Prey (2010)

Are pigs scary? Sure, why not?

In the French thriller Prey, some really vicious swine bedevil a wealthy family of corrupt industrialists. Mayhem ensues.

Nutshell: The aforementioned 1 percenters gather at the family mansion for various reasons: the family business (pesticides, natch) is in trouble, and the youngest daughter is considering marriage and a move away with her fiancee (Grégoire Colin).

Before anyone can make any sort of decision, a herd of deer commit suicide by throwing themselves on an electric fence. The menfolk get their shooting irons together and investigate.

Enter monstrous, mutated killer pigs.

I liked this one quite a bit. The hunting party is a pack of privileged assholes who slowly come unraveled in the wilderness (Sorry, I love that motif) and get everything they deserve.

The action then asks us to consider, “Who are the real pigs here?”

Prey  (Proie en Francais) is a righteous little movie and proof positive that pigs—yes, pigs—are a formidable foe with much potential to plague mankind.

All hail the coming of Swinecore!

The Canyon (2009)

My sweet baby and I like watching a show on Discovery Channel called I Shouldn’t Be Alive, that features depressing dramatizations of unlucky camping trips, plane rides, skiing vacations, and the like, wherein folks get marooned, injured, lost or otherwise completely screwed thanks to a wrathful Mother Nature.

The Canyon reminds me of a longer version of the show—and that’s not such a bad thing. Both the TV show and the film have one vital theme in common: How do people react when things just keep getting worse?

Nick (Eion Bailey)and Lori Conway (Yvonne Strahowski) are the reasonably attractive newlywed couple who decide to take a guided tour of the Grand Canyon by mule for their honeymoon. Gosh, how romantic. Lori wants no part of the plan but her douchey new husband insists.

They end up being escorted by Henry (Will Patton), a grizzled, hard-drinking old trail hand they meet in a bar. Yep, it promises to be a swell honeymoon. Henry gets waylaid by rattlesnakes and the tenderfooted couple end up lost in the Grand Canyon with next to no provisions. Awesome.

Lori quickly evolves into the alpha while Nick proves to be a wussy little twerp. Hats off to the lady for dealing with hungry wolves (again with the wolves?), an avalanche, and a whiny, useless husband.

The pace quickly accelerates from slow and sun-baked to a fairly believable struggle against the elements, predators, and their own civilized veneer.

Just stay home, you fools!

 

 

Frozen (2009)

Here’s a scenario we’ve not seen before. Two snowboard buddies, one with a girlfriend in tow, are stranded on a ski lift in the dark as the resort closes down for five days. No cell phone reception, in case you’re wondering. What to do?

During the majority of Frozen’s running time, while the trapped trio is dangling in the dark trying to figure a way out, we’ve got a tense little thriller on our hands. Old animosities boil over, and various escape plans prove fruitless.

And then the wolves show up. (Wow! Who knew there was a pack of hungry timber wolves roaming the slopes of a popular ski resort?) At that point, although the tension remains palpable, the plot takes a turn for the ridiculous.

Sticking it out to the end isn’t too painful, but it seems like director Adam Green (Hatchet) squandered a decent set-up, and blew the chance to be more provocative.

Mulberry Street (2006)

See the crummy neighborhood, its streets and alleys awash in sweaty, hustling, vibrant humanity.  Puerto Ricans, Italians, blacks, whites, all doing what they have to to get by. They live in a tableau of small but clean apartments with crappy plumbing, narrow hallways, and crumbling basements. The scene thusly set, the panic points that pop up in Mulberry Street seem natural, even organic. And panic does indeed pop up in the form of huge, surprisingly vicious rats that have a taste for warm human flesh.

That in itself might be frightening enough as the plot for a gritty, inner-city entropyfest, but things definitely take a turn for the worse, as bite victims start mutating into crazed, hairy, blood-thirsty varmints. Were-rats? Whatevs. Anyway, friends are now enemies, families are now food.

Speaking of families, Clutch (Nick Damici) is the protagonist, and he’s a goodhearted ex-boxer awaiting the return of his battle-scarred daughter from her tour in Iraq.  While he waits, he does a pretty good job of looking after the other tenants in his building when the unfortunates infected with rat rabies begin flipping their wigs.

Amidst the chaos and the killing, the assorted characters, including a drag queen, a middle-aged Italian guy and his father who totes his oxygen tank with him everywhere he goes, and a lonely single mom, all display surprising humanity and warmth, which isn’t easy when hordes of rabid rodent-thropes are trying to chow down on their asses.

It’s always a bonus when characters show that they have some grit and integrity rather than succumb to the always-popular “every man for himself” option. Definitely a cut above the average.