And remember: should you ever wish to intimidate a Manitou, throw a typewriter at it.

Prophecy (1979)

“This particular type of horror movie,” notes Stephen King in Danse Macabre, “demands that at one point the heroine must appear – and be menaced – while wearing a one-piece swimsuit.”

As unlikely as it sounds, that’s Prophecy’s main flaw in a nutshell: it’s a 50s monster flick at its core, but director John Frankenheimer clearly considers himself above such things and sets about making a Message Movie. His application for a gold statuette, however, is scuppered by stock characters and an unintentionally hilarious monster.

Described by King as “looking sort of like a skinned pig and sort of like a bear turned inside out” this creature is the result of mercury poisoning caused by pollution from the local paper mill, screenwriter David Seltzer’s updating of the old “yep, must be the radiation” plot device. From Armand Assante’s ‘Indian’ activist to Richard Dysart’s ruthless mill owner, Seltzer’s script is populated by caricatures but unwisely aims at profundity by sermonising on the treatment of the environment (and Native Americans) at the hands of capitalists. Such hectoring is not exactly lost on Frankenheimer who, as the New York Times noted “treats the material with the kind of reverence usually reserved for movies about Cleopatra, Napoleon and General Patton.” That the director is aiming higher than the standards of Humanoids From The Deep becomes apparent when we meet Robert Foxworth’s “rat bite and gas leak man” who spends all day in the ghettoes helping poor black children before turning in reports that nobody reads. Taking a break in Maine (which appears to be a suburb of British Columbia), Foxworth and wife Talia Shire are immediately set upon by crazed possums and an oversized salmon (“Here everything grows big,” explains a helpful Indian Chief), leading him to deduce that pregnant creatures ingesting mercury are responsible for spawning the monsters – at which point Shire, who’s just eaten mercury-contaminated fish, informs him she’s pregnant. Uh-oh. Now we get a Humanoids-style birth sequence, right? No, because as soon as this is brought up, it’s dropped and never mentioned again.

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