Gone are the days wherein the guys in white rode in on horseback to save the day. In most cases, the great American cowboy has been relegated to the Hollywood scrapheap. For a brief time – thanks for the proliferation of Nazis and Communists – he was allowed to show his face in war movies and similar minded adventures. However, the push to level to sexual playing field has even brought what was thought to be the kinder, gentler sex into these realms; no, I’m not letting my sexism show … rather, I’m lamenting the loss of the John Wayne, the Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Sly Stallone, and the Bruce Willis days of cinema. Women are, of course, welcome to come along; these just have to be crafted as cleverly as are the males.
However, these stories of burgeoning testosterone can still be found, but they’ve almost sadly been exclusively relegated to the worlds of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Why? Well, that’s because critics and academia tend to take them less seriously … so why not vanquish traditional movie heroics as well to what can easily be dismissed as – ahem – lesser fodder?
That’s why stuff like The Prey: Legend Of Karnoctus is a bit of a misnomer. It features the kind of gung-ho theatrics typically reserved for men or the bygone era of action/adventure films. Yes, it brings with it an almost all-male cast (gasp!) – though the soldier lady aboard this B-Movie mash-up holds her own when shots are fired – and delivers up a dose of cinematic cheesery that we’ve seen before … so maybe those of us old enough to have lived through the glorious 1980’s can see the footprints of its bigger inspirations and aspirations of that bygone period.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for the final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few good hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s IMDB.com citation:
“A platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan searching for Taliban become trapped in a cave and are hunted down by a deadly creature.”
A low-budget reinvention of the vastly superior Predator (1987) starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Prey casts Nick Chinlund, Adrian Paul, Danny Trejo, and Kevin Grevioux as a kinda/sorta thieving band of CIA-sponsored ‘Expendables’ dispatched to the Afghan wild on a mission to steal Taliban gold that the U.S. government intends to fund the next round of secret and illicit state-sponsored operations. The plot – also just vaguely reminiscent of elements from David O. Russell’s popular Three Kings (1999) – transplants that alien hunter with a local Afghan monster/legend, pitting these American special forces operatives and a fractured platoon of Marines in a race to find their way out of the country’s massive cave network before they’re reduced to dinner by a lumbering, fluorescent menace.
Well, sadly the script pretty much sidelines familiar faces like Trejo and Paul; after the narrative set-up which establishes their clandestine purpose in the region, they’re off to (mostly) parts unknown as the bulk of what remains has Chinlund and Grevioux trapped in the caverns with the lost platoon. From there, the script tries to give this cadre of fighters a similar level of outback machismo, but they’re shackled with a bit too much ‘green behind the ears’ blandness to be much more than comic relief. To her credit, relative newcomer Masika Kalysha (as ‘Lake’) manages to hold her own – even though the script from Matthew Hensman and Gustavo Sainz de la Pena saddles her with a few scenes dripping with O.G. misogyny – as does Matt Musgrove as a kinda/sorta weaker version of Bill Paxton’s ‘Corporal Hicks’ in James Cameron’s Aliens (1986). Still, it’s hard for even the most talented player to make much of a script that sticks too closely to the formula.
I couldn’t say why, but I’ve always had a fondness for Chinlund. His career trajectory has never been all that grand or noticeable, but he’s always delivered characters a bit larger-than-life, the kind that typically elevate even small scenes to something special. He does what he can here, which is good given most of the screen time leans his way. Also, despite its blemishes (and there are plenty), The Prey works well despite the fact that it feels almost oppressively low budget at times because it delivers exactly what the audience expects: a modicum of action revolving around this trip in the dark where a monster might be waiting behind every corner. While there are a few sequences involving protracted hallucinations of these soldiers (there’s a curious drug den subplot that really serves little purpose), directors Cire and Matthew Hensman stick close enough to the plot points that they’ve delivered – if nothing else – a workable flick to pass the time … but little more.
It does end with the promise of a follow-up. I won’t spoil the soup but a few players do survive. And with the promise of, perhaps, Paul and Trejo showing up for greater screen time in a sequel? Well, maybe – maybe – we haven’t seen the last of this monster.
The Prey: Legend Of Karnoctus (2022) was produced by Lennexe Films, Mano A Mano Films, Chu Media, and a few other participants. The press materials I’ve been provided indicate that the picture is having a limited theatrical release as well as being available VOD (Video-On-Demand) on June 7th. On July 7th, the film will debut on more digital outlets including iTunes, Prime Video, Vudu, and Google Play.
Mildly recommended. As Predator knockoffs go, audiences could do far worse than spend 80 minutes with The Prey: Legend Of Karnoctus. It’s put together with just the right amount of sweat and swagger that those who are into B-Movie goodness might find enough to enjoy. My reservations with it really involve a script that truly only goes half-way, never quite buying into the characters’ collective machismo to give this monster movie the testosterone clout it needed to rise above the crop of other middle ground fare to be truly memorable. The reliable Nick Chinlund is the only tentpole in here, but he's paired up with way too much mediocre dialogue to sell the full sizzle. A miss … but a watchable one, so far as this genre junkie is concerned.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Stonecutter Media provided me with complimentary streaming access to The Prey: Legend Of Karnoctus by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.