The Prowler (1981)

Joseph Zito

Vicky Lawson - Pam MacDonald
Christopher Goutman - Deputy Mark London
Lawrence Tierney - Major Chatham
Farley Granger - Sheriff George Fraser
Cindy Weintraub - Lisa
Lisa Dunsheath - Sherry
David Sederholm - Carl

Genre - Horror/Slasher

Running Time - 89 Minutes

Score - 2.5 Howls Outta 4

Getting dumped sucks. You've given so much time and attention to that special person that you love that it's literally heartbreaking when this person decides it isn't enough and leaves you for whoever and/or whatever. It hurts more when the person doesn't have the guts to do it right in your face. I mean really - a text message? An e-mail? A phone call? What about catching your girlfriend making out with another guy the day before your High School Graduation?

Yeah I know it's been ten years but I still hate your guts, you slut! I hope you're suffering with the chronic case of herpes and that neverending yeast infection I wished for on my 19th and 20th birthdays, you whore!!

Soooo...what does this have to do with the film I'm reviewing today? Well in 1981's underrated slasher flick, THE PROWLER, the killer started his murder spree over a broken heart. And where do broken hearts go? If it was Whitney Houston, it'd probably be up her left and right nostril. But for THE PROWLER, it's through your heart and throat with a mighty big pitchfork and dagger. Yeah, I'll take that over any drug any day.

In 1945 at the end of World War II, a soldier about to return home from duty receives a "Dear John" letter from his girlfriend back home named Rosemary (Joy Glaccum). Apparently this slut can't keep her legs closed enough to wait for him and decides to move on, hoping they remain friends when he returns. Psh. Bitch. Anyway, the letter changes the guy and he decides to respond to the letter - by killing Rosemary and her new boyfriend while they're making out on the night of the Graduation Dance with a pitchfork.

We skip ahead to 1981 where Pam (Vicky Lawson) decides to bring back the infamous Graduation Dance, with not many of the townspeople too happy about it. Especially since the killer from 1945 was never caught. But that doesn't stop the killer from making a reappearance in his World War II army uniform, pitchfork, and a sweet dagger. With The Prowler back in the game killing graduating college students and Sheriff Fraser (Farley Granger) taking his annual fishing trip, it's up to Deputy Mark London (Christopher Goutman) and Pam to catch The Prowler and figure out who he is and why he's killing again.

is a slasher film not many people know or talk about. Stuck in the shadows of HALLOWEEN, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and even THE BURNING and MY BLOODY VALENTINE [where it shares many of its similarities], it wasn't until recently that THE PROWLