Tag Archives: after they were famous

Never gonna dance again

prowler-dvdTHE PROWLER

3 Stars  1981/18/85m

“It will freeze your blood.”

A.k.a. Rosemary’s Killer (UK) / The Graduation

Director: Joseph Zito / Writer: Neal F. Barbera & Glenn Leopold / Cast: Vicki Dawson, Christopher Goutman, Farley Granger, Lawrence Tierney, Cindy Weintraub, Donna Davis, Lisa Dunsheath, Timothy Wahrer.

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “This is everybody’s last night together. Some of us’ll never see each other again.”

Bad pacing almost kills this early slasher flick from the director of Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. This unruly little feature begins with the industry standard prologue, here set waaaaay back in 1945, where young Rosemary’s Dear John letter to an American G.I. culminates in the rejected soldier gruesomely skewering her and her new lover with a pitchfork at their graduation dance.


35 years later, Avalon Bay is set to hold its first graduation dance since that fateful evening, thus prompting the killer to don his old uniform in an effort to repeat the crime on the new kids. So far, so My Bloody Valentine. Nominal heroine Pam encounters the killer in the student dorms (unknown to her, he just killed a couple of her friends) and alerts her deputy boyfriend, Mark.

Together, they inform one of the chaperones at the dance while they begin snooping for clues, first around mansion of wheelchair bound Major Chatham, father of the long-dead Rosemary, as he grabbed Pam as she fled from the prowler. This takes a long time. A very long time.


Back at the dance, Pam’s friend Lisa has already wandered off for a late night swim and becomes another casualty, as does the poor teacher who comes looking for her.

Pam and Mark continue to delve into the unsolved mystery of Rosemary’s murder and, without the guidance of the town’s sheriff, stumble around slower than a Mazda Premacy. To the police station they go, then to the cemetery where they find Lisa’s body in the freshly exhumed grave of Rosemary Chatham, then back to the Chatham house. All of this takes forever, which, in a slasher film is unwelcome.

Of course, Zito tries to wring suspense out of this nothingness but fails miserably. Dancing very slowly moving between shots of Pam in the car and Mark crouching down at the graveside is not scary, it’s boring. Hurry up. Kill some more people. Kill those people over there…

Finally, on the second visit of the night to the Chatham mansion, the killer puts in an appearance and chases Pam around with his pointy-pitchfork until she blasts his head clean off his shoulders.


There are other ‘issues’ with the picture; a horny teen couple stray away from supervision so they can have sex in the basement. The camera lingers, showing them from behind objects in the foreground. A pervert watches too. We wait for him to die and then then couple. We switch to another scene (probably with Pam and Mark achieving nothing in their investigation) and the sex-couple are never featured again! Once the killer is revealed, it really turns out that his identity is secondary to the needs of the plot – it really could’ve been anyone ‘of an age’ to have committed the 1945 murder. And what the hell happened to the Major?

The low body count doesn’t do too much harm; Tom Savini’s gore-jobs here at top notch, so much so that even I questioned whether this could be a genuine snuff film at one point. The shower murder is particularly realistic and nasty, as is Lisa’s fatal throat-cuttery and the tracheotomy on the nice teacher. As with Zito’s previous film, Bloodrage and also his Friday episode, there’s more than a subtle hint of violence chiefly against young women, which was discomforting.


The photography, score and the original artwork (above) are all ace and there are no problems with the acting abilities of those involved, although Vicki Dawson, as Pam, evidently excelled in her how-to-frown acting class. One curiosity of the film is its number of striking similarities to one Friday the 13th Part 2, so much so that even the final girls look like sisters…. See?

friday-prowler2It should probably be noted that The Prowler was shot before Friday was released (albeit several months earlier) so it’s just some kinda weird coincidence…isn’t it? I mean, Zito later directed a Jason and there’s that double-impaling. Hmmmm.

I think The Prowler is okay; it’s flawed but the technical abilities of its general look and Savini’s wonderful work means it would be ignorant of these plus-points to rate it any lower than three stars. It’s commonly viewed as a cult favourite, although be prepared for some boredom between the slashings…

Blurb-of-interest: Lawrence Tierney was in Midnight.


devon2 Stars  2005/18/83m

“Only his victims know why…”

A.k.a. Sawed (UK DVD)

Directors: Koichi Sakamoto & Johnny Yong Bosch / Writers: Karan Ashley, Ron Day & Tim Grace / Cast: Karan Ashley, Johnny Yong Bosch, Reza Bahador, Jonathan Cruz, Kristy Vaughan, Matt Moore, Paul Taylor, Allyn Carrell, Aleisha Force, Joel S. Greco, Jana Edele, Chip Joslin.

