Thursday, June 9, 2011

In short: Prowl (2010)

Late teen Amber (Courtney Hope) is desperate to leave her dead-end small town, her alcoholic mother and her all-around shitty prospects behind. It's the last straw for her when her mother - of course mumbling in alcoholic stupor - confesses to her that she's been adopted.

Amber even has already found an apartment in Chicago. The problem is, she needs to give her security deposit to the guy renting her the apartment in person, because…um…there are no banks in the USA? Anyway, for various reasons, she has to ask every single one of her small-town friends for a ride. It takes some time to find someone to take her, but at that point, the whole affair has turned into a road trip - for some reason that, again, eludes me.

This being a horror movie, Amber has had quite a few foreshadowing nightmares and visions these last few days (which also make the third act twist glaringly obvious), so it comes as no surprise when the road trippers' van breaks down in the middle of a very empty Interstate. Fortunately, and after some begging, there's a friendly truck driver bound for Chicago willing to help them out. Alas, this still being a horror film, the friendly trucker is in truth the food delivery man of Chicago's vampire orphans, and unloads the teens in the obligatory empty warehouse. Empty, except for a horde of loud and fast vampires, that is. Fight for survival, and etc. and so on.

Despite plotting that takes two steps towards the painfully stupid, the difficult to believe and the clichéd, only to take one step back again, Prowl is a pretty entertaining little film. I just hope you missed our old standards of idiot plotting - the drunken truth or dare game that nearly leads to mock-lesbian shenanigans and the cell phone that doesn't function when it's used to call help, but works perfectly fine to betray a victim's hiding place to hungry vampires, because they, and a few of their friends, are out trying to bury the film in the same annoying crap that already didn't work in the last hundred films that used it.

It's actually a bit of a surprise how decidedly not terrible a film this full of badly digested dumbness can still be once its director - Norwegian Patrik Syversen gone Hollywood, in this case - lets loose with some very traditional, but also very tightly done, action-y horror scenes. It's surely no masterpiece, but Syversen manages to turn a miserable script into a watchable movie through a fine sense for pacing and a solid handling of old-fashioned suspense techniques colliding with wobbly camera and loud, loud noises.

Courtney Hope is pretty good too, acting with an easy-going charisma that helps the film over some very rough scripting patches (if having plot holes the size of cities and a horrible love for everything that's bad about horror can still be called "a rough patch"). In the film's better moments, Syversen and Hope could nearly convince me that Prowl (a film, by the way, not containing a single second of prowling) is actually sort of good.

Just imagine what would happen when someone would write Syversen a better script for his next outing.



Doug Bolden said...

Both Prowl and Fertile Ground (moreso than Husk, and I haven't seen Seconds Apart yet) strike me as movies that could have worked at about the 45 minute mark. Well, Prowl could have. Fertile Ground had nowhere to go and no steam to get there. It needed something fresh and new and tossing together a half-dozen cliches is not the way to do it. Prowl, though, really did an ok job of keeping people entertained except it had too much prologue to get them on the trip, too much time wasted on the trip, too much time wasted once the bad stuff starts, and then too much time left to play with "the big reveal". I tried thinking of it in terms of a comedian who had 30 minutes of material trying to put on a half hour show.

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

I think the problem of not actually having enough material for a feature-length movie is worst of this batch (and it's the only case where it really bothered me) with Seconds Apart.
That one has the feeling of somebody's rejected old X-Files script awkwardly brought to movie length. I gave up on Fertile Ground after forty minutes or so, because I couldn't shake the feeling I'd seen it a few times before, just made with conviction.

Doug Bolden said...

D'oh. I mean to say "had 30 minutes of material trying to put on an HOUR long show," not a "half-hour show".

Outside of that, I've been nervous about Seconds Apart. More than the others, the trailer has me convinced that something could have done with it, but because I have something like hope for it, I am kind of nervous about even trying it.

Maybe the problem here is that when After Dark commissioned these movies to be done in the length of time (what, about a year, maybe year and a half) available to make them, with certain length and budget requirements, it caused the various creators to run out and dig up old ideas they had milling about but never quite had figured out how to flesh out and solidify.

houseinrlyeh aka Denis said...

I think Seconds Apart could have been something, but just didn't quite come together for me. I'm not completely sure if it's me or the movie in this particular case, so perhaps you'll be happier with it.

Well, a friend of mine always says that many contemporary full-length horror movies would make for much better short films; sometimes, I think he's on to something there. It would probably be interesting if the multi-director omnibus movie returned to the US.

Though I also have to say this After Dark crop is pretty okay with me. One film I really liked (that would be Hush), one I had more fun with than its script deserved, and not one film I loathed completely. That's surely some sort of achievement.