In a film market that never runs short of horror films, The Prey: The Legend Of Karnoctus has found its footing. Directed by Eric Hensman and Matthew Hensman who co-wrote the pic with Gustavo Sainz de la Peña, the film was a crowdfunded effort that’s now managed to make its landing with a story packed with the usual things you would expect in a film ripe with military action and overused plot twists, all applied with minimal effort to help draw our attention to the spectacle of an elusive creature eating its way through our would-be heroes.
The crux of the story finds a wayward troupe of soldiers caught in a violent ambush and trapped in a desert cave with the only immediate exit collapsed from an explosion. And in their company? A pair of gold-hunting mercs named Tagger (Nick Chinlund) and Reid (Kevin Grevioux) who’ve just robbed an armed convoy in a remote Afghan village and are currently using the cave as temporary storage space for a haul of crates – the contents of which they insist on keeping to themselves – until their own team members return with a helicopter.
Tensions don’t take too long to build, but nonetheless remain secondary to the matter of getting out of the cave alive. The newly and reluctantly-formed group assemble together in pairs at Tagger’s orders and begin trekking through the cavernous underground for several hours, during which they discover a hidden underground operation involving hallucinatory chemicals that compromise their mission – one complicated even further by the presence of a folkloric creature with four eyes, claws and an insatiable appetite for human flesh, and the scattered trail of whole or half-devoured cadavers in its wake.
The casting of notable faces like Danny Trejo and Highlander mainstay Adrian Paul alongside character actors Chinlund and Grevioux are largely intended to help draw attention to the Hensmans’ latest humble effort here, but don’t get your expectations too high. The effort of carrying the film for most of its 80-plus minute-long duration goes to Chinlund and Grevioux and the rest of the film’s cast of co-stars, including Masika Kalysha, Matt Musgrove, Ny’acies Divine, Mingyu Chu, Justin Arnold and Fahim Fazli among whom play the soldiers, and a script that plays fast and loose with a lot of pseudo-racist boomer banter that would only measure about as well as it would for the film’s niche, considerably if you’re more a Predator fan than anything.
Opportunites to stay alive are squandered by the characters’ sudden urges to ignore orders to stay together, to instead investigate a noise or a miscellaneous object that went “bump”. Only when its too late do they realize they’ve been cordoned off for the kill, and if they’re not dead, they’re that one character in the movie who is trying to pull off his best “Hudson” only to verge on sucking the life out of every scene by screaming in a panic. All of this pretty much belies any attempt at appealing to our empathy is wasted, because the only thing that matters is how long before we finally get to see Chinlund or Grevioux beat the piss out of said Karnoctus or die trying. Point in fact, the only character who really stands out is Taggert’s, whose m.o. for being a thief is really just more of a stinging indictment of corporate greed and the military industrial complex, so he’s got a little more depth to his character as the film trudges along.
Left even further by the wayside is the reason for the Karnoctus’s presence in the film. Nothing gets explored or explained. Rather, the film goes right to the jugular in all its simplicity. Buoyed by a creature that looks like a cross between Predator and William Dear’s Harry And The Hendersons a la Schumacher, you get a creature feature that doesn’t explain much, and in place of that, goes into as much violence and gore as it can host while stretching a budget enough to make the excitement last.
The Prey: The Legend Of Karnoctus isn’t high art (or Aliens for that matter), but it’s definitely nothing you haven’t seen before, and if this is any hint on how the upcoming sequel is going to be, then perhaps some of our cast will be back to pick up where this one left off with more gratifying results. One can only hope.
Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.