With so many filmmakers having grown up watching 80’s B-movies it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they’re getting something of a resurgence. We’ve all seen the big franchises get remade, rebooted, or receive sequels, but there are also a lot of films that stand on their own but wear their influences on their sleeve, and The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus falls into this camp. A slightly silly, almost always over-the-top love letter to the 80’s monster action movies like Predator, this film might not be one of the best releases this year, but it’s certainly a fun one.
Filmed over the course of almost a decade, the film tells the story of a cave system in Afghanistan, and the creature that makes it its home. The film begins with two men entering the caves to clear up a small drug making facility; however, something stalks the two of them from the shadows, eventually picking them both off. This is our first taste of the titular monster, and lets us know what to expect. After this we get some opening credits that help to set-up the film, complete with comic-style animations where one of our main groups of characters plan to steal a shipment of gold from Afghani forces.
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We then meet our second group of protagonists, a team of American soldiers. We meet the soldiers during their down-time, and immediately start to like them as they sit around talking about things from their childhoods, such as favourite video games, Street Fighter and Legend of Zelda, and their favourite toys, dropping names like GI Joe, Thundercats, and Star Wars. These soldiers felt instantly familiar to me, because I’ve had similar conversations with people; I grew up with those things, and it means that viewers in my age range are able to connect with them a lot quicker. It’s a cheap ploy, but it did make me like them, so it works.
When our other group of soldiers, who might be CIA funded special ops, or maybe mercenaries (the film never clears this up), performs their theft of the gold, it gets the attention of Afghani reinforcements, and the US soldiers. When the soldiers go in to investigate they come under fire and head to a nearby cave for cover, but are sealed in when the entrance is blown up. Inside the cave they find Tagger (Nicj Chinlund) and Reid (Kevin Grevioux), who were stashing the gold whilst the rest of their team went to get the escape chopper. Stuck together, the two groups agree to try and find a way out of the caves; but little do they know, something is watching them from the darkness, and has begun to hunt them.
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The trailer for The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus puts a lot of emphasis on the group of mercenaries, led by Nick Chinlund, and puts Danny Trejo’s character in the spotlight for most of it; probably using his cult status to grab attention. However, Trejo is in very little of the film, and feels more like a cameo than an actual role. Looking into this, it seems like Trejo was included in re-shoots for additional scenes years after the rest of the film was made, and as such doesn’t interact with the majority of the cast. So, if you’ve come to this hoping to see Trejo fight a big cave monster, you’re going to be a bit disappointed. However, the rest of the cast are entertaining enough that you soon forget his absence.
The group of young soldiers who get sealed into the caves with the grumpy older veterans are a fun bunch, and some of the better moments of the movie are those where we just spend time with them, getting to know them better. They have some decent dialogue, and soon come to feel like pretty fleshed out characters without much real attention being given to them. The inclusion of the drug lab, and the chemical leak they experience there that causes them some hallucinations, is a big part of this. We’re able to get to know them a bit better through the things that they see in their drug fuelled state. One of the soldiers sees his missing friend, and we realise that he’s the kind of person to never leave a man behind. Another hallucinates members of his family, and you understand that he’s just trying to get out alive so that he can go home and see his kid again. It helps to humanise them more than you’d think.
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The creature itself, Karnoctus, is definitely in the B=movie category, and won’t really be entering the hall of fame with movie monsters like the Predator or the Xenomorph. Karnoctus is big and furry, and clearly a guy in a suit. It has a big, blue skinned face, four glowing red eyes, and a mouth filled with giant fangs. It’s very silly, and a bit over-the-top, but it kind of works. These kinds of films are at their best when they embrace the silliness, and the monster design certainly does that. The monster vision we get, this strange night vision mixed with x-rays, are interesting, and definitely seems to be a callback to Predator (especially as it has glowing blood too).
The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus is a pretty ridiculous film, it has some cheesey dialogue, a dodgy monster suit, and some bad CGI effects thrown in; but it’s not really that bad. It’s clearly been made by folks who love the ‘bad’ movies of the 80s, and you can see that writers/directors Cire and Matthew Hensman had a lot of fun making this movie. It might not win any awards, but it’s a pretty fun way to spend 90 minutes.
The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus is out now on on Cable VOD and Digital Platforms in the US.