Written by: Adam Vaughn | April 5th, 2022
Prototype (Jack Peter Mundy, 2022) 2 out of 4 stars.
Very much in the vein of android-based works of fiction, director Jack Peter Mundy (Amityville Scarecrow) pulls away from his usual horror-slasher, B-movie genre tropes to bring a more grounded, intimate sci-fi experience. Like a unique combination of Ex Machina and I, Robot, Mundy’s Prototype tells the story of Shelley Marshall (Danielle Scott), whose abusive-yet-ingenious husband and android inventor Graham (Andrew Rolfe) has created a new prototype robot, appropriately named “Two” (voiced by Zoe Purdy) to rival his already popular “One” (Luke Robinson) android that has permeated a futuristic society. As Shelley and Graham’s relationship starts to grow more hostile and violent, Two malfunctions in a deadly way. With the entire family’s lives at stake, including the family children Michael (Tom Taplin) and Olivia (Stephanie Lodge), Shelley must not only overcome her husband’s violence, but also an impossibly strong cyborg threat.
While Prototype certainly maintains a tense, and often horrific, experience, Mundy’s script is filled with conventional and dull writing, often making it a drag. The tone seems caught in between trying to tell deeper, socially pertinent themes (such as morality and what it means to be human), all the while relying on horror tropes to drive the plot. Two’s inevitable progression into evil feels like a bit of a forced plot convention, occurring suddenly and without much explanation or true motivation, and out of nowhere Two’s robotic abilities seem to exponentially increase. On top of this, Graham’s unrealistic aggression at times seems implausible, and occurs solely to establish him as an antagonistic character. Overall, Prototype doesn’t disappoint in delivering the basic sci-fi/horror experience but struggles with tackling the bigger-picture messages it seeks to convey.
Though Prototype may not succeed in narrative originality, I did very much enjoy that Mundy uses virtually all practical effects to visually depict his android characters. True, the makeup and art department’s efforts at times aren’t seamless, but in an age where more and more CGI starts to take over even the subtlest details of cinema, Prototype goes against the grain and tells its story through chilling craft. The cinematography helps reinforce the film’s eerie mood, and sure enough, by the end of the film we root for the heroes and hope to see the villainous characters fall. Still, it is a shame that Mundy’s script remains mediocre, at best, and barely rises above clichés to become a purely original concept.