Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Prowler (1981, Joseph Zito)

Joseph Zito reveled in filth before and after the film, directing Chuck Norris in Invasion USA and Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. The latter is considered by many fans to be the best Friday, something I've never understood. If it's a better slasher than Prowler that's only because Zito had the advantage of a slasher icon.

Tom Savini does the gore effects for Prowler as he also did for The Final Chapter, and even those are comparatively lackluster. Zito has some instincts for creating a sense of place - there's one genuinely great sequence involving four people going in and out of the same small room and getting offed - but no knack for making the deaths themselves effective. The camera lingers stupidly on the aftermath just long enough to take the wind out of Savini's efforts.

The most memorable death is memorable mainly for being physically impossible. This isn't necessarily a bad thing when it comes to Savini deaths. Everyone in Day of the Dead is made of Play-Dough, but the tearings-apart happen with such operatic flair that it doesn't matter. The Prowler has less macabre imagination than the average...well, Friday the 13th sequel. Given Savini's comparative work of the time, the similarly micro-budgeted The Burning and Maniac, the results suggest he was out of good ideas on this one.

The other memorable impossibility is the revelation of the killer's identity, unexpected and seemingly clever for a moment by the way it ties into a subtle detail before, but then hey waittaminnit, it doesn't make any god damned logistical sense and you're left scratching your head.

The filler between the killing time counts in a flick like this and the worst offense possible is to let your victims be boring. This is what makes most of the Fridays unwatchable, compared to even the most unwatchable Nightmare On Elm Street. Without the future star victim power of Corey Feldman or Crispin Glover, Zito again fails to make this film less boring than the most overrated Friday he would direct two years later.

Slash trash lives and dies by excellence within a rigid formula stolen from Halloween, and sadly The Prowler made me realize that Tom Savini's magic touch isn't enough to make a moderately competent execution of that formula worthwhile.

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