Once a burgeoning young horror fan stumbles across the lesser-known genre films of the early ‘80s, discovering hidden treasures like The Burning and Hell Night, he will be inevitably drawn to the shitty slasher fringe dwellers of the era. 1981’s The Prowler serves as an easy example. It’s a lackluster slasher flick about an undead soldier who sneaks around a graduation dance, bayoneting obnoxious college kids. I realize that description makes it sound sorta appealing, but as far as horror films go, it’s suspense-free, and even boring at times. Still, The Prowler is worth watching for one reason, and one reason only––the preternatural make-up skills of a young Tom Savini. Sure the movie blows, but predictably, the kill scenes totally rock. Does that immediately qualify The Prowler as mandatory viewing? Of course not: the casual horror fan need not apply. But Savini completists are happy to tag the sign-up sheet.
Similarly, 1989’s Intruder completely sucks ass as a movie. The acting, dialogue, and plotting are unbelievably lame. Writer/director Scott Spiegel (a longtime friend of Sam Raimi who’s credited with writing Evil Dead 2) attempts maximum creativity when staging his scenes and the unfortunate result is film school amateur hour. His shot selection is frequently straight-up silly, with absurd perspective shots serving as the apparent core of his directorial skill set. But this shitty-ass little film has an ace up its sleeve––some early, jaw-dropping work from KNB, the unparalleled king of contemporary make-up effects.
Although Paramount scrubbed out all of the gore prior to its R-rated VHS release, a 2005 DVD reissue reinstated KNB’s beautiful latex carnage (and the recent Blu Ray from Synapse really seals the deal). The plot is frustratingly stupid: a handful of employees closing down a grocery store for the night are whacked one-by-one by an unknown killer. There’s an early red herring in the form of a lurking ex-boyfriend of one of the cashiers, but come on, any audience worth their weight in peanuts can see right through that shit. But obviously, that’s not the draw here. It’s all about KNB and their rubbery, blood-spraying goodness.
Prosthetic heads abound in Intruder, and KNB never met a prosthetic head they didn’t want to squash with a hydraulic press or run through a buzz saw. The body count may be low, but every kill practically glistens with gooey KNB love. Along with the outrageous violence, the film sports a cast that includes the Raimi boys and a don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it Bruce Campbell cameo. It’s certainly no horror classic, but for stalwart gorehounds, Intruder is sweet, sweet manna.