The Prowler (1981)

DVD Cover (Blue Underground)
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Overall Rating 61%
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Ranked #2,673
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Vicky Dawson
Vicky Dawson
Christopher Goutman
Christopher Goutman
Lawrence Tierney
Lawrence Tierney
Farley Granger
Farley Granger
Cindy Weintraub
Cindy Weintraub
Review by Chad
Added: August 14, 2011
We haven't covered any of those beloved eighties slashers in a while, so today, I decided to remedy that with The Prowler, a 1981 flick from Joseph Zito (Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter) with special effects courtesy of Tom Savini. I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this one as I had never seen so much as a trailer for it before popping it in, and honestly, the only reason I looked it up in the first place is because I was trying to find a movie that I saw listed in an old edition of Fangoria (this wasn't it). So, I went in completely blind, not knowing whether I had a stinker on my hands or a classic. In the end... well, the synopsis first.

We begin back in 1945, with a young lady writing a letter to her soldier boyfriend telling him that she no longer wants to wait for him to return home from the war. She's young, you see, and she needs somebody who will actually be there for her. How thoughtful. She eventually meets a guy and goes to the college dance with him, the two head out to a lover's lane sort of deal, and a masked man decked out in army fatigues shows up to kill them both in grisly fashion. Who could the killer possibly be? We never find out, and instead, we...

...fast-forward to 1980 in this same small town at the site of the same college, where we discover that school dances have been forbidden ever since those brutal double-murders. Until this weekend, that is. Yes, the students and the teachers are tempting fate by putting on a massive dance, with the lovely Pam (Vicky Dawson) in charge of the entire affair. Oh, and with the sheriff out of town, it's up to the inexperienced deputy Mark (Christopher Goutman) to make sure that order is kept in the town with these drunken kids running around. Of course, that will be the least of his worries when a masked man in army fatigues shows up and starts racking up a body count.

The Prowler is a by-the-books slasher flick, but if you're a fan of those movies, it is definitely a keeper. We have seen this exact formula countless times over the years: give a little bit of story behind the killings, put together a cast of body fodder, throw in a few red herrings, insert some badass death sequences, and wrap it up with the shocking reveal of who the killer actually is. It doesn't bring much originality to the table, but it is certainly an enjoyable example of why that formula became the standard in the first place.

As for the storyline itself, there's honestly nothing fantastic about it. Again, it's formulaic, and it is also very predictable. About ten minutes into the movie, I thought I knew who the killer was, but then I thought "Nah, that's way too easy, it can't be him / her." Turns out I was right. Everything between the introduction and the finale is standard slasher fare: the hero runs from the killer, the killer kills a few other people, the hero tries to warn people, the killer kills more people, the hero and the killer eventually come face to face, insert a final showdown, roll credits.

Now, this is not to say that I disliked the movie. Not at all. I love eighties slashers, and even though this was one of the more predictable ones, it still did a lot of things right. Chief among them was the fact that Tom Savini was responsible for the effects, and... well, you all know that Tom Savini was responsible for just about every great gore effect in horror history, right? Yes, and he has went on record as saying that his work here is the best that he has ever done. That's a huge testament to how great the gore in this film was, and yes, it certainly lives up to the claims. The kills are rather standard fare - stabbings, slit throats, etc. - but they are done so well that a lack of variety is easily forgivable.

Also, the film wins points by being competently shot by somebody who knows how to make an effective horror film. You've seen the story before, true, but there are very few pacing problems and there is a great build-up of tension and atmosphere throughout the entire thing. There are a couple of chase sequences that are just downright awesome, and even though describing them with words wouldn't do much to sell you on them, seeing them will show you exactly what I mean.

Overall, The Prowler gets a thumbs up. It's not the most original film on the planet, but it does do a lot of things right and slasher fans will definitely enjoy it. There's a great killer, some amazing effects work, scares, and an effective atmosphere from beginning to end - what more could you ask for? 8/10.
Crispy #1: Crispy - added 09/22/2011, 06:00 PM
Falls in that common gap that exists in the 80's slasher world: better than most that flooded the market, but nowhere near the classics. 8/10
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