The Prowler and My Bloody Valentine were both movies that I bought excitedly on the internet one lunch time, got through the post a few days later, popped them on the shelf in their packaging and promptly forgot about completely for over a year. Happens all the time, you know how it is.
Then one Sunday afternoon I was flicking through my collection looking for Zombie Club inspiration and I chanced upon them. Let’s see; The Prowler was released in 1981 and the back of the box blurb says, “…30 years later, the dance is held again for the first time since that horrific evening.” And, “…Tonight, the teens of this sleepy town will meet their grisly ends at the hands of the Prowler!” Okay. My Bloody Valentine, also released in 1981, says, “Valentine’s Day dance.” And “…he returned to the town for bloody revenge. That was nineteen years ago.” And, “…blood soaked heart. Before the night is over, terror will strike again and again and again!”
1981? Small Town Dance? The Killer returning many years later, to get revenge by striking “again and again and again”? Brilliant, bring on Murder on the Dance Floor Night.
This evenings entertainment is bought to you by Jim in association with the International Small Town Sheriff’s Appreciation Society.
The Prowler (1981)
Plot WWII veteran killed his ex-girlfriend at a dance 35 years ago. He's back.
Jim Convinced that it was going to be the better of the two movies because of the Savini connection and the stills we've seen in horror magazines of that head shot, The Prowler found it’s way in to Rawshark’s DVD player first and immediately, we were presented with that familiar Slasher cliché; the prologue set years before. The camera sleazily prowls through a 1945 graduation dance, flitting from teen to teen, listening to pointless 40s banter, and we're already confused. "I think this is just some teens getting killed, isn't it?" Ah yes Rawshark, that’s it, and some do, namely a local girl named Rosemary and her cheesy fella.
Next, we swiftly cut to a caption telling us it’s now the night of the graduation dance, 1980. “Brackets – ‘at the height of the Slasher boom’!” – Zomblee. The dance hasn’t been held since Rosemary was murdered, so tonight’s the night to put the past behind and revise the tradition. Of course, traditions die hard in small towns, if you excuse the pun.
Let’s meet the cast: there's the heroine of the piece, Pamela, who’s having a thing with the deputy sheriff, Mike. “He looks a lot like Cillian Murphy.” – Rawshark. Then we have the sheriff himself, although he’s off for a fishing trip this weekend, so he’s obviously not going to be in it much. “There’s just a deputy? That’s not good enough!” – Zomblee. Also we have Major Chatham who is Rosemary’s father and also a creepy old guy in a wheelchair that doesn't speak “He’s the guy from Reservoir Dogs.” – Zomblee. And finally a bunch of bland cannon fodder horny teenagers whose names you can’t remember who are there mainly to pad scenes out, scream on cue and die when they're told to.
And boy do they die. The teenagers in this flick are typical of the genre i.e. they tend to make out a lot. "And you know what that means!" We certainly do Zomblee. One guy gets a knife through his head “And he’s still struggling, we like that…” – Rawshark, several people get pitchforks in the stomach, one girl gets it in the swimming baths, and then there’s that head shot. Wow. Worth the price of admission alone, which is a good job as huge chunks of this movie basically involves “just lots of walking around…” – Rawshark. “Yeah, with a pitch fork!” – Zomblee.
So, nice idea, really cool gore, dull characters that aren’t fleshed out at all, and lots of walking around with pitchforks. Not, in that case, as good as it sounds. Damn, should have bunged the other movie on first.
“Deputy London has just informed me that a prowler has been seen around the campus.”
Rawshark That creepy old guy in a wheelchair is legendary Hollywood tough guy Lawrence Tierney, but unfortunately he has no dialogue at all in this film where he... well, actually I can’t quite remember what he does really, apart from peep at High School girls getting undressed at night. I think he makes a (unsuccessful) grab for one of the girls at one point too. Nope, you got me, I really don’t know why he’s in this movie either, unless it’s to help promote the cause of mute and perverted small town mayors.
Anyway, back to The Prowler and its eight (yes, we counted them) onscreen killings, thanks to the help of make-up king Mr Savini. As you would expect from the legendary effects artist, the killings are actually pretty damn good, with the final head splat shooting and the earlier knife in the head deaths counting as the best. Jim really did like the girl in the pool slaying too – “Oh c’mon – that’s one of the best underwater throat-slashing scenes ever!”.
Plotwise The Prowler falls flat on its gasmask though, as we’re delivered a much-padded standard Halloween script that fails to really capture the attention. Deputy Sheriff Mark helps student Pam (the vote was 2/2 on whether she was attractive or not) to unravel the mystery of the rose and the killer soldier in the absence of the Sheriff who is away on a fishing trip – “Oh, if only the Sheriff was in town! - Zomblee. Pam and Mark walk around a lot talking, whilst all the other high students are locked inside the dance hall and forced to listen to an 80s hair rock band scream songs with lyrics such as “I wanna see blood on the floor!”
