Prophecy (1979) was written by David Seltzer and directed by John Frankenheimer. David Seltzer is also the creator of Damien and The Omen.
Disclaimer: this is a parody review. It follows the movie’s events but gives the characters better motivation and overall increases the quality of the writing through jokes.
The film begins with a promising scene. It is night. The forest pines are tossed in the wind. Bloodhounds are baying on the trail of something you can almost see but not quite. Three men are tugged behind the hounds’ taught leashes. They’re wearing orange vests and hard hats with headlamps attached to them. Suddenly, the trail ends when one of the hounds plunges off of a cliff. He bounces off the rock face and hangs there like a limb Chupacabra. The doggo is okay, though, because he’s a good boy.
But wait—he’s not okay. As the men try to pull him back up, they struggle, and a pupper tug-o-war ensues. The men lose. Two of them rappel down after the faithful pup, and when they begin screaming, the last fellow slides down the cliff to help. But when he arrives, he finds only the wreckage of their broken bodies. Something roars out of frame, and he screams. The other doggo waits at the top of the cliff, but he’ll be waiting a while.
Fade to an orchestra rehearsing. We meet the main character, Maggie. She tells her friend she’s pregnant, and her friend berates her for getting pregnant by a man who hates children. Maggie retorts that her husband only strangles children sometimes. Her friend tells her it’s her choice and she shouldn’t get an abortion she’ll regret.
Then, we meet the strangler himself, Dr. Robert Verne. Dirty blonde Jerry curls, blue eyes—he rides into the dirty ghetto in an ambulance to help a black baby. Robert wants to strangle the infant but remembers that he is a doctor and must use it as evidence against the landlord. Rats have chewed on the baby, and it needs to be hospitalized.
Rick, who is only there to move the plot forward, finds Robert outside and succeeds in his job. He informs Dr. Verne that there is a land dispute in rural Maine. A paper company is attempting to seize land from the local Native Americans, also known as the Opies. Verne can make a permanent impact by writing a negative EPA report about the paper company, ensuring the Opies keep their land.
Robert and Maggie Verne arrive in rural Maine by plane and meet a family excited to go backpacking. Then, a dog comes flying through the air as they watch. Wait, no, it’s not flying. A helicopter has it in a harness, towing it through the air beneath the aircraft—a sixty-pound dog. The pilot tells them that he hates dogs, and he didn’t want it in the cockpit.
The Vernes meet the liaison from the lumber company, and he tells them that the Opies are inconveniencing him by wanting to keep their land. They have a prophecy about something called Katahdin, which they blame for the disappearances. The liaison, let’s call him “Fat Cat,” blames the Opies for the disappearances. He says that the paper mill is good for the land which is better now than when God created it. The characters have a little laugh about how stupid God is.
On the way to the cabin, they turn down a dirt road, and find the Opies blocking their path. They have a chain beneath two trees, barring the road. Fat Cat commands them to move, but they refuse. We meet John Hawkes, the budget Al Pacino, and his wife, Expression Girl. John refuses to move, even for Doctor Verne, the great white strangler himself. Fat Cat commands his crony to cut down the trees. The crony is ready, as he’s been tailing them all day, sitting on a chainsaw. The crony pulls the chainsaw out of the driver’s seat. The Vernes, tree huggers themselves, protest at this vicious assault against nature.
John Hawkes isn’t backing down, though. One of his friends tosses him an axe, and he goes to battle with the chainsaw man. It’s so subtle that you may have missed it, but this symbolizes the war of the new world against the old. Expression Girl looks on expressionly. John is beaten. Humbly playing the part of the noble savage, he still refuses to remove the chain, even with a chainsaw at his throat. Expression Girl does it for him, though. “These people are violent, Mr. Verne,” Fat Cat says. “They get drunk, and they get violent.” Yeesh.
The Vernes arrive at their cabin after crossing a lake by boat. Robert Verne decides to go fishing and sees a massive salmon eat a duck. He’s sad because he had been thinking about strangling that duck himself. They eat fish and have a romantic evening by the fire. Maggie stupidly ruins the moment by bringing up the fact that she wants a family. Doctor Rob gets pissed and walks away—she knows he hates children, he has to suppress the urge to strangle every kid he sees!
Luckily, Rob gets a convenient distraction. There’s a creepy noise coming from outside. He goes to check it out. An epileptic raccoon is seizing out on their doorstep. It bursts into their cabin, looking for pearl necklaces and silver cufflinks. He’s out of luck, though—he’s dealing with hippies. All they have is turquoise, dream catchers, and bad weed. The raccoon tries to bail but makes a fatal mistake: he murmurs that the Roe v. Wade ruling was a mistake. The doctor, furious, slams him against the wall with a canoe paddle and then throws him into the campfire.
Later, Rob is found by John Hawkes, who does his best to act like Clint Eastwood. Fortunately, he’s accompanied by Expression Girl to emote exasperation at every line he grumbles. They take him to their ancestral home, which is a circle of tipis. This is hilarious for a movie that is so high on the horse that it can’t see its own ass. Tipis are exclusive to plains tribes, being the preferred method of shelter for a nomadic lifestyle.
The Vernes meet the chief, who is confused as he thinks that the horrible mutations occurring mean he lives in the Garden of Eden. He catches a tadpole the size of a ferret to prove it. Doc Verne turns away, sickened at the sight of a creature in infancy, with no neck to speak of. How does a man strangle such a thing? The Opies inform Verne that the river the mill uses feeds the pond. Rob sees bundles of timber floating in the pond and knows he must confront Fat Cat.
Fat Cat at the paper mill again claims that the mill is doing everything by the book. Next are several long scenes of paper being created while Doc Verne asks periodical questions that highlight how evil paper is. I hate paper, dude. Doc Verne demands to know what chemical they soak the logs in before they arrive at the plant, and Fat Cat tells him if the government didn’t need so much damn paper, they wouldn’t have to poison animals. Doc then sees some suspicious white fluid on Maggie’s boot and realizes they’re using methylmercury.
Back at the Cabin, Rob does some research and looks distressed. Maggie conveniently asks him what’s wrong, and he tells her. FREAKS! Methylmercury concentrates in fetal blood cells and causes FREAKISM! It’s a MUTAGEN, don’t you understand!? Rob is understandably upset–freakism could mean shorter, thicker necks and tougher strangling. It’s infecting everything in the river, and Maggie ate the fish. GASP! It’s been pouring into the river for TWENTY YEARS, Doc says. But hold on a second, why aren’t any of the Opies mutated?
Never mind that. We have no time for logical questions! Leaving the Vernes to their fury and sadness, we check on the family we met at the airstrip, the children so full of hope about their first backpacking trip. One might even call it a chance at life. It’s a peaceful night. The crickets are chirping as the campfire crackles. Everyone is asleep when the tween boy gets back into his yellow sleeping bag and zips it up. He’s safe in the womb of his banana. MANBEARPIG! Manbearpig appears, roaring angrily. No one knows why she’s mad, and she won’t tell them. The boy can’t escape the womb, so he gets up and starts hopping away, but Manbearpig sees him. She throws a mean right hook and sends the boy flying thirty feet into a boulder, like this.
We meet back up with Rob and Maggie, who are at the Opie village taking blood samples. The sheriff arrives with Fat Cat, and he’s there to arrest John Hawkes for punting the banana into the boulder. John punches a random dude, then runs through a house and dives out the back window. Rob wants to inspect John’s murder methods, as he is a connoisseur himself, and he asks Expression Girl to take them to the murder scene.
The story only picks up from here, so be sure to check out part two!