It’s only a chartered flight away from Washington D. C. but the banks of the Androscoggin River in Maine are a world away, the site of a growing dispute between the native tribe who have occupied the land for generations and the lumber firm who are petitioning to turn 100,000 acres of tree into paper.
Asked to attend by the Environmental Protection Agency to assess the claims of each side, Doctor Robert Verne and his wife Maggie walk straight into a confrontation between foreman Bethel Isley and “Opie” spokesman John Hawks, but Robert over time begins to notice oddities in the behaviour of the locals and the wildlife, attacked in their cabin by a racoon, his suspicions confirmed by contamination in the mud on Maggie’s boots.
Indicators of the presence of high levels of toxic methyl mercury in the river, while Isley denies any chemical use at the plant and blames the violence of the tribesmen on their drinking Robert suspects neurological damage, but a more insidious side effect has already taken hold in the deep forest, the accumulated toxins causing mutations in the fish which have been exposed and the animals which have eaten them, the entire food chain poisoned.
An eco-horror film dating to the summer of 1979 now given a high-definition transfer for Blu-ray, Prophecy marked a departure for John Frankenheimer, director of high concept thrillers such as The Manchurian Candidate and Seconds, the result of his long desire to make a monster movie for which he enlisted screenwriter David Seltzer on the back of his success with The Omen, the title referring to the belief of tribal elder Hector M’Rai (Canadian First Nation actor George Clutesi) that Katahdin, the spirit of the forest, would rise to protect his people.
Similar to the recently released Nightwing, Hollywood casting places the distinctly Italian American Armand Assante in the role of John Hawks, while The Thing’s Richard Dysart is Isley and The Questor Tapes’ Robert Foxworth is Robert Verne, the white saviour narrative doing no favours to either “the Opies,” as the “original people” are referred to or The Dunwich Horror’s Talia Shire as Maggie, constantly required to ask redundant questions so her husband can mansplain the fundamentals of environmental and reproductive science to her and, by extension, the audience.
The stars of the film the unspoiled locations and vengeful mutated bear Katahdin, referred to as “pizza bear” by performer Tom McLoughlin in his accompanying interview, the equally deformed cubs even more impressively realised, yet weighted with flat dialogue Prophecy reeks of B-movie despite the obvious production value, the new edition also containing an interview with Seltzer who discusses the serious intention of the film and two commentary tracks provided by admirers of the film.