>> There are many independent films that fly quietly under the radar due to award season buzz—a lot of these films are pretty mediocre, but a few are truly hidden gems. Written and directed by Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell, Prospect is a diamond in the rough. It’s a low budget sci-fi thriller that uses its obstacles and limitations to propel and differentiate itself from the pack.

Prospect follows a teenage girl, Cee (Sophie Thatcher), and her father (Jay Duplass) as they travel to an alien moon to harvest valuable gems. While under contract to excavate one of the largest deposits in the moon’s toxic forest, Cee must navigate through the treacherous turmoil that results from her avaricious father and the forest’s inhabitants. Packed with a Western punch, Prospect flips our expectations of the sci-fi genre, and delivers a unique and gripping experience.

While many sci-fi films rely heavily on visual effects and the idiosyncrasies of foreign worlds, Prospect entertains viewers in the best way possible: with substance rather than grandeur. The film focuses its efforts on the development of its characters, which are complex and mysterious, allowing the audience to become thoroughly invested as the film gains momentum. It's characters exude a tenable level of humility which allows the audience to be empathetic—something that’s often missing in many sci-fi films. Prospect does an exceptional job at constructing a fictional world and plot that has some real stakes! By “real stakes” I mean getting killed for not being able to perform your job, or being stranded in a foreign place with limited provisions, while also upping the ante by adding a poisonous atmosphere into the mix! It’s undeniable that Prospect will keep you on your toes.

It’s pretty refreshing to see a sci-fi film that has some grit, both literally and figuratively. In contrast to many of its predecessors, Prospect displays future/foreign tech that feels vintage and bespoke—it makes Alien feel like a glitzy glamping trip. Filmed in the Pacific Northwest, Prospect transforms the oxygen-rich woods into a poisonous foreign planet—not only is it incredibly convincing, but quite refreshing compared to the barren landscapes many sci-fi films default to. The sound design and editing of this film is what really sells that immersion. The approach to sound is methodical and precise, while also adding foreign tones to a realistic setting. Without the sound, the setting would have crumbled.

Prospect has few faults, which are so minuscule they are not worth mentioning. It’s a strong sci-fi thriller, fronted by great performances—especially from newcomer Thatcher. While it may have been temporarily overlooked, it’s just a matter of time until this film gets the following it deserves. 8.7/10 <<

Prospect was initially released on November 2nd and will be screening at the 2019 South by Southwest festival.