Greensploitation Classic: Frankenheimer’s ‘Prophecy’

Prophecy (1979)

Somebody should’ve shown Prophecy to M. Night Shyamalan. This is how you do environmental horror, sir. Actually, I’m going to start referring to this kind of film as “Greensploitation.” I’ve got a feeling we’ll be seeing more of these in the near future what with how enviro-conscious everyone is these days.

Ah, but Prophecy was made in 1979 yet still manages to be…erm… topical? Sort of. I don’t know that mercury poisoning was ever a huge issue in New England, but since in 1979, I was… not alive… I can’t say for sure.

I mean, yeah, ingesting mercury is really bad for you, but I don’t think it causes the kind of genetic mutation that this movie depicts (which, basically, is ManBearPig).

Anyways, for those of you who don’t know, Prophecy (no, not the Christopher Walken one; stop asking me that) spins the tale of a doctor and his cellist wife who are asked to do something in the woods involving a logging company and the Indians who are protesting having their trees chopped down. I’m not sure what because I wasn’t listening. Oh, but why send a doctor to do this? Because he’s good with people. Forget the fact that he’s got no experience in environmental science or anything like that (though he inexplicably knows a whole lot about nature-type things, more so as the film moves along). Turns out that something in the water is causing craziness to happen, which the doc is first tipped off to when he sees a duck get eaten by a fish. Which is, ya know, backwards.


Then he sees a five-foot salmon, a giant tadpole, and a pissed off raccoon (which, in my experience, is pretty much every raccoon; seriously, those things have anger issues). While watching this, I kept thinking “Wait, isn’t this supposed to be a horror movie?” Aside from an opening scene in which some bloodhounds pretend to be lemmings, there wasn’t a whole lot of horrific stuff happening. Giant fish? Puhleeze. A five foot salmon only means one thing to me: extra deliciousness.

Oh, but it turns out that eating said salmon is what’s causing all the craziness after all. The Evil Logging Company and their Evil Paper Factory are dumping mercury into the water, the fish live in the mercury, things eat fish, things go crazy, things have ugly devil babies. And just as I was getting into all of the mystery aspects of the film, this happens:

Shit! Did you see that?!

From then on, things take a turn for the worst for everyone involved, especially Sleeping Bag Guy. Because, as you can see, there’s a giant Two Face Bear running around the woods, committing random acts of violence against camping gear enthusiasts and, basically, it’s all us humans’ fault because we cause too much pollution. Where’s Captain Planet when you need him?

Weirdly enough, the second half of the film is when things really start getting bogged down. I was with the film up until this point, but it turns out that John Frankenheimer is better at filming story stuff than, uh, other stuff. Like the scary horror movie stuff which doesn’t ever come off as actually scary. And that’s too bad because the bear is pretty danged awesome (and was created by the apparently awesome Tom Burman) but after the bear attacks a camp, the movie turns into one of those people-walking-through the woods movies and we get lots of shots of people… walking. It’s like Lord of the Rings, but instead of Dwarfs and Elves and Hobbits and Wizards, we get a doctor, a cellist, and a couple of Indians.

That is, until the big finale in which our heroes decide to actually face off against ManBearPig and stop being weenies. Unfortunately, a couple of ’em get bitch-slapped by a giant bear, ending their life prematurely. (But awesomely. Who wouldn’t want that story associated with their death? “How’d John die?” “Well, he got smacked in the face by a giant mutated bear thing.” “Shit. I’m jealous.”) Luckily, our doctor hero has a hidden talent that involves poking bears in the eye with arrows. The end. OR IS IT?! There’s some other creature that rears its pretty head at the end of the movie, teasing a sequel that, sadly, never happened.

Prophecy is by no means a good movie, though from a guy like John Frankenheimer, I would’ve expected better (although this is by no means his worse movie — here’s lookin’ at you, Reindeer Games!). But still, it’s a helluva much better entry into the just-created Greensploitation drama than, oh let’s say, The Happening.*

*In fact, not only would I rather watch Prophecy than watch The Happening again, but I’d rather get bitch-slapped by Two Face Bear than to watch The Happening again. That’s how much fuck The Happening.

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2 Comments

  1. You’re right that Frankenheimer kind of drops the ball on the scary bits and he certainly does not show enough of manbearpig, but thanks to this film, he will go down in history as the guy who directed the greatest raccoon attack in the history of film!

  2. 2nd greatest raccoon attack:


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