I know my track record with the After Dark label hasn’t been stellar. In fact there’s only been about four films out of the lot that I recommend. But damn my optimism!! I approach every After Dark film with the hope that I’ll find the one film that redeems the After Dark label (although I may have already found that with DREAD and MULBERRY STREET). With this unfound optimism I turned on PROWL (which I caught on U-Verse On Demand). From what I’ve heard about it I was pretty hopeful that what I was about to see was a fast-paced vampire story with a twist. So was I right?
PROWL begins by following around a sullen Amber (Courtney Hope). Amber bitches and whines about how much she hates the small town she’s in and wants to runaway to the “big city”, Chicago. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if a girl … excuse me, “woman” … is in her late 20’s, is it really running away? I guess it is if she’s playing a recent high school graduate. Amber has this connection in Chicago that is gonna hook her up with an apartment but she finds out that he just promised the apartment to someone else unless she gets to Chicago by the next day to put a deposit down on it. Since there’s only one apartment available for rent in all of Chicago (ah-hem) Amber talks her friends into driving her to the Windy City. If you’re thinking, “I bet their car breaks down” then give yourself a golden star. It does and friendly trucker Bernard (Bruce Payne) stops to lend them a hand. When they break down all six of them apparently forget they own cell phones; not one of them attempts to call for help.
The trucker tells them their car needs a tow and Amber whines and complains more until all her friends agree to get into the cargo hold of the truck. And since none of them have ever seen a horror movie (or read this crappy script) they all pile in and party in the back of the semi. Then to everyone’s surprise the trucker isn’t as nice as he first seemed and when they get to their destination things go from worse to really worse.
Finally, though, we get to the part of the film I was waiting for; the part where I figured the action, the horror, and the gore would begin. I was willing to forgive the first half of the film so long as the second half lived up to the potential of the premise. The trucker has taken the “teens” (ah-hem) to a remote location, an abandoned slaughter house and mill, where a group of creatures are being trained on how to hunt down, kill, and feed on their prey … other humans. Veronica (Saxon Trainor) is the lead “creature” who is training the others in the fine art of hunting and killing. Almost immediately our group of twenty-something teens is wiped out and we’re left with Amber and her best friend Suzy (the sexy Ruta Gedmintas). There’s no suspense built up or any decent cat and mouse games … they get to the slaughter house and are then quickly killed. But director Patrik Syversen and writer Tim Tori (who produced the ADO film 51, see review here) aren’t done yet. They throw in a “twist” near the end that is completely ridiculous and really insults the intelligence of the viewer. The twist serves no other purpose than to pad out and stretch the film’s run time to 81 minutes.
What really pisses me off here is that the premise of PROWL is solid: A clan/tribe of “creatures” are being trained on how to hunt and survive on their own in order to be, I’m assuming, released out into the world to fend for themselves. There’s a very apocalyptic aspect to the story that’s completely pissed away. And why, I’m sure you’re wondering, do I keep calling them “creatures” instead of what they obviously are … vampires? Simple: They are never called “vampires” in the film. That’s right, they can scale up and down walls, they have super human speed and strength, and they live off of blood. Their fucking vampires people!! A vampire by any other name is still a fucking vampire. But in the final scene the “creatures” are out in the sunlight. I guess the budget couldn’t afford a nighttime shoot so they changed them from “vampires” to “creatures” in the script.
But what really kills this film is the details. The reason for having to go to Chicago, in order to get the apartment, is flimsy at best (as I pointed out, is there only one fucking apartment for rent in the entire city??), and the lack of attention to something as lame as their cell phones is really annoying. When they first break down no one goes for their cell phone. When they’re in the back of the truck Amber uses her cell phone to call her friend who was up in the cab with the trucker. She’s able to talk to him then. But then when they get to the slaughter house and they realize something is very wrong no one can suddenly get a signal on their phone. Finally when Amber and Suzy are hiding Veronica uses one of their dead friend’s phones to call Amber to find out where she’s hiding. So sometimes the cell phones work, sometimes they don’t; then they work, then they don’t. Make up your fucking minds!! It was very annoying and extremely insulting to use something like cell phones to further the plot along when the writer wrote himself into a corner.
The acting was pretty forgettable. Ruta Gedmintas does the best job here and is the only one who’s convincing. Courtney Hope (Amber) is a pretty bad actress and really wasn’t up to the task of carrying this film as the lead. The gore is also at a minimum. The most we get is a scene where we see a bunch of hacked up arms and limbs being dumped into the trash. It really kinda looked like the boys over at KNB EFX offices were doing some spring cleaning. But I will say that I liked the make-up for the vampires … er, “creatures”; it was simple and effective.
I really wanted to like PROWL. It has a solid idea that is just horribly executed through terrible writing, lackluster acting, and a really stupid twist ending that detracts from the really interesting aspect of the plot (the creatures being trained). I also got the feeling they were trying to set up either a franchise or at least a sequel. I don’t think so. Not recommended.
Director: Patrik Syversen
Plot: 1.5 out of 5 stars (a solid idea pissed away)
Gore: 1.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer