Peter’s Retro Movie Review: The Prowler (1981)

April 3, 2012

The Prowler Movie Posterby Peter Nielsen

Ok, first of all… Why the hell haven’t I seen this movie before?

I’m not kidding! I’ve never laid eyes on it prior to watching it the other night! Almost unheard of, I know, considering the fact that this is a pretty decent slasher-flick with great make-up effects! But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here… Back it up a bit!

Dear John Letter...

Dear John Letter...

The Prowler starts off with an old newsreel showing soldiers returning home from Europe onboard the Queen Mary after the end of World War II. We then cut to a “Dear John letter” written to one of the soldiers overseas. It’s read out loud to us as we slowly scroll down to the signature. It says Rosemary and she’s breaking up with this soldier because she’s tired of waiting and, as it turns out, has found another.

It’s 1945 and we’re at the graduation dance in the small town of Avalon Bay. So is Rosemary and her new suitor, but after a while the couple decide to drive off to a small gazebo to be by themselves. As they sit there “necking”, a man in full battle fatigues approaches and brutally kills them both. The killer places a rose in Rosemary’s hand and the screen fades to black.

Fast forward 35 years and the town is once again preparing for the graduation dance. It’s the first one since the double homicide because Rosemary’s father, Major Chatham, wouldn’t allow one to be held. He obviously went a little crazy after the incident! This very small part is played by Lawrence Tierney (Reservoir Dogs, Silver Bullet).

We now get to meet our two main characters, Pam and Mark. He’s the town deputy and is left in charge when the sheriff goes away on his annual fishing-trip. I found it hilarious that even though things are kind of heating up, he still won’t allow anything to keep him from that trip. A typical small-town sheriff? Or at least a stereotypical one! He’s played by Farley Granger, an actor who’s been around for quite some time and has done such diverse movies as, for instance, Strangers on a Train and They Call Me Trinity.

A clean kill! Ha! Get it! I KILL me! Ha! There I go again... okay, I'll stop now.

A clean kill! Ha! Get it! I KILL me! Ha! There I go again... okay, I'll stop now.

I’m sorry! I kind of went off on a side-track here. I WAS going to talk about Pam and Mark… Ok, so Pam (Vicky Dawson) is one of the organizers of the dance and has a crush on Mark (Christopher Goutman), who’s also taken a liking to her. He’s not bad-looking so some of the other girls flirt with him too, from time to time. Nothing serious, just kind of innocent and friendly-like, but Pam isn’t too happy about it anyway. Not that the movie delves too much into this, it being a slasher-flick and all, and as such doesn’t really deal with the deeper aspects of a couple’s love-life. Or rather… not at all! And to be totally honest, do we really watch these types of movies for the Shakespearian depths of human emotion? Or the wittiness of Billy Wilder?

No, of course not!

If you DO, well… you’re in the wrong theater, pal! In THIS theater it’s all about the gore, nudity and gratuitous violence. So you won’t be surprised to find out it’s not only the teenagers who are getting ready for this night. Along with shots of them getting prepped we see the killer gearing up for a night out on the town, but instead of sporting a carnation, he’s bringing a shotgun, a bayonet and a pitchfork! I must admit the pitchfork IS a nice touch.

Time to haul ass!

Time to haul ass!

What follows is a pretty standard slasher-flick plot and I know that the use of the word “plot” might be pushing it a little, but stay with me folks.

When you’ve seen a lot of these you pretty much know what’s coming and instead start looking for the things that stand out and in The Prowler it’s definitely the extraordinary effects by the master of gore himself, Tom Savini. The killings are very well executed (sorry!) and extremely brutal and violent, so be warned! The one with the pitchfork in the shower was pretty horrific and the bayonet through the top of the skull scene made even me wince.

Mr. Savini and the director, Joseph Zito, were to work together again a couple of years later on Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. You know… the one featuring a young Crispin Glover and an even younger Corey Feldman? Mr. Zito has only directed a couple of other titles apart from the aforementioned. Two Chuck Norris flicks (Missing in Action, Invasion U.S.A.) and one, starring Dolph Lundgren (Red Scorpion).

Pam and Mark in the house.

Pam and Mark in the house.

What I also liked about The Prowler is the fact that the heroine, Pam, is not like other blonde bimbos in these type of movies. You know, the ones who take off their clothes at any chance they get and most often run straight into the arms of the killer. Pam is smart enough to know that a guy in army fatigues, holding a pitchfork whilst staring at you, is probably not out collecting manure. It’s time to haul ass! She does have a tendency to walk backwards though, so I don’t know…

Oh, and what’s up with the deputy’s flashlight? I mean, c’mon… that has GOT to be the worst flashlight in cinema history! Even lighting a match would have been preferable! BUT, all jokes aside… I like this movie! It’s got all the ingredients that a good slasher should have and the excellent effects make it rank a little bit higher than many others. I think I’ll end on the same note I started with: Why the hell haven’t I seen this before??

Until next time my friends, why not share your thoughts on The Prowler in the comments below?

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