At one point Mark and Pam’s investigations lead them to a graveyard, which prompted the classic quote from Jim – “I don’t dig graveyards that much” – but other than that they remain pretty clueless until the final fairly surprising reveal. Oh, so that was what that scene with the fat guy refusing to get the Sheriff out of Cabin 7 was all about then. We really could have done without the Carrie-like surprise shower twist ending though.
“Yeah, I can take a message. Wait until I get a pencil.”
Zomblee Well, that’s what you get with 80s horror films, but not all of them of course. The 80s slasher movies are particularly brilliant if you like unoriginality. Having said that, I got a real kick out of The Prowler even though its formulaic meanderings rendered me too braindead to work out who the killer really was. God, I felt like such an idiot. I still do.
What the guys have said above is spot-on. This is a showcase for Tom Savini and his big bag of latex appliances, fake blood and heads that explode real good. He’s a dab hand at the head explosion that boy - the one in Dawn was good, but this one and that one he did on himself in Maniac really are something special. I think that’s why we have rewind buttons on remote controls – can’t think of any other reason, can you?
I didn’t care for characters in The Prowler too much. Heck, the chicks aren’t even very attractive (although as Rawshark already mentioned there was split opinion about this), but neither is the deputy who shows a keen interest in young Pamela. To begin with, we thought he looked like ”The little guy out of Take That” before settling on Cilian Murphy but with a really bad hairdo. “I really don’t know how to describe his hair”, Rawshark said – it’s a fair point and I’ll tell you what else, he’s way too skinny for that uniform. What I’m getting at here of course is the lack of Sheriff action in The Prowler - it feels safer when there’s one around, you know? But that’s a whole different story...
The deaths in The Prowler are deftly executed, as are a few other technical flourishes, like that sequence early on where, no wait, I think Jim put it best: ”See the juxtaposition of her getting ready to go out and him getting ready to...kill?” He even left a gap between ’to’ and ’kill’ like that for dramatic effect, maybe to make amends for using the ’J’ word. Nice one, Jim.
All in all, you should see The Prowler for the Savini handiwork, which really is first rate stuff. This is how it’s meant to look. Another highlight for me was the casting of Hitchcock man Farley Granger, who had probably hit rock bottom by 1980. Oh well, at least he got to play...The Sheriff.
”Maybe we should call the sheriff.”
Director Joseph Zito
Cast Vicky Dawson
Runtime 89 mins
Click on the icons above to purchase this title and support Eat My Brains!
My Bloody Valentine (1981)
Plot Miner killed town folk for going to a dance while he was trapped down a mine 20 years ago. He's back too.
Zomblee You have to hand it to Jim - this is one of the most perfect Zombie Club pairings you could possibly imagine. Whereas the strengths in tonight’s first film mainly lie with the ingenious work of our friend Savini, it’s the story and characters that bring My Bloody Valentine to life. Disappointingly however, there isn’t a great deal of gore in this little slasher flick; it seems that My Bloody Valentine has been censored from the source print. Apparently, it's not available uncut, but it does look like some of these murders are genuine, intentional ”cutaway deaths”, thanks Jim.
Plot-wise, this one is based on a 20-year old mining accident, the result of an explosion, which left five men buried alive on Valentines Day. The two men responsible for the negligence that caused the explosion are at the party, but are soon slayed by the remaining survivor, Harry Warden, who then warns the town never to hold a Valentine’s Party again.
Considering the name of their little town - Valentine's Bluff (”Is that what it's called, Valentine's Bluff? That’s brilliant!” ˆ Rawshark) - it’s no great surprise that 20 years later the dance is on again. Until, that is, the murders begin, scaring the organisers into cancelling the dance. This is when the disappointed revellers - stock axe fodder - decide to buy a load of beer and have their own Valentine’s party at the...mine. If this sounds incredibly stupid, that’s because it is - people did very stupid things in the 80s. But you know what? That shaft party looks like great fun.
All the miners in My Bloody Valentine dress really brightly when they’re socialising - I really liked that. They do spend all day down a shaft covered in soot so why the hell not fully indulge in garish 80s fashions when they go out for an evening drink? These colourful (in more senses than one) characters are much more memorable than in The Prowler, and we even had a ”fat comedy character” in the finest of 80s traditions - thanks Jim. The finale in the mine is the highlight of the film, and the shafts are used to great effect, placing our characters in imminent peril, even though we could all see what was coming, even Jim - ”He’s going to die. Yes, this is his death.” Spoken like a true professional.
This is slightly above average slasher fare, with just enough plus points to make it worth a look, especially if you fancy some alternative viewing come Valentine’s Day. Don't know if you're girlfriend will be too impressed though.
