Friday, January 13, 2012

Worth Mentioning - It Will Freeze Your Blood

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.


This week, Cody celebrates Friday the 13th with some classic horror while Jay finds some resolution in tragic reality.



THE PROWLER (1981)

On March 12, 1944, a young girl named Rosemary sent a letter to her G.I. beau serving in World War II to inform him that, with no end in sight for the war, she could no longer wait for him.

June 28, 1945. By the night of the college graduation dance in the town of Avalon Bay, World War II had ended and our soldiers were coming home to the states. Rosemary and her new boyfriend left the dance for some alone time... and were brutally murdered by an unknown assailant wearing combat gear and wielding, somewhat incongruously, a pitchfork.

At the insistence of Rosemary's rich father, that was the last graduation dance in Avalon Bay... Until now. It's June 28, 1980 and the graduation dance is making a comeback. Any slasher fan knows that this is a bad idea.


With the return of the dance comes the return of the killer dressed for combat, armed with a knife, a bayonet, a shotgun, and yes, his trusty pitchfork. The killer stalks around the dance and the girls' dorm, cutting down the numbers of the graduating class one-by-one.

This is one of the more popular non-franchise slasher films of the early '80s. I had heard about it for years but it was never available to rent in my town, so I wasn't able to see it until Blue Underground released it on DVD in late 2003. It's a well made slasher with some great suspense moments and the perfect simple set-up, but a weakness in that there isn't a whole lot going on for stretches and none of the characters are all that interesting... But it also has one great strength.

 

That strength is the special effects in the kill scenes, which makes sense because they were done by Tom Savini during the height of his glory. It's great work, and something about the first modern day kill totally freaked me out upon first viewing. I had rented the DVD from Netflix, but when I saw what Savini did with that moment, it was decided right then: I had to own a copy of this movie.

So I do, and the DVD has an extra feature that I find even more entertaining than the film itself - an audio commentary with Tom Savini and director Joseph Zito. It's a very fun and informative track with some good laughs due to Savini's penchant for mixing names up and not knowing what's going on. When I watch The Prowler, I almost always watch it with the commentary on.



A screening of The Prowler brought Joseph Zito's talents to the attention of Friday the 13th investor/producer Phil Scuderi, which got him the job of directing Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter a few years later. Zito, with Savini again doing the effects, made The Final Chapter one of the best entries in the F13 series, so I thought today would be the perfect time to feature his earlier slasher.



NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: LIVE FROM WISCONSIN - HOSTED BY MARK & MIKE (2006)

Despite being a huge fan of the documentary American Movie and its subject, indie filmmaker Mark Borchardt, I somehow missed the fact that he and his good pal Mike Schank had hosted a Halloween special for G4 in 2006.

Half of the show consisted of Mark and Mike taking a tour of haunted areas and Halloween yard displays, one of Mark's early shorts and the live production of a three+ minute zombie short. For the other half, Mark and Mike sat down together to watch George Romero's 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead in its entirety while recording an audio & video commentary. A lot of the special doesn't seem to be available online, but the Night of the Living Dead commentary is up on the G4 website in three parts.


If you like Mark and Mike from American Movie, it's a lot of fun to listen to them talk about NOTLD and ramble on about random things. If you're a fan of both Mark and Mike and NOTLD, it's a pretty awesome way to spend an hour and a half.


Jay's Mention:


PARADISE LOST 3: PURGATORY (2011)

Directed by Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger

The third and seemingly final film in the "Paradise Lost" series recaps the entire history of the West Memphis, Arkansas case and revisits Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley behind bars, up until their stunning release on August 19th of last year.

We mentioned their release in a previous article but if you aren't familiar with the case then here is a brief rundown.

In May of 1993, three young boys were murdered in the woods of West Memphis, Arkansas. Soon thereafter, three teenagers were arrested for the murders after one of the teens, Jessie Misskelley, confessed. Filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky went to Arkansas and documented everything-- including the trials. Upon release of their film on HBO in 1996, a large group of supporters grew for the three West Memphis kids, and they set out to prove their innocence. This was the subject of the second film, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations. 



Purgatory does a great job of revisiting everything we've seen before, but with a fresh set of eyes. 16mm film that was left on the cutting room floor the first time is now used to retell the basic information of the case so even if you've never seen any of the previous films, you're on the same playing field as everyone else. The use of this old 16mm footage is great, and helped make the retelling very interesting for me. The footage looks amazing too, and never before seen footage of the busy West Memphis truck stops and surrounding neighborhoods does a great job of placing you back in May of 1993. The film still makes great use of some wonderful aerial photography of West Memphis as well, and I was happy to see this, as that was always one of my favorite techniques in the previous films.

The documentary touches on some of the newer DNA testing and rumors of jury tampering in the original Baldwin/Echols trial as well as points a finger at a possible new suspect. It's wrapped up with the sudden release of the West Memphis Three, now all grown men in their mid-30s, after they are allowed to submit a rare plea called the Alford Plea. In this scenario, they must admit guilt to the crimes while also being allowed to maintain their innocence. 



The film also shows that two parents of the victims, long time believers of the WM3's guilt, have changed their minds and now believe them to be innocent while also revisiting one of the main witnesses the prosecution called in the original case, Dale Griffis, an apparent occult expert. The new stuff is enjoyable to watch, but as someone who has really dug into this case over the last few months, not much of it was news to me. The biggest revelations came during the jury tampering segment as I wasn't very clear on those claims. All in all, it's another solid entry into the franchise and is well worth watching. I suggest that everyone watch all three films, but don't stop there. All of the case information is available online for anyone to view.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of The Prowler and you actually got it right when you called it "shocking". The bayonet through head kill, now that's disturbingly graphic even for my taste

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