Certain films beg you to set aside your proverbial “critic hat.” Appreciating cinematic merit – fleshed-out characters, the tone and fluidity of the plot, its values, ethics, and morals – becomes irrelevant when viewing something like Cire and Matthew Hensman’s deranged, oddly entertaining, totally irredeemable The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus. What sort of values, ethics, and morals can one expect from a title like this? None.
Thankfully, the movie’s spectacularly goofy plot and low production values are counterbalanced by a surprising chemistry between its principal cast, some tense situations, and an endearingly silly monster. “What are you saying, that there’s some sort of Afghani sasquatch down here?” a character stammers at one point. Indeed, there is, my friend.
In Afghanistan, circumstances involving a heist and a shoot-out bring a platoon of U.S. soldiers and renegades to a cave inhabited by a furry beast with a glowing neon face. To make matters worse, one of our not-so-bright heroes releases a hallucinogenic gas from an old canister causing folks to start trippin’. They attempt to set a trap to kill the monster. There’s an obligatory final confrontation and a chuckle-inducing little twist.
Matthew Hensman, who wrote The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus, possesses a genuine knack for dialogue. The side conversations happen to be the best ones. Case in point: the chat between soldiers about retro cartoons and toys. “Snake Eyes would kill everyone in that stupid galaxy from far, far away,” a character states. Yoda is referred to as a tiny little amphibian. Amusing stuff.
“…circumstances bring a platoon of U.S. soldiers and renegades to a cave inhabited by a furry beast…”
A healthy dose of humor runs all the way through the narrative, most of it self-aware, some not so much. A giant spider lands on a geek’s back; hilarity ensues. The same geek later experiences hallucinations, like scantily-clad women beckoning him. But Hensman isn’t afraid to touch upon political issues, with Tagger (Nick Chinlund), a chiseled mercenary/veteran, delivering a heartfelt monologue about banks controlling everything, from politicians to voters.
The plot of The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus, constricted to the confines of the caves, does become a tad repetitive. The monster attacks are brief. The creature is mostly revealed in bits and pieces. The action thriller often assumes the furry mongrel’s POV – the X-ray shots bring to mind Predator‘s heat vision. The Hensman brothers could’ve effortlessly based a whole plot just around the camaraderie between the soldiers, without the addition of CGI and puppetry. I mean that as the highest compliment.
Adrian Paul and Danny Trejo appear in what amounts to glorified cameos. The film is held together by Nick Chinlund as Tagger, the leathery legend that ends up guiding our hapless group through the cave’s cavernous tunnels. His sidekick, Reid (Kevin Grevioux), is another imposing presence. But, really, the entire cast does a splendid job, considering the material at hand.
Call it a low-budget, all-male The Descent. Or The Ruins. Or The Cave. The Hensman brothers’ The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus is really not that different from Crawl, whose CGI crocs were just a smidge more realistic than the concealed-in-shadows puppet here. Now I’d love to put my “critic hat” back on and review a movie by the same filmmakers that doesn’t contain an oversized rat.
"…the entire cast does a splendid job..."