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Infestation: SXSW 2018 – “Prospect” Review


Review by Zach Chapman
Cast: Sophie Thatcher, Pedro Pascal, Jay Duplass.
Written by: Chris Caldwell, Zeek Earl
Directed by: Chris Caldwell, Zeek Earl
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Walking out of Prospect I felt a nostalgia for a decade I’d never lived in, like I’d just thumbed through an issue of Omni, or Asimov’s, or one of those other great SF mags from the 70s. Some may immediately be turned off, but I love science fiction with a worn spine and yellowing pages. That’s the core of Prospect.

The film opens with a blue-collar father and daughter cramped in a satellite, barely scraping by on the last of their rations. Immediately I was struck by the keen sense of worldbuilding. Everything in the satellite is old and dirty, that ugly yellow-white of a dead Macintosh from ‘84. The duo’s tech is worn out, held together by duct tape, looking like it could break at any crucial moment. The worldbuilding is so convincing for a low-budget SXSW premiere film that the Nebulas need to create a new category of award based on setting just so they can give it to Prospect’s production and set design teams.

The father decides to go for one last scavenge before the last “sling” brings them back to whatever passes as a civilization in this universe. They crashland on the forest planet where a miasma of poisonous pollen requires all humans to wear protective suits. The suit designs are impressive and feel like they belong in a blockbuster, not an indie probably destined for a Netflix release.

The father and daughter are on the clock, so the duo immediately begins prospecting for Aurelacs, strange gems that must be carefully harvested out of rare, meaty, possibly plant life forms. Soon they come across two bandits, one played by Pedro Pascal (Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones). That’s when the real conflict of the movie starts.

Prospect is the kind of film that has its audience asking a lot of questions: What are Aurelacs? And who the hell are paying for them? What’s happening on other planets? Why does Pedro Pascal’s bandit character speak like he just ate a thesaurus?

In the end, none of that matters. In fact, I wish more movies were so bold that they didn’t spoon feed the audience. Despite all the unanswered questions, I never felt lost or the story lacking. Prospect is lean and doesn’t need exposition; it has a simple story, a tale of survival in an environment where there are mercenaries, rogues, and natives; where if your air filter gets clogged or your suit gets ripped, you die.

The characters are resourceful. They are fighters, survivors. And fascinating to watch–Pascal, in particular. His verbosity and vocabulary are at odds with the rest of the cast. It really makes you wonder, how the hell did a guy like this get stuck on such a backwater planet?

I want a sequel to Prospect.

I want answers, but what I want more is to be in this universe. I want to see other planets, other missions, other blue-collar workers and bandits and rogues in this dirty 70s science fiction setting that’s like a combination between the original Alien and Silent Running. What I really want is for low-budget SF films like Prospect to be as prevalent as the low-budget horror film.

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