Lionsgate // 2010 // 84 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis (Retired) // April 1st, 2011
She was running from her life. Now she's running for it.
It started as a horror festival, promoting independent horror that would otherwise never see a large screen. The product might well have been a decidedly mixed bag, but all respect goes out to the filmmakers. Now, through Lionsgate, After Dark has started releasing films under its own label, as After Dark Originals. Prowl is my first foray into this so-called "new brand of fear," and if the general results hover around the quality of this film, it's a label I'll return to in the future.
Amber (Courtney Hope, Mob Rules) is a small town girl with an opportunity to work in Chicago and escape the drudgery of her life. The only catch is that she has to be there the next day. So, with all her friends, she gets in the car and heads out, but they break down a few miles outside of town. They hitch onto the first ride offered, from a seemingly innocent trucker (Bruce Payne, Howling VI: The Freaks), but they'll have to ride in the trailer. When the truck stops, though, they aren't in Chi-Town, they're at the dock of an abandoned slaughterhouse, intended as meat so that a brood of freaks can practice hunting.
Nobody's going to accuse Prowl of being great horror, but it is a great example of how simplicity of story can make for fairly entertaining horror. It's ultimately a straightforward and predictable movie, but it's violent and fairly suspenseful. In general, it works, though there's nothing new or even that interesting here; everything just comes together into an effectively grisly package.
While this is something of an exaggeration, there are really only four scenes in the film. We meet the characters in their natural environment and, though they seem pretty used to partying in mansions, they're actually a likable bunch. Once the situation is in hand and Amber heads up to Chicago, we get on the truck, where we watch the teens drink the night away. That's when they arrive at the slaughterhouse, where they very quickly discover that they're the meat. Finally, we have the conclusion, which comes with a little twist and a bunch of blood. They barely bother to explain why all this is happening and the film is better for it. Sometimes all you want is a few chases and some throats torn out; sometimes you get what you want.
Prowl is a cheap production, but director Patrik Syversen does well within his budget. The performances are pretty good and the effects are decent; none of it is great, but it works. Courtney Hope does a very good job in the lead role. She shows a lot of strength and charisma, coming across more like a classic horror heroine than simply fodder for the creatures. The supporting cast has very little to do but, at the very least, they aren't completely hateable, something all too rare in horror today. Writer Tim Tori doesn't do anything complicated, but his story has more going on than is apparent in the film, much of which comes out in the commentary. Given the way the story plays out, these tidbits of information could be collected into a sequel, and the script has enough mystery to make that work.
Lionsgate does just fine with their release of this After Dark Original. There apparently wasn't much electricity in the slaughterhouse, because Prowl is quite dark. Luckily, the transfer holds up well, looking nice and clear even in the blackest scenes. The daylight scenes at the start of the film aren't quite as nice, but still look pretty good. The surround mix is strong, with some decent action in the rear channels and a good low end. The stereo mix is redundant and not nearly as strong; I'm never sure why they waste disc space on these sorts of things.
Extras are slight, but pretty good. The making-of featurette is a short and funny bit with writer Tori about the creatures. It's mostly a showcase for an excellent speaking voice, which we can enjoy further in the audio commentary, where he joins Courtney Hope and Joshua Bowman, who plays Amber's best friend's boyfriend. He plays as small a role in the commentary as he does in the film, while Hope and Tori pick up the slack with a better than average discussion about their work. In a mildly funny gimmick, they are occasionally interrupted by pre-recorded voice mails from director Syversen, who chimes in with unrelated comments. I wouldn't want every commentary presented this way, but as a novelty, it made me chuckle.
Prowl is one of the best films I've seen under the After Dark banner and I'm interested to see more from the director, the writer, and the cast, all of whom do their very best to make this extremely simple story run smoothly. Fans of cheap indie horror can do a whole lot worse than this little number.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R