Prime Suspect 1989 Review

Prime Suspect 1989

Directed by: Bruce Kimmell

Starring: Tom Bresnahan, Don Blakely, Ann Dane

Review by Luisito Joaquín González

Tonight my friends, I’m going to see Expendables 2 at the cinema. Sly Stallone, Arnie, Van Damme, Lundgren and they even got Chuck Norris. Ooh wee!!

Whereas nowadays these films come out every now and then, back in the late eighties, action flicks were rock and roll. Rambo, Commando, Die Hard and The Predator still look amazing, if you watch them on a Plasma and once in a while, I like to dig one out and enjoy with a few tins of San Miguel and a large greasy Meat Feast Pizza. That is what you call living peeps…

Due to the genre’s sudden popularity and the regression of slasher dominance, many of the filmmakers that had jumped on the slasher bandwagon in the early eighties had switched over to action as the decade progressed. Joseph Zito, the director of The Prowler had made Invasion USA and Red Scorpion. David Prior released Operation Warzone and Jungle Assault among others. Hell, even Bruno Mattei got in on the act with Strike Commando and Double Target. There were also a couple of films that attempted to mix the trappings of the two cinematic trends to appeal to both fanbases. The Majorettes started as a slasher, but then switched to a shoot ’em up halfway through and The Zero Boys did the same, but the other way around. Prime Suspect is another that works along the line of the same crossbreed methodology…

After a traditional slashertastic opening of a young kid seeing her mother get murdered, we meet a teenage couple. Todd and his girlfriend Diane are very much in love and are going camping so that they can spend some quality time together. The trip ends quickly however when a masked killer turns up and stabs the young girl to death whilst Todd is swimming in the lake. The shock of the incident has a huge psychological impact on the grieving boyfriend and he loses the ability to speak. That’s not his only problem though, because the Police actually think that Todd is the murderer. Thankfully, one of his psychiatrists believes his story and the two of them begin working together to stop the maniac before it’s too late…

The problem with genre cocktails is simply that someone who may be expecting a feature film of just the one kind may end up disappointed by the combination. That someone this time around was me. Suspect started superbly as a slasher: The youngsters head off in to the forest and there are plenty of glimpses of the nut job’s black boots stalking and POV shots. He even pulls back the branches to get a closer look at the action just like Jason from Friday the 13th. Then after a very brutal murder, we leave the woodland and get in to thriller mode. Don’t get me wrong, the slasher stuff is a recurring theme and continues throughout, but I was thinking we were going to have an out and out killer in the woods flick and instead we were given a bit of a muddle.

From then on, the story branches into a whodunit vibe and a bunch of likely suspects are introduced. There’s another murder, a stalking sequence and then an absolutely bizarre moment. Why bizarre? Well because for no reason at all that I noticed, a nutty mercenary beats up a cop and then heads out into the jungle to do battle with the Sheriff and four deputies. So in the space of forty-five minutes, we’ve gone from Friday the 13th to The Fugitive to First Blood. Only in the eighties could that happen.

To be fair though, Prime Suspect doesn’t market itself as a slasher and let’s be honest, before seeing it here, how many of you even knew that it existed? It’s not available on DVD and my VHS has seen better days. It’s an ok-ish time waster for evening consumption, but despite its ambition to do everything, it does have somewhat lacklustre pacing. There is the usual twist, a final girl (in this case an older woman) and an unmasking scene that sums everything up. Then we get the silliest ever confrontation and the worst – AND I MEAN WORST – final credits song in the history of cheesy slashers. My gawd, I cringe just recalling it. One thing that I’ve always wondered is why killers in these flicks always feel the need to explain their motives before the final murder. Of course I realise the point cinematically, but it makes you wonder why they only chose the one person (guaranteed survivor) to explain their wrath too? Lesson is: if you want to be a masked nut job, never tell anyone why. If you do, you’re bound to get captured and killed. That’s it.

I feel like I haven’t told you enough about Prime Suspect, but there’s really not a lot else to say. It does pack in some slasher shenanigans, a tad of  nudity, a few mullets and the chance to guess who’s under the mask. The performances are not so bad, actually. I am not saying that they were good mind, but certainly not noticeably poor enough to cause a disturbance. In fact, this was probably Stallone’s career best. He plays the crazy mercenary that I told you goes on a kill frenzy halfway through the picture. He handles the role quite well and I loved the John Wayne impersonation. I wonder if that was scripted or a touch of improvisation? Whilst we are on the subject of Stallone, anyone else agree that he is deserving of an award of some kind? He made three slasher movies in a year. I mean, wow! During the same twelve-months that this hit the shelves, he also appeared in Masque of the Red Death and Ten Little Indians. It beggars belief!

Anyway, now I am just rambling. I think, to be honest Prime Suspect will only appeal to those desperate to uncover a rarer than rare slasher. It’s not breaking any new ground and there’s nothing notable or novel about it. A few moments of ok-ish-ness are not enough to warrant the hunt, especially as there’s only two slasher-style murders in the whole thing. With that said though, there’s something irresistible about watching eighties trash like this and the opening was so good that I really felt like I had discovered a forgotten Just Before Dawn. If a shiny DVD is released on the cheap, then pick it up, but do not let the eBay bandits get their way with you by selling a rough VHS at an extortionate price.

As for me, I shall return to my Meat Feast and cans of lager… Adiós 🙂

Slasher Trappings:

Killer Guise: √√

Gore: √

Final Girl: √√√



Posted on August 25, 2012, in Slasher and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I worked on this movie a million years ago and just stumbled across one of the locations today. 30 years later I still have never seen the film (or been paid for it!)

  2. Wow that’s pretty cool! I guess that you were involved in the production. Was it a fun set to be on?

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