven, because the monster is great. And the monster doesn't have any ulterior motives. So, don't make me have to repeat myself, Hollywood. Especially you writers. If you're going to shove your political views down our throats, make absolutely certain you're also shoving human beings down the throats of the monster. If you've got something to say, say it. But you'd damn well better make it up to us later. It's like one of those time-share vacation deals where you can get a free trip to somewhere that'd otherwise seem like fun. But you're being subjected to relentless badgering by people trying to sell you something you couldn't possibly give a shit less about. More human mutilation, less politics, k thanks.
So the movie begins with a rescue crew out on a coon hunt with their dogs in the lead, but that plan goes south when one of the hounds goes over a cliff and down a chasm. The guys aren't about to tangle with a coon without their dog, so they climb down to retrieve the dog who may or may not have plummeted to its death, when the mother of all rabid racoons latches onto em an carves up their faces like a Thanksgiving turkey. Next, we're in the ghetto where a preachy doctor is tending to a baby that lives in the same apartment building as Willard. The doctor sends the baby to the hospital an goes outside to act out a public service announcement for his bald headed friend, when the egghead mentions to him that if he really wants to make a difference, he's got an extremely volatile situation out in Stephen King country involving two groups of people that're about to resolve their differences with sharp objects. The doctor figures it couldn't possibly be as bad as listening to his wife's cello recital and agrees. His wife is played by Talia Shire from the Rocky movies, and is also pregnant. The doctor has a real problem with what the world has become and has no interest in bringing any children into the world, unfortunately, he was absent the day they explained where babies came from in medical school. She hasn't told him she's preggers just yet, an she hops on the plane to the back forty with the doc. So upon landing, the foreman of the lumber mill picks them up, loads em up, an heads for the little house on the prairie where they'll be staying, but on the way they run into a group of Indians that've setup an unauthorized toll booth. The lumberjacks aren't about to pay the dime to get by so the head lumberjack orders his flunkie to make like Leatherface an chainsaw massacre the Indians if they won't return to the happy hunting ground. Eventually the chainsaw wins out over the Indian's axe and the lumberjacks obtain peace through superior fire power and move on to their destination.
Later on, the doc is out fishing on the lake reeling in a fish when Moby Dick makes a big splash not too far from his boat an gives him fish envy. That evening Adrian fries up the fish, which has magically produced about the amount of meat you'd expect from three fish its size, when an epileptic raccoon shows up on their front porch an asks if it can come in and borrow a cup of face. They eventually subdue Ranger Rick with the broom of doom an get some shut eye, cause they've got a big day ahead of them tomorrow. The next day Adrian an the doc get up an head to the lumber mill to watch the filming of an episode of How It's Made, after which the doc has a big spat with the foreman an goes to hang out with the Indians since they at least still have their hair and decent dental hygiene. But first, he notices a big blob of quicksilver snot on Adrian's boot and we get a brief chemistry lesson. The Indians show the doc a giant tadpole an the PHD starts to put 1 & 1 together. The Indians also explain that they've been having little mutant papooses and developing some seriously explosive diarrhea, so Adrian an the doc head to their village so they can get some proof an ram it down the bald mill foreman's throat. Unfortunately the county mounties show up an try to haul off the head Indian cause they think he dressed up like an inside out bear an ate some hikers. So John (the head Indian) makes like Marilyn Burns in Texas Chainsaw Massacre an jumps out the back window of a nearby house an eludes the law by using Indian magic. Adrian, the doc, and the nurse from Ernest Goes to Camp meet up with John where the inside out bear put the bite on the rubes an Adrian finds a couple of inside out bear cubs caught in a net. Fortunately for Adrian an the doc, the cubs didn't realize they have sharp things at the ends of their paws that could have allowed for their escape and they're able to scoop up the living cub so they can take it back to the civilized world an train it to box.
