The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus
(Danny Trejo, Adrian Paul, Nick Chinlund, et. Al | 1 hr. 33 minutes | Not Rated | Mano a Mano Films, Lennexe Films)
Summary: When a group of soldiers are stalked through a series of underground tunnels in Afghanistan by a monster, they must either escape or fight for their lives.
Verdict: The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus does not begin as a comedy: Middle-eastern men wielding guns and talking rough are in an underground laboratory when there’s a strange, guttural growl coming from deeper within the cave. A strange creature attacks and eats the men, all the while making that same sickening sound.
And if that’s the opening scene, the viewer can safely assume they’re going to watch something even mildly intense, maybe even scary, right? Wrong. Almost immediately, the viewer is removed from the situation by an animated opening credit sequence featuring the big names in the cast — Danny Trejo, Nick Chinlund (reunited here for the first time since Con Air in 1997) and Adrian Paul — played out to a hip-hop song.
The very next scene is an introduction to a squad of American soldiers by way of a debate about retro toys and games. And throughout this conversation which must have accounted for multiple pages of the script, you learn exactly nothing about this group of people, and that’s the first laugh of the film.
It only gets more ridiculous from there, when (a tragically underused) Danny Trejo shows up as part of another gang of soldiers — more like mercenaries — and a gunfight breaks out. Inexplicably, the whole spray of bullets happens overtop ‘Going Up the Country’ by Canned Heat. It’s ridiculous and riotously funny.
And whether it’s meant to be funny isn’t clear. I’m going to guess the answer is no.
Cut to: (an even more underused) Adrian Paul looking over a set of heisted crates, the contents of which are anyone’s guess. These mysterious crates become an object of particular interest when the first squad of people (with whom you’ll form no attachment throughout the entire film), ends up down in the same tunnels from the opening with Tagger (Chinlund) and Reid (Kevin Grevioux).
But ultimately, these crates fall out of focus when the group realizes that they’re being stalked by the Thing. That sort of paranoia coupled with uncertainty and a fair bit of claustrophobia lead to some fantastic overacting by nearly everyone and bizarre hallucinations, including strippers.
Sadly, the ragtag group of soldiers, for all of their discussion of retro fun in the beginning never heeded the cardinal rule of Dungeons and Dragons: Never split the party. One soldier ends up maimed and another gruesomely halved by the Thing, whose calling card remains that same guttural growling.
The final battle is one that needs to be seen, with Chinlund taking the lead in a way that makes him worthy of being one of the marquee names.
While 99% of the cast is absolutely forgettable in their performances, standouts include Masika Kalysha as Lake, and Mingyu Chu, who pulled double duty as both soldier Chen and the Thing when clad in a fur suit that was a practical effects dream. Perhaps the best aspect of The Prey overall is the lighting. Despite much of the film taking place in an underground tunnel, it’s spectacularly lit, and the final battle sequence awash in red light add a nice touch.
To sweeten the deal at the end, as the credits roll, there is behind the scenes photos and storyboard art, and a bit of a tease lingers on the final note: “To Be Continued?”
And if the story of Karnoctus is, in fact, to be continued, I’ll re-up for the next mission as long as it’s as silly as this one is.
Review by: Ashley J. Cicotte
The Prey: Legend of Karnoctus arrives on VOD July 7, 2022.