Traumafessions :: Reader David on Prophecy

The year was 1979, my Dad was working in Atlanta, so my Mom and I spent the summer with him. A great time. One of the best summers I ever had. Lots of cartoons (first time I ever saw the RANKIN & BASS King Kong” toon), Space Giants, 6 Flags, that DC Comics live action thing with the Justice League. I made friends with a kid in the next apartment, a friendship that ended abruptly when we argued over which was cooler, X Wings or Y Wings (I preferred the more rugged Y Wing). A great summer all told. Except for one thing…

1979 was the year of PROPHECY.

I was a Famous Monsters kid, I loved monsters. I grew up with THEM, TARANTULA, many HARRYHAUSEN films, the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, PETER CUSHING, CHRISTOPHER LEE and HAMMER. GODZILLA was my personal hero, and now we had a film that billed itself not as a monster movie but as “THE MONSTER MOVIE.” The incredible print ads featured the three step evolution of a hideous thing in a womb sac, the slug lines read “Don’t move, don’t breathe, she is alive, and she will find you.” The last picture was of a monstrous, toothy, deformed thing that just screamed, “cool monster.” It was supposed to be about some kind of creature spawned by pollution, a mutant grizzly bear I heard. Good Lord, I had to see this.

Be careful what you wish for.

I begged the folks to take me, and we settled into a comfy theater for a night of monster goodness. By the time the lumberjack put the chainsaw near ARMAND ASANTE‘s face, I began to grow very uneasy. Maybe, just maybe, this would be too intense for me. I started to squirm. I had no clue it would get worse. Momma Bear’s attack on the campers seriously scared me. Although we never got too good a look at her, it was obvious that this was one seriously messed up creature. Not cool by any means, but utterly disgusting. The exploding sleeping bag scene has gotten a lot of derision over the years, but to my 8-year-old eyes, it was quite nasty. It only gets worse when they talk later about the evidence of the dead campers, evidence that was at the hospital in buckets! Ick. It was becoming plainly obvious; PROPHECY was not what I expected. Then it happened. The scene that burned itself into my retinas like the stare from a Gorgon. I closed my eyes as quickly as I could, but it registered, it was too late. My childhood was over, at 8 years of age no less. The scene that scarred me for life and began years and years of nightmares.

The mutant baby bear in the trap.

The sight of that uber-disgusting, slimy, deformed thing, squealing in agony was too much for me to take. Up there, on that screen in Atlanta, was the single most disgusting, disturbing, grisly sight I ever saw. I could take no more, this was simply too much. I begged my folks to take me home. Dad was ticked off (the old, “we payed our money” line), but Mom (thank God for Mom, God bless Mom!) overrode him. She hated the film anyway and could have cared less to stick around. Besides, no way was her baby boy going to be traumatized by this damned thing (well, too late for that, but you know). We went home, the fate of the characters and the beasts a mystery to me for many years. I always felt that PROPHECY‘s PG rating was a fluke. This was an R film if ever there was one, and had it been given it’s true rating, I would never have asked my folks to take me.

As I grew up, I suffered from many a PROPHECY induced nightmare. The bears, or some variation thereof haunted the old dreamscape. I still have them from time to time. The kicker is this, in the ensuing years; I have become one of the films only supporters. Yes, it is heavy handed at times, but it has a good message about pollution and how it affects us and the land. It’s scary, well shot and acted. And the FX work is in no way sub par. Maybe I remembered that terrified 8 year old in terror, cowering in the seat, maybe that colors my perception, but I always rise to defend TOM BURMAN‘s creatures when folks slag them off (as an aside, I must note that BURMAN provided superb effects for a film that is a major favorite of mine, THE BEAST WITHIN). I have just about seen all of the film too. I can actually look at the main bear. I don’t like her, still find her quite upsetting, but can look at her. But not the baby. When PROPHECY plays on TV, and if I catch it, I look away, change the channel or cover my eyes. As a grown man nearing 40, I still cannot let the fear go and look at the stinking thing. Now I have seen some of the most disturbing, disgusting, upsetting, bloody, gory horror films of all time in the past 30 years. Movies that make many folks react the same way I reacted to PROPHECY. I watched them without batting an eyelash, loved every minute of them, and added them to the DVD collection. But PROPHECY cut me too deep. The scar is still there and will never heal. All due to a mutant bear squealing in a trap.

The summer ended on a high note. THE BLOB played on TV one night. Thank God for STEVE McQUEEN! But PROPHECY was not done with me yet. Back home in Charlotte, my brother and sister came back from the mall. They promised to pick me up some comic books or something. They came back with Fangoria #2… cover story and feature?


I cried for about hour after that.

To read more by David, be sure to check out Confessions of an Anxious/Depressive.

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14 years ago

I agree with David: Prophecy should have definitely had an R rating. The appearance of the mutant animals is disturbing enough, but add to that the carnage done by Mama Mutant Bear: the multiple maulings, ripping the head off that poor injured guy in the overturned vehicle, and of course the massacre of the campers (though now, I do laugh every time that kid in the sleeping bag gets smacked into the boulder).

I remember, even the trailer for this movie freaked me out as a kid. So what did I do? I watched the actual movie when it debuted on HBO. Brilliant!

[Shamless plug: My latest review at FilmFather is also about a killer bear: 1976’s Grizzly, a Jaws rip-off in the best way possible.]

14 years ago

Glad David brought up this movie again, cuz it seems like there are other big closet fan of Prophecy besides me.  It successfully scared the bejeezus outta me and seems a perfect example of a good Tramatizer, complete with the “PG” smokescreen.  Is there a “Prophecy is NOT a PG Movie” outreach group that I could join?

Amanda By Night
14 years ago

Ummm, just the pictures are disturbing me!

I think I read or saw somewhere where Frankenheimer said he was making the scariest movie of all time. Kind of a ballsy statement coming out of the world of 70s horror, but perhaps he was correct, judging by the scars he left behind…

14 years ago

Glad you all liked the piece. Yeah, that movie and those stinking mutants really did a number on my psyche. And yes, I do think it’s a better movie than it is given credit for. About the rating, The 1970s was a time that many movies somehow skirted the R rating. Prophecy and the original Walking Tall are two examples. Maybe it was a favor to the studios involved, who knows? The Prophecy PG still amazes me to this day.