Body Count: 11

Dire-logue: “First day of school and we have a double homicide. How’s this going to look to the school board?”

“Only his victims know why…” – I think I might have a clue too. Could it be that the two leads, who also wrote and directed, are secretly Power Rangers? Laugh at me not, both the Green (Turbo?) and Yellow Rangers of olde lead this merry oddity of a slasher film, which calls itself “a young adult action thriller,” which is, y’know, like when snobby directors insist they’re making more than a body count film. Yes…you are. You really, really are. Ooh look, tits and blood 4 minutes in!

Anyway, in the small town of Canyon City, famed only for the unsolved disappearance of a child a decade or so earlier, there’s a body count problem occurring. Devon’s parents were the main suspects until they were found slaughtered a year later… His childhood friends saw a bloody boy wandering around at the same time. They’re now high school seniors, confoozled by a razor-lined baseball bat toting killer who beats the shit out of amorous couples about town. Nightmare-plagued heroine Symphony (!) and her buddy Josh (the Power Rangers – yeah!!) end up becoming the ones who face off with Devon and use their inexplicably last-second gained martial arts abilities to save the day – with a little help from their friends Freedom, Genesis and, uh, Craig.

Flashing MTV editing does little to counter balance the dismal looking picture quality but the action sequences are well choreographed but remain wildly out of place like a cactus on an iceberg or, as Icelandic crooner Anggun had it, like Snow on the Sahara… It does serve to remind us that nobody’s really tackled a chop-socky slasher flick yet, that could be cool. A fallen Kung Fu protege on a Ralph Macchio mission of DEATH for those who beat him at the crane or whatever it was.

Devon’s Ghost isn’t a total loss, it’s just weird. Really weird. I half expected that evil witch thingy from the Power Rangers to appear, spouting dubbed lines while the Rangers try to organise a bake sale or something. The UK re-titlementization – and its box art – was undoubtedly some half assed attempt to pass it off as a member of the Saw family.

What the Dickens!?

olivertwistedOLIVER TWISTED

3 Stars 1997/15/104m

“The family secret is out…”

Director: Dean Gates / Writer: G. Patrick Charuhas / Cast: Signe Kiesel, Jason McMahan, Brian Agmes, Karen Black, Erik Estrada, Dave Kramer, Dianne M. Grant, Heather Hageman, Manuel Guevara Jr.

Body Count: 9

With a title like that, I was expecting some psychotronic re-telling of the Dickens classic. Unfortunately though, we’re not treated to the gory demises of Fagan, the Artful Dodger or Oliver Twist (how annoying was that kid?) and instead it’s a modest Halloween copy from Florida.

Institutionalised plate-headed Oliver goes into a coma after being sunk by two anaesthetic darts after he murders two of the hospital staff. Refusing to take him back, he is instead sent to reside with his aunt and her two kids – one of whom is called Olivia. I think we all know where this is going…

“Livvy’s” bratty brother Jeff becomes obsessed with Oliver, who remains zonked out in the spare room while Livvy herself starts having odd premonitions of murders which, she believes, aren’t real. The mailman gets his hand chopped off with a machete when Oliver wakes up and goes walkabout and then two teen couples are invited over the celebrate Livvy’s birthday for no other purpose than to serve as thwacking material for Oliver.

Bargain basement productions values notwithstanding, there’s a good score and one neat scene that, albeit ripped off from Dressed to Kill, cranks the tension towards the finale. From the look of it though, this could well have been shot in the mid-80s with its drained colour and naive teenager-cum-blade-targets, Karen Black and freakin’ Erik Estrada (as mom and meddling doctor respectively). Neither of them have much to do and probably wish they were back on the set of Airport ’75

The blindingly obvious twist is nicely played out, although we’re never informed of the source of Livvy’s flashbacks to the baby in the tub, nor what happened to Oliver in the first place that landed him residence in the asylum… Even with these unexplained oddities, overlong running time and some dreadful hairstyles, it’s still more fun than sitting through the musical Oliver! any day…

Blurbs-of-interest: Karen Black can also be found in Some Guy Who Kills People, Children of the Corn IV, Out of the Dark, and Curse of the Forty-Niner.

Cutthroat Alley


2 Stars  2003/15/96m

“The only way out of the hood…is in a body bag.”

