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Film / Prophecy

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"It is not an offspring of witchcraft or Satan. It was created by man. It will grow to be 15 feet tall. It will have huge eyes, webbed hands, hooked claws. It will walk upright. And it will mindlessly, mercilessly, kill every living thing it meets."

Prophecy is an ecological horror film from the year 1979. It was directed by John Frankenheimer and it stars Robert Foxworth, Talia Shire, Armand Assante, and Richard Dysart.

Dr. Robert Verne (Foxworth) is sent by the EPA to Maine, to investigate a dispute between Native Americans led by John Hawks (Assante) and a local paper mill. Taking his wife Maggie (Shire) with him, he discovers that the area is heavily contaminated by methylmercury and encounters the mutations it has caused.

Especially one certain bear...

If you were looking for the Christopher Walken movie, go see The Prophecy.

This film contains the examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Isley, almost to the point of being an Anti-Villain. He's genuinely nice and helpful to Rob and Maggie early on, only showing his nastier side when encountering the Indians. He seems to have turned a blind eye to pollution rather than explicitly ordered it, resulting in a last act Heel–Face Turn.
  • Artistic License – Religion: "Katahdin" is relevant to the Penobscot (Pαnawάhpskewi) Nation's mythology, but not as a monster. Indeed, the movie seems to be conflating it with the actual resident of Mount Katahdin in folklore: Pamola, the "Thunderbird", a being far more grotesque than your pop cultural picture of this fowl, with moose and humanoid traits for maximum Body Horror.
  • Barrier-Busting Blow: Katahdin doesn't give a shit about your "walls" and "roofs".
  • Bears Are Bad News: Katahdin is a giant mutant bear that earns its name after a mythological being of Native American folklore.
  • Big Bad: The mutant bear, that is mistaken for the mythological being called "Katahdin".
  • Bloodless Carnage: In the opening scene, a group of lumberjacks are slaughtered by the monster. It's all done in the dark, we hear them die but see nothing, and is rather spooky... until the next morning when we see their bodies, completely untouched.
  • Chainsaw Good: When John Hawks and his fellow "opies" try to stop the papermill vehicles carrying Verne and his wife from moving forward, he gets threatened with a chainsaw inches from his throat.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Isley. Though he sees the folly of his ways when he is shown what the pollution has done to the local wildlife.
  • Death of a Child: In the film's most infamous moment, Katahdin kills a sleeping bag-bound kid.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: People venture into the woods and get slaughtered by Katahdin. Later, the protagonists get stranded in the woods, and try evade the thing.
  • Doomed Hurt Guy: The helicopter pilot is badly hurt when the bear attacks M'Rai's camp. He is killed off for good when Katahdin attacks the transport that the protagonists try to use to get back to the civilization.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The final shot of the film has a rather obvious Sequel Hook, suggesting that there are many more adult mutant bears in the woods. But nothing ever came of it.
  • Horrible Camping Trip: There's a small subplot that deals with a family who ventures into the woods and never returns.
  • Jump Scare: As the cast make their way through dark woods, tension is built up until Katahdin finally appears from the darkness.
  • Mama Bear: A literal one, as Katahdin only really starts stalking the protagonists when they pick up its cubs.
  • Misplaced Wildlife: Maine actually doesn't have any grizzly bears in itnote .
  • Moment Killer: A tender moment between Rob and Maggie is interrupted by a crazed raccoon.
  • Monster Threat Expiration: Roger Ebert called it the "Hero's Death Battle Exemption" and cited this movie in particular; Katahdin is a real powerhouse about killing people until it gets to Robert, whom it just picks up instead of killing him outright, giving him time to stab it to death with an arrow.
  • Mutants: Some animals, due to pollution.
  • My Secret Pregnancy: There's a subplot consisting Maggie's sudden pregnancy and her attempts to tell Rob about it, especially when it becomes clear that her fetus has probably been affected by the pollution too.
  • Novelization: By David Seltzer, the man responsible for the film's script.
  • Non-Indicative Name: There are no prophecies anywhere in the film.
  • Off with His Head!: Two people get their heads bitten off.
  • Once is Not Enough: Averted; when Katahdin is finally taken down, Verne goes for its throat to just make sure it's dead.
  • One-Word Title
  • Redemption Equals Death: Isley is killed by Katahdin shortly after his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Scenery Porn: British Columbia (standing in for Maine) sure has nice forests.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: Justified with Katahdin, as she wants her cubs back from the protagonists.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The decision to take the bear cubs to M'rai's camp. Even if they were mutated, anyone with common sense should know that the mother bear will set out to look for them.
    • The rescue team at the beginning. One of their dogs goes over a cliff, hanging by its leash. Something yanks hard on the leash, to the point that it just snaps off. Two of the three rescue workers rappel down to check on the dog. Not a genius move, but maybe understandable. The third guy hears bloodcurdling screams from down below as whatever grabbed the dog massacres his coworkers. He rappels down after them.
    • Hector M'Rai falls into this when instead of swimming away in the lake with the other survivors, he decided to go to shore to confront Katahdin, apparently under the belief he could reason with his tribe’s god. He gets killed and tossed around like a rag doll for it.
  • Toxic Waste Can Do Anything: There is actually a specific chemical instead of a generic 'waste': mercury, and unlike most films, it actually gives a little explanation for its effects: if ingested, it confuses the body into thinking its another, beneficial chemical, and exposure to it scrambles the genes of developing fetuses. While in the film this produces the expected birth defects among humans and animals, it also manages to produce a grizzly bear that's twice the size of a normal one, smarter than a normal one (it's quite willing to sit and wait outside a hole for people to emerge from), fully functioning beyond severe skin deformities, and viciously, demonically hostile.
  • Trailers Always Lie: Trailers (and the poster above) give an impression that the monster is a Mix-and-Match Critters kind of thing, which it was set about to be early on. Frankenheimer decided to go with a mutated bear instead.
  • Two-Faced: Katahdin's right side is hairless and disfigured.