SXSW Review: Prospect


Prospect is marketed as a horror film. A sci-fi film too. Before I saw it, another SXSW attendee told me, “Yes, it’s those things, but it’s a western.” OK. So genre-wise, it’s a little bit of everything, sort of like a hobo scramble. Ya got yer eggs. Ya got yer hash brown. Bacon. Sausage, peppers, onions and oil, of course. Some chorizo if it’s been a good week. Now douse it in cheese. A lot in the mix that creates one delicious breakfast–er, movie. Imagine The Road in space meets There Will be Blood. Wait–don’t imagine that, it’s a horrible analogy. Prospect is quietly something unto itself; yes, it pays homage to those genres, but it’s its own genre, never really reveling in these others for too long. And, like much of the low-budget, yet really smart filmmaking happening out there right now, it’s hip: it has the right aesthetic, tone, music and sensibilities to work and work well.

Director: Chris Caldwell, Zeek Earl
Rated: PG-13
Release Date: March 10, 2018

Cee (Sophie Thatcher) is a teenager on a journey through space to get rich with her father, Damon (Jay Duplass). They’re headed to a small green moon where they have claim to what they suspect may be a megapayload of precious gems of some kind. They’re poor, so despite the inherent dangers in traveling to this toxic moon, they’re going for it all the same.

Thatcher was one of many young actresses that really owned the screen at SXSW. Her presence, and general demeanor for the dutiful, yet practically doubtful daughter being dragged by her father into a situation she’d rather avoid is spot on. She’s inherently a teen, doing the things do to bend their reality to a better liking, yet poise and a conscious awareness of the need and means to survive play out in turns. Let’s be real, in this version of space, law seems scarce and right and wrong are more vague notions than absolutes. Morality is a fluid thing.

I know I mentioned that Prospect is a low-budget project, but don’t let that stop you from seeing it. Whatever budget they had was used masterfully. The set, prop and costume design are tier 1, with most things bearing little resemblance to anything else you’ve seen in some other version of space. Sure, these things come in limited quantity, but owing to the sharp screenwriting and directing choices, the team was able to dedicate the right amount of resources and attention to giving this film its own, unique look and feel. This absolutely strengthens the atmosphere of authenticity present from moment one. There’s no moment when space doesn’t feel like space, or this green moon like a scene shot in the woods down the road from your place.

There’s beautiful light in the alien forest that highlights the vintage texture of the cinematography and topography. Dust motes floating through the foreign atmosphere capture the foreignness of this world and enhance authenticity that strengthens every narrative elopement that comes your way.

That authenticity provides ample tension as circumstances (a landing pod malfunction, low oxygen supplies for extended incursion, armed foes, gunfights, etc.) lead towards the promise of things gone awry.

It’s wonderfully constructed, and the intelligence behind the decision-making that allows it to work by staying close to the father and daughter, is brilliant. It’s only at moments of big payoff (your first and only glimpse outside the forest) where money is clearly spent to deserved effect, that you suspect any need for real budget at all.

Prospect is an expanded version of a short film from the same filmmakers several years ago. This seems the best decision they’ve made yet, to expand the world and go deeper. Clearly, the early efforts led to fundraising that they wisely invested with. In short, Prospect won’t disappoint.