”Every February 14th Harry comes back to town, his pick axe stained with blood, waiting in the shadows...”
Rawshark Despite being heavily cut, censored, call it what you like, My Bloody Valentine is still an effective little slasher movie with some nice lines in dialogue and characters we really feel for, even the ‘fat comedy character’ who reminded Zomblee of Captain Chaos. Boasting an onscreen death count of nine, My Bloody Valentine also features a Sheriff on the side of the goodies, hearts being sent in heart-shaped boxes and a cool killer in a miner’s outfit. Yes, we’re back on familiar slasher territory.
Following an initial murder scene whereby a blonde girl with a heart tattoo on her breast is killed whilst making out with a miner in a gasmask (”Ooh. Rub my rubber hose!” - Jim), the film soon switches to focus on the two male leads, TJ and Axel, as they fight over the attentions of ballsy blonde Sarah. However, it soon becomes apparent that a killer has returned to Valentine’s Bluff to start stuffing decorating committee members into tumble driers. This leaves the Mayor with no option but to cancel the Valentine’s dance, but wouldn’t you know it, those crazy party-fuelled kids set about having their own dance deep in the depths of the local mine shafts.
Of course this leads to many more deaths, including one teen who has his face pushed into a boiling saucepan of hotdogs, a decapitation and a nail gun death for the fat guy. Apparently an uncut version of this film does exist, and whilst most of the deleted footage is added gore to the death sequences, the uncut version actually makes the film’s end sequence make sense. In the cut version, it looks like the killer is unmasked and then makes a run for it. However in the uncut version, we see the killer handcuffed to someone, but during the final cave-in, the killer lops of his own arm to make good his escape. Oh, so that’s why the killer seems to be missing an arm in the cut version then…
A solid slasher with plenty of heart (had to be said), My Bloody Valentine is worth your time, although you may want to wait for the rumoured uncut version to be released sometime next year. The film also inspired the UK indie group to name themselves after the title. They went on to score Lost in Translation don’t you know…
“Roses are red, violets are blue. One is dead, and so are you.”
Jim Oh right, that’s why the killer’s running with a stump at the end. I never thought twice about that before.
Mind you, there are always things cropping up at Zombie Club that I wouldn’t have thought twice about before, and this film was not exception. Ever given thought to the mass miner shower scene at the beginning that Rawshark sang his “It’s what we do everyday, a-pushin’ and a-shovin’” song to? No me neither; I’d never thought about that before. What about that slot in the ceiling of 4x4s where small town sheriffs hide their shotguns, had you ever thought about that? I hadn’t but Zomblee had, and he made a habit of pointing it out whenever the sheriff’s 4x4 was in shot, which was a lot. And gay collars: do serial killers often have gay collars? At the end, when we’ve worked out that it must be either Axel or TJ because they’re the only ones left alive wearing their miner suits, Rawshark declared, “It must be TJ Hooker ‘cause of his gay collars!” Well, was he right? Or perhaps he was – dare I say it – too wasted to know what he was talking about?
Fuck me, I was. I wrote down Rawshark saying, “This is quite a staged scene…” but I don’t remember what scene he was talking about. I’ve also got Zomblee shouting, “Go on! Dig! Dig!” Why I don’t know, but as it was the last thing I wrote I assume it has something to do with that inexplicable arm off tunnel collapse ending.
So great movie, then. Just imagine how good it would be with all the gore reinstated.
“Go and get me a coffee, would you Ben?”
Director George Mihalka
Cast Paul Kelman
Runtime 91 mins
Click on the icons above to purchase this title and support Eat My Brains!
Well that was fun, wasn’t it? So maybe I did make a bit of a mistake putting The Prowler on first and My Bloody Valentine second, but what the hell. The last time I Watched The Prowler I was in serene horror movie mood and liked it, but I may have been suckered in by the nostalgia factor. When you’re watching a vintage Slasher on your own it’s easy to mistake dull walking around bits for tension, or at least I do. Thank God Zombie Club’s here to put me right.
So, remind me to put the movie with the better characterisations on first and the gory one second next time, although I wonder whether that’d be a different story if we had this uncut version of My Bloody Valentine that Rawshark’s talking about. How cool would that be? Oh, and while we’re discussing the movie, I’ll have to bring up the band. It’s a bit of a coincidence, but they’re one of my favourite ever groups and I have all their albums, even the Ecstacy and Wine import CD from the States. They’re the brain child of one Kevin Shields who, as Rawshark says, wrote some new tunes for the Lost in Translation, although they’re credited under his name not the band’s. They did lend their indie dance anthem ‘Soon’ to the soundtrack of Nadja though, which is another weirdo cult film that I haven’t thought about in ages actually.
Tune in next week for some serious brain action. And no, we’re not watching The Man with Two Brains at Zombie Club…