Contributed by Guest Writer, Gorey Bits
Dir. Cire Hensman & Matthew Hensman (2022)
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Watching the trailer for The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus made me optimistic. I’m a sucker for low budget monster movies. At one point in time I tuned into the Syfy Channel every single Saturday to watch their newest original movies. Especially if they featured some sort of computer generated shark. Direct to television movies can offer more fun than your top tier mainstream release. The trailer for The Prey looked like a good time, and seeing Danny Trejo engaging in action scenes sold me on it. I was hoping to see Trejo fight against a big scary monster. With this in mind, I figured I was going to have some fun with The Prey. It took me two full viewings and a lot of notes to confirm that I was right. The Prey is a good movie that was more than worth my time.
Directed by Eric Hensman and Matthew Hensman, The Prey is set in the Afghanistan desert where a group of mercenaries are embarking on a heist. With the Taliban on their tail, the mercenaries hide out inside of a cave until their transport arrives. Not too long after, the mercenaries and their newly obtained crate become trapped inside the cave along with a group of retreating US soldiers. The two parties band together to find an exit through the tunnels, but soon realize they’re being hunted by a deadly beast that local legend calls: Karnoctus.
As I mentioned off the top, I did have a good time watching this movie. However, I think it’s important to warn you that the film’s marketing is a little misleading. If you’ve seen any of the promotional stills, then what I’m about to reveal might come as a shock. Yes, Danny Trejo is in this movie. However, and I hate having to say this, but Trejo is in this movie for ONE SCENE. Of all the problems I had with this movie, that factor was the most disappointing. Trejo is front and center on the advertising. I get that you need a big name to help promote a movie, so having Danny Trejo in the marketing campaign for The Preymakes sense. I just wish that his role would’ve been bigger.
The film (along with its plot) runs into familiar territory. There’s virtually nothing original about it, other than the creature of Karnoctus itself. You can compare just about any scene in this movie to that of others within the horror genre. The “heist” element of the story felt like Zach Snyder’s Army of the Dead; just without the flesh eating zombies. I would even go as far to say that The Prey is a much better film than Army of the Dead. Having a group of soldiers inside of a cave reminded me of the 2007 film The Hills Have Eyes 2. The action sequences that take place outside of the cave felt very much like The Expendables.
You would think that a gun fight between The Taliban and a group of mercenaries would be serious business. Well, not in this movie. The action sequences in The Prey are high spirited, as though you were watching an action film from the 1980’s. The film’s score is what makes it feel fun. The opening action scenes have upbeat music, and the scenes that take place inside of the cave have a much darker score. It’s a credit to the incredible work of composer David Velez and the Hensman Brothers. There’s even rap music in the opening credits. It’s not something you hear in genre films often, so that was a nice addition to the starting credits.
Including the three films I mentioned earlier, I can list even more examples of what may have inspired The Prey. This new Hensman Brothers film doesn’t chart any new territory. In some ways, it’s by the numbers monster fare that’s saved mostly by an excellent script and cast. The opening credits features some much needed exposition, using storyboard-like artwork to explain the “heist” plot involving a group of mercenaries and a crate that may or may not be carrying some type of treasure. Nick Chinlund plays the role of Tagger, who happens to be the leader of the mercenaries. Chinlund puts on an incredible performance, making you believe that he’s a “going out with a fight” type of guy.
Where The Prey shines most is within the written dialog. The best example of this is with the banter between the American soldiers. The dialog feels like it was written just for me. I was able to identify with the group as they were making references to video games, movies and cartoons that have had a significant impact on my real life. In a way, it made me feel seen… but it also made me feel old. The bits of dialog, action and horror is what I’ll remember most about the movie. These elements made The Prey an enjoyable experience. As with every other monster movie, this one could’ve benefited from more blood and guts.
The intensity kicks in once the troops and mercenaries get stuck. This is when Karnoctus makes its presence known. If you’ve seen the trailer to The Prey, then you know what the monster looks like. Karnoctus has sharp teeth and a seemingly glowing blue face. The creature design is menacing and visually appealing; even if you can clearly tell that Karnoctus is a person inside of a monster suit during certain death scenes. There’s even a moment where you get to see the monster’s point of view. Karnoctus has “Predator” like X-Ray vision that makes it all the more menacing.
Overall, I had a good time watching The Prey, even though it took me two full viewings for me to come to that conclusion. It’s a film I would recommend renting. The Prey is a familiar (if not) by the numbers monster movie. Thankfully, that familiarity and the witty dialog is why I enjoyed the movie as much as I did. I was expecting a low budget monster movie in the vein of your average Syfy Channel original release. What I got was much more than that. Despite the trickery involving the cast, I enjoyed my experience watching The Prey, so much so that I would love to see a sequel in the future as long as it’s the Hensman Brothers at the helm.
I give The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus:
7 out of 10 cave dwelling monsters.