Film Review:The Prowler (and sort of Europa)

Posted: May 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

1981
Directed by Joseph Zito

I was going to review Lars Von Trier’s Europa this week because of his recent, scandalous and idiotic remarks. Looked promising and would show how he felt about Nazism and the pain Germany endured under allied occupation. I found the film stylish, but ultimately kind of dull and far less interesting than Element of Crime or Antichrist. That’s my review. I’m not going to waste 1,300 words. Instead, I’ve decided to watch and review 80s Slasher classic The Prowler. Interestingly enough, this film also starts with World War 2 as a backdrop and deals with postwar trauma. But Europa doesn’t have Tom Savini gore. For those who don’t know, Tom Savini is the special effects wizard behind many of the Friday the 13th movies and Dawn of the Dead. The Prowler begins with a girl’s Dear John letter to her soldier boyfriend and a Graduation Dance. While she’s making time with her new boyfriend in a gazebo, a well armed man in fatigues creeps up on them, impaling them both on a pitchfork and leaving a rose in her dead hand. Regrettably, the film does not remain a period slasher piece set in 1945 (making me wonder if combining this film and Europa into a postmodern slasher film set on a train in postwar Germany wouldn’t be brilliant) but fast forwards to 1980. The town has not had a graduation dance since the murders, but the school has decided to revive the tradition. The citizens of the town are a little frightened because of a recent robber and murder and some are apprehensive over the graduation dance. The heroine, Pam is dating Mark, a young deputy sheriff in whose hands the town is left while the sheriff goes on a fishing trip. Veteran actor Lawrence Tierney plays Major Chatham the father of the girl murdered at the last graduation dance. He sits in his wheelchair remembering his pain, ogling the girls who live next door to him and hating graduation dances. Perhaps if they just called it a Senior Prom, he wouldn’t be so resentful. As some of Pam’s idiot friends sexually taunt him, a figure in fatigues suits up for killing, sheathing a bayonet. A lazy jump scare occurs as one of these idiot friends is surprised in the shower by her boyfriend. As he takes off his clothes to join her, the killer puts the sharp bayonet through his skull. It comes out through the bottom of his jaw. The idiot friend is graphically impaled with a pitchfork as she showers. Predictable stuff, but pure Savini. Mark shows up at the dance, dances idiotically with one of Pam’s idiot friends and renders himself functionally useless as an officer of the law to anyone outside the dance. Mark spills punch on Pam like an idiot, she leaves the dance to go change and fails to notice the corpse of her idiot friend in the bathroom. She is pursued by The Prowler, who looks extremely creepy and cutting a very ominous figure in head to toe fatigues with a covered face. As she flees from The Prowler, she encounters Major Chatham, who grabs her. Eliminating Major Chatham as a suspect and creeping Pam out. Mark investigates, can’t get into the locked room where the idiot friend’s corpse is and decides to investigate Major Chatham, the one person who could not have been chasing Pam with a bayonet. Because Major Chatham is creepy and they have no other leads. Chatham’s house is a somewhat eerie mausoleum of a place, lost in time with mildly spooky covered furniture. It does not inspire much terror. In spite of Europa’s dullness, it’s downtime was at least atmospheric. Meanwhile, the idiot friends are indulging in typical idiot teen slasher movie activities. Mark and Pam return to the dance to alert the idiots that a prowler is about. Meanwhile, Tom Savini’s talents are wasted since the idiots are hanging around being alive like assholes. Fortunately one idiot is swimming in a pool outside. She is dispatched in a well shot, graphic and fairly artistic manner that I will not spoil since if you end up watching this film, it will be one of few scenes to reward you. Savini is good at what he does. 50 minutes in, four kills have occurred. Another kill occurs a few minutes later. Aesthetic but uninspired. More killing occurs.Then a handful of dull twists and turns and then a resolution. The Prowler is one of those films that brings out the most jaded part of every gorehound, the part where you’re just waiting around for people to get slaughtered so you can feel SOMETHING. The Prowler himself is a cool avatar of post-war trauma. It would have been neat to see him roaming the Kafkaesque train in Europa. Lars Von Trier and Tom Savini would make a hell of a team. Add a much needed sense of fun to Von Trier’s worlds of cold nihilism. Without Savini’s effects, cold nihilism would be all you would feel in watching The Prowler. It was for me in spite of Savini’s effects. The writers, director and cast of The Prowler failed to create a film that did anything but show the inherent weaknesses of 80s slasher cinema. If I were forced to see one film that I saw and was underwhelmed by this week again, it would be Europa. Von Trier might be a nihilist and have a certain degree of melancholy German nationalism, but Europa has beautiful stark, black and white photography and amazing narration by Max Von Sydow. The Prowler’s just got a couple dead teenagers and a fairly uncreative psycho in a cool costume.

3/10
5/10 for Europa, even though I had no desire to write about it.

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