In these post-Twilight times, one can’t swing a dead cat without hitting at least something tangentially related to vampires. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve created a “vampire” stack of movies I’m supposed to review, and, to be honest, it’s really quite a drag, as I used to really look forward to vampire flicks . Now? Well, not so much. Something I still look forward to, however, are the annual releases from After Dark Films. Their “Film Fest” collections have been a pretty mixed bag, but are always entertaining and usually offer a few gems in the lot. With the launch of this year’s After Dark Originals imprint, I was even more excited as, rather than being simple acquisitions, these original flicks were made specifically by and for the company. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm was quickly dampened by the fact that of the two films I’d received, one was, in fact, Prowl, yet another vampire movie. Let the groaning commence!
Amber (Courtney Hope) is a small town girl with big city dreams. The daughter of a widowed alcoholic, Amber’s always felt out of place, here, and, as she stands on the precipice of adulthood, she wants nothing more than to put her past behind her and start a brand new life in Chicago. When Amber is given the chance to rent an affordable apartment in the city, she jumps at the opportunity, but there’s a catch; her future landlord needs her deposit immediately, and Amber needs to find a way to get to Chicago to give it to him (what? No Western Union?). Amber recruits her friends to take her, but, almost as soon as they hit the highway, their car breaks down, leaving them stranded and, potentially, ruining Amber’s chances of getting her dream apartment.
When the kindly trucker Bernard (Bruce Payne) stops to try and fix their car, Amber’s best friend Suzy (Gadmintas) tries to talk him into giving them a ride to Chicago, seeing as how he’s heading that way. Bernard is conflicted, but, ultimately, decides to do them this favor, and loads Amber and her buddies into back of his rig, where they engage in a bout of truth or dare, drink, and party their way to Chi-town. That is, until Bernard takes them off the beaten path and to an out of the way warehouse chockfull of bloodthirsty vampires-in-training! Now, miles from help and with nary a bar on their cell phones, Amber and her friends must fight to survive the night in this vampire proving ground.
I’ll be honest. For the first twenty minutes or so of Prowl, I found myself getting antsy and wanting to pop the flick out in favor of another. The dialogue was clumsy (especially the bit where Amber’s dragging her drunk mother off to bed where the mother lets slip that the girl was adopted), and the archetypes were set up in dutiful fashion, with next-to-no attempts made at fleshing them out. We never got much more than a glimpse as to what it was Amber was so anxious to escape from, save for the drunk mom, of course, which completely negated any sense of personal investment in her achieving her goals. Granted, this is a low-budget horror flick, and I’m not expecting character development on par with Hollywood Confidential, but it’d be nice to have even one iota of empathy for the characters that are about to be put through the proverbial wringer, as that’s horror screenwriting 101.
Once the action moved to the back of Bernard’s truck, however, I found myself looking beyond the underdeveloped characters and, instead, focusing on the rather novel way in which our heroes are put in harm’s way. I liked the concept of the benevolent trucker delivering fresh meat to what amounts to a vampire training facility, where neophytes are learning the ins and outs of hunting and killing their prey. It’s a nifty, fresh premise, and, once things got rolling, I really started enjoying Prowl. I also liked the fact that, while ferocious and frightening, these vamps were also a bit inept and cocky, somewhat leveling the playing field for Amber and her friends. Oh, and while I saw the film’s twist coming from a mile away, it’s implemented quite nicely, leading to a satisfyingly open-ended conclusion.
Lionsgate brings Prowl to DVD with a solid 2.35:1 transfer that boasts strong contrast, and handles the film’s undersaturated and grainy aesthete nicely. It’s paired, however, with a noticeably muddy and bass heavy 5.1 Dolby Digital mix. I found myself having to watch the film at higher than average volume to hear the dialogue, which resulted in some bowel-shaking subwoofer action. The surround mix is fairly immersive, with some well-placed environmental effects and directional cues, but, once again, so much is buried beneath the overbearing bass that you may find yourself straining to hear it.
Extras include a fun cast and crew commentary track, a very short making of featurette, and trailers for other Lionsgate releases.
While I’m sick to death of the vampire genre as a whole, I have to admit that Prowl did enough things differently to entertain me. It doesn’t necessarily break new ground, but it’s certainly a breath of fresh air in the current climate of vampire love stories, which, for fans of the genre still cursing the day the word “sparkling” entered the vampire lexicon, will be reason enough to give this one a peek.