Wednesday, 2 February 2011



The 1980s: whatever else those years are famous for, they were the heyday of the teen slasher movie, particularly in the years before the Video Recordings Act and the emasculation of the genre by the MPAA and BBFC. But coming off the back of the earlier entries in the Friday The 13th and Halloween franchises, we had the likes of Madman, Happy Birthday To Me, He Knows You're Alone, Pranks, Terror Train, Hell Night, Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine, Campsite Massacre.... and a whole slew of other cashins, some fairly good, some utterly tedious. Anyone else remember Final Exam? Graduation Day?

I first saw Rosemary's Killer as a reissue on the bottom half of a double-bill with Re-Animator; while I'd already seen the latter I had no knowledge of the former beyond some vague memories of Alan Jones' review in Starbust (I've just found it: Issue 45). And I recall enjoying it immensely, perhaps because I didn't know very much about it as it was a 1981 film doing the rounds again in 1986. Despite the heavy BBFC cuts it was spooky, creepy, and had enough Boo! moments and gratuitously sleazy nudity to feel very much like a typical slasher movie, but better than usual, even though it doesn't so much follow the formula as photocopy it.

In 1945, a jilted soldier freshly returned from the war takes revenge on his heartless girlfriend Rosemary by killing her and her new beau with a pitchfork; since then the small town of Avalon Bay has never staged a graduation dance. But thirty-five years later, surely enough time has passed? Clearly not as the still unhinged killer - who was never caught - returns in full military uniform with bayonets, shotguns and that pitchfork. The sheriff is out of town on vacation leaving his young deputy in sole charge, various teens are predictably wandering off for a midnight swim or some illicit humping in the basement, there's mysterious activity in the cemetery and Rosemary's wheelchair-bound old dad has apparently disappeared....

Now that it's been passed uncut you can see Tom Savini's splattery blood effects in their full wonderfully disgusting glory, and small wonder the Ferman-era BBFC demanded massive excisions, particularly to the bloodspurting moneyshots and the naked girl being graphically pitchforked in the shower. It's efficiently directed by Joseph Zito, who also made one of the better entries in the Friday The 13th series (Part 4, although I'll always have a soft spot for Part 5 as it was my first Friday film), nicely shot and scored and has a couple of very creepy sequences: one in a cemetery, another creeping where our hero and his girlfriend are wandering round the spooky old Chatham Mansion - she finds some jewellry in a chimney, the maniac is outside, the lights have gone out...

Of course, being an early eighties film, there's no internet or cellphones (and therefore no scene where Google is unavailable or they can't get a signal), but that's part of the period charm, as is the lying trailer: "night after night, he waits for her....", the voiceover intones even though he does nothing of the kind. Then again, the trailer boldly throws up the title Rosemary's Killer as a caption even as the voiceover steadfastly refers to it as The Prowler, its original American title. I'd be lying if I said this film was any kind of a Work Of Genius, that it was robbed at the Baftas or the BFI should preserve it for future generations. It's an entirely unoriginal slasher movie. But as the subgenre goes it's far better than expected, far better than the usual films of this kind and it delivers on its promises. Worth a watch.


Go on, you know you want to:

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