PURE TERROR MONTH: De Prooi (1985)

About the Author: You can read the music and film criticisms of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his rock ‘n’ roll biographies, along with horror and sci-fi novellas, on Facebook. He also writes for B&S Movies.

Don’t let the addition of this ‘80s Amsterdam-bred thriller’s inclusion alongside the American, low-brow ‘60s horrors of Night Fright and Night of the Blood Beast in this Mill Creek Pure Terror 50 Movie Pack leave to you believe this movie will be a boring watch. While it doesn’t provide the ‘80s slasher overtones coupled with cliché horror shock-twists in which American audiences are accustomed, those who enjoyed the Dutch art-thrillers The 4th Man (1979) from Paul Verhoeven and The Vanishing (1988) by George Sluizer will be drawn into the film noirish twists of De Prooi (The Proof, aka Death in the Shadows).

As with the previously referenced films, the cinematography of De Prooi is polished; in conjunction with the score, the film maintains a purposefully sullen mood throughout. An added plus: the English dub is excellent. As with any giallo-influenced thriller—regardless of the lack of blood (so we have a film noir here)—red herring characters are afoot and the obligatory “strange things” start happening, i.e., an address book leads to a weird couple who run a garage that want nothing to do with Valerie and say they never heard of her dead mother. Val discovers Ria, her mother’s friend and neighbor—who moonlights as a peep show worker—is suddenly planning a trip to Sri Lanka. When Val finds a regretful long-lost “uncle,” he’s murdered. Then there’s Val’s mother’s red-herring ex-employer, a local lawyer who’s a bit too eager to help Val. And on the night her boyfriend doesn’t pick her up for a party, someone runs Val’s bicycle off the road.

Written by the husband and wife, editor-and-directing team of Ton Ruys and Vivian Pieters (she’s the executive producer of the oldest and longest-running Dutch daytime-series, Goede tijden, slechte tijden, aka Good Times, Bad Times), De Prooi tells the story of a soon-to-graduate high school student, Valerie Jaspers, and her mother, Trudy, who live a quiet, middle class life in a village outside of Amsterdam—with skeletons.

When her mother becomes a victim of what seems to be a random hit-and run, an autopsy reveals that it wasn’t an “accident”: Trudy was run over twice. The police investigation reveals that Trudy was never married and had no children: she’s not Valerie’s mother. So Val sets off to solve the mystery—of not only who her real mother is, but who murdered the woman she thought was her mother.

As with any film noir, an Italian Giallo-influenced masked assailant will make sure those skeletons are kept closeted. Remember being disappointed by the forced, homogenized ending tacked onto the 1993 American remake of The Vanishing? As with most Euro-thrillers, there is no warm and fuzzy ending cast in the shadows of this effective, chilling and dreary Dutch thriller.

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