Unfortunately, a bear with its insides on the outside has a much lower resistance to hypothermia than a regular bear, an it's in dire need of a sauna and some fillet of camper. The doc sends for the National Enquirer an tries to keep the little bear from checking into the big national park in the sky until they can show up, when Adrian finally spills the beans about spilling a dependent 9 months down the road. She's more than a little uncomfortable about the whole thing because all the animals in the ecosystem have been contaminated with the quicksilver snot an that's what's been causing the mutant Indian papooses an inside out bears an she's afraid she's gonna drop a mutant too. Then the messengers finally return with the head lumber jerk an the doctor rubs the proof in his face real good until the jerk admits he's been turning a blind eye to the quicksilver snot. About that time Mama Bear finally shows up an she's real pissed that Goldilocks has eaten her porridge an stolen her baby, an she wants her baby back. Baby back, baby back. An that's real bad news because she's the only bear in the world that can run bipedally an she starts tearing into everyone like a spoiled rotten kid tears into Christmas gifts. Everybody ducks down into the tunnels below the Indian camp an waits until morning so the one eyed bear can see em all real good an they plan their escape. The foreman feels real bad about causing all these mutations so he hoofs it up the mountain to a radio tower to get help while everyone else hops in the only wheels in the entire state of Maine an makes for town. It looks like the foreman is gonna make the radio tower, but the gate's locked an Mama Bear draws a wire frame grid all over him with her claws until he runs out of blood to leak out all over the road. Meanwhile Adrian an the remaining survivors have been driving at about 3 miles an hour for the last 6 hours when Mama Bear heads em off at the pass an offs a couple of their heads at the neck. The doc, Adrian, John an his lady try to swim across the lake back to the little house on the prairie, only the inside out cub freaks out an starts chewing on Adrian so the doc has to drown the little ingrate. They make it to the cabin and set up a bear-acade at each door an it's showdown time with Mama Bear. I'm not gonna ruin the ending, but it's pretty grizzly.
The movie's pretty good for it's time. It's got a really interesting story, but special effects that don't quite measure up. The inside out bear cubs are pretty good, as are the giant tadpole and all the wounds the bears inflict, but Katahadin, the Mama Bear is hit an miss. When you can only see the bear from the torso up, it looks fantastic, unfortunately, the movie makers decided it was a good idea to make the bear bipedal at all times. Literally. Not once does this bear go down on all fours the way bears always travel. Bears cannot walk on their hind legs, at least bears outside of the circus. That's why they made such lousy boxers, all stick and no move. I suppose there might be some reason why the bear is bipedal the whole time (beside the fact that it was easier for Kevin Peter Hall to move around in the suit) maybe we're expected to believe that because it's a mutant and not a regular bear, it has a different skeletal/muscular structure that allow this to be possible, but it's a bad idea, two fold. I've already gone over the obvious, the implausibility of it, but more so than that, we don't need it to be completely accurate, after all, it looks like shit. When you can see the entire bear it is so obviously a man in a suit that it really ruins what would otherwise be exciting scenes. When half of your movie's success is based around whether your monster is convincing, you don't want to do anything to jeopardize the authentic look of your monster. Unfortunately, they showed the entire body in several scenes and any power those scenes would have had are completely deflated and become comedic. At the climax of the movie no less. This is what they've been building to for the last 90 minutes an now it's turned into a joke. Very disappointing, I'm afraid. The good story, with decent research into the subject matter, keeps the bad effects near the end of the movie from sinking it, but we're talking substantial losses off the overall rating from those few brief scenes.
Overall, it had the potential to be better than it was. It's held together by the plot and the acting of the cast. The shooting locations were also really well chosen, in spite of being filmed in BC Canada rather than Maine, where the movie is set. But I don't imagine that, unless you're from Maine, you're going to notice the difference, unless you're deliberately researching it. I didn't. The soundtrack is okay for the most part, but in many scenes is just the same two notes repeated over and over, loudly, to generate additional suspense or terror. During those moments, it doesn't enhance anything, it just annoys the viewer. But those moments are fairly infrequent and not something that really factors in much on the final score. The ending seemed a bit rushed and there isn't any closure as to whether or not Talia Shire has her mutant baby or not, and the door ends up being left open for a sequel that never happens. And at this point better not happen, the time for that has passed. It seemed really unnecessary to end it that way. Maybe it's some metaphorical nonsense about how the problem of pollution is still a problem even if this one situation has come to a conclusion, I dunno, seemed tacked on and rather unlikely. It's a pretty solid entry into the "man is ruining everything" sub-genre of horror movies where something like this generally results in the creation of a monster, or the enraging of otherwise natural creatures. As an entry in that particular sub-genre of horror movies, it's probably one of the best that's been made. It looks to have had a decent budget, with people that really cared about what they were producing, it just kinda falls apart a bit at the end. Still recommended, particularly as it might be a movie you may not have seen up to this point. Check it out, and don't throw litter onto the sides of the highway. The Indians really get bummed. Pave paradise. Put up parking lot. No good. Show a little respect, dicks.