Director/Writer: Timothy Wayne Folsome / Cast: Cisco Reyes, Marquita Joyce, Jose Turner, A. Ramirez, Khalida Outlaw, Glenn Herman, Hadrian L. Hooks, Josh Watson, Mack 10, Janice Palmer.

Body Count: 9

Yo yo yo, it’s time to scream in da hood coz of da masked syko shanking everyone, yo!

About ten years ago, a film called Homecoming: The Revenge was planned to cash-in on the let’s-copy-Scream trend at its peak, it was declared that the only avenue left unexplored in the genre was the urban slasher flick. The film never appeared and seemed forgotten, leaving the gate to the meadow open and others soon found their way to the fresh pasture…

Ergo, it’s the knife for the members of a south-central LA ghetto crew as a cloaked, skull-masked killer slices and dices his way through the cast of this urban slasher landscape.

In the week before reformed gang member Reyes is to leave for college after turning his life around when his dad was murdered in a drive-by, the schizo pops up all over the neighbourhood to waste his ex-friends, making him everybody’s choice suspect. Obviously we know he’s not the killer and after a good seven or eight slayings, the true fiend is literally unmasked for long enough for him to spurt out a long winded exposition before the happy ending is thwarted by a twist that can be seen flying in all the way from the East Side.

Although it can boast a bit of surface polish and is way better than the similarly themed Urban Massacre – which lacked even the courtesy or script intellect to bother revealing who the killer was – writer-director Folsome can’t seem to let the ghetto clichés be and continually appears to forget it’s a slasher flick he’s making.

Racial issues crop up but aren’t forced down our throats, although anybody unfamiliar with the stereotypes of rap culture may find deciphering the dialogue a real challenge: barely a sentence passes without one of the gang-members referring to a ‘punk ass nigger’ within their clique or swearing out statements.

One of the cast members (I think the first victim) was once a member of Bone Thugs n’ Harmony. I have no idea what this means. The film received a horrendous rating on IMDb of 2.4; it’s not a good film but probably wasn’t quite that dismal. Or I just had no idea what was going on.


caretaker2.5 Stars  2008/18/82m

“Not all love stories have a happy ending.”

Director: Bryce Fridrik Olson / Writer: Jackie Linder Olson / Cast: Kira Verrastro, Jennifer Freeman, James Immekus, Andrew St. John, Jennifer Tilly, Victoria Vande Vegte, Diego Torres, Judd Nelson, Jonathan Breck, Will Stiles, Lola Davidson.

Body Count: 9

The Zone Horror channel has given me the opportunity to see quite a few slasher films since I first had access to it about a year ago. Plenty of these films are bad – The Gingerdead Man, Crazy Eights – and some have been pleasant surprises – StagKnight, Pray for Morning. The Caretaker lands somewhere inbetween. It’s one of those instantly forgettable B-movies populated by fresh faced, enthusiastic thespians and a couple of has-beens signed on for the pay-cheque…

Here, Jennifer Tilly and Judd Nelson graduate from their 80’s teen roles to being “the adults” – namely a nympho teacher with a penchant for low-cut tops and a concerned father of the obvious final girl respectively. Elsewhere, Jonathan Breck (The Creeper from Jeepers Creepers) has a limited, but effective role as a questionable limo driver taking three teen boys and their dates to an abandoned house at a grapefruit grove (orchard?) where an old legend about a psychotic caretaker who kept his beautiful wife shackled in their house, then murdered her family and eventually her when she tried to leg it with their newborn daughter.


In a sort of diet-Hell Night evolution, it turns out those sent to make scary noises from outside have already been murdered and now those inside are to fall victim to the disguised killer, who uses a tweaked fruit picker to skewer everyone to death. One girl says she is bored by everything and opts to walk back to town – and survives! Another girl – in her prom dress – attempts to take off on a quad bike before she is clothes-lined off of it. There’s also fruit-picker to the dick, grapefruit asphyxiation and an overdose of juvenile fart-gag humour. Squeaky Tilly plays it charismatically, further cementing my theory that she and Cyndi Lauper are in fact the same person.

The outcome is pointedly obvious when you make a quick reckie of Judd Nelson’s overall screentime and the number of years between the past murders, all equating to a resolution that’s about as difficult to establish as a three-brick Lego set. Tame, passable teen horror for a boring evening you don’t mind forgetting about.

Blurbs-of-interest: Breck later played the loon in Mask Maker. Jennifer Tilly was in 1989’s Far From Home and several of the Child’s Play films (and TV series) as Tiffany; Will Stiles was also in Circle.

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