January 30, 2008
Darrell Roodt, Beau Bauman and Jeff Wadlow
Bridget Moynahan as Amy Newman
Peter Welleras Tom Newman
Carly Schroeder as Jessica Newman
Jamie Bartlett as Crawford
Conner Dowds as David Newman
What I ended up with was a corny family Drama (that’s not a typo, this is drama with a capital D, unfortunately…) with some man eating lions and meany tribesmen thrown in (the latter almost as an afterthought).
The Newman family (Peter Weller, Bridget Moynahan and two snotty brats) are in Africa. While Tom (Weller) is there for work, the wife and kids decide to take a relaxing safari to see some wild animals and great scenery. Unfortunately, their dipsh*t guide decides to go “off the beaten track”, and winds up mauled by a lion when he and the annoying son go for a whizz, leaving Bridget and the kids stranded, surrounded by said wild animals, who see nothing more than a meal wrapped in a Jeep. After no success with the local bushmen, Peter “Robocop” Weller decides to venture off into the scrub (with a lunatic the locals avoid) to track down the family himself, leading to…well, trust me, even non-jaded filmgoers will have no trouble predicting the outcome here…
With such a good premise you’d think it’d be hard to screw it up. But somehow, director and co-writer Darrell Roodt, and writer Beau Bauman (no, that’s not a typo either…) manage to do just that.
You see, Mom isn’t really Mom, she’s a “step mom” to these kids, and that’s where the Drama comes in. The 14 year old girl resents her step mom, and decides that hey, this is as good a time as any to discuss some issues with her. Are you yawning yet? Don’t worry, you soon will be.
The lion attacks are less than impressive, we get the obligatory “lion’s POV” shots, some CGI blood spatters and ZERO suspense. Then, when mom braves the outside to retrieve the car keys from the dead guide, you’d think, well, they’re safe now. Just turn the jeep around and go back the way you came. But no, mom panics, floors it, and drives like a blind monkey straight into a ditch, leaving them stranded again in a worse predicament than before. Like most people, I start clock-watching during horror movies when the main characters do things that are so pathetically stupid your sympathy for them flies out the nearest window. Mom’s suicidal drive is a case in point. It just starts to reek of lazy writing, and as an aspiring screenwriter myself, I find lazy writing pretty damn offensive. And unfortunately, this movie is full of it.
The later scenes with the African tribesmen attempt to inject a bit of tension into a failing movie, but even this tangent can’t save this dying film.
Prey could have been very cool. The premise is not that original but in horror films, there’s some predictability that works. However this film doesn’t. For a film about a family trapped, surrounded by inhospitable desert and hunted by hungry wild animals, there’s a distinct lack of tension. Every time there can be a rampant cliché, there is. And the ending had me stop just short of throwing my remote at the screen. If you’re brave enough to watch it through, you’ll see what I mean.
Okay, enough berating. Obviously some effort went into the production which was not wasted. The real lions featured here are magnificent beasts, and kudos to the lion trainers. Bridget Moynahan turns in a fairly solid performance despite the lackluster script. The sound design is pretty good, the cinematography by Michael Brierly is not bad at all, despite an almost sepia-tone to it all in an effort to create a sun drenched look…I think. Hmmm…actually, that’s where my praise ends. The movie is just plain bad. To go way off topic for a second, the lion attack scene in the historical adventure flick “Mountains of the Moon” manages to cram more tension and nail biting suspense into about 30 seconds of screen time than this movie does in all its 90 minutes. Honestly, at the end of the film I had to ask myself what frightens me more, a pack of rabid, man eating lions or a whining teenage girl?
If I’m ever trapped with these idiots I think I’ll bail out of the jeep and take my chances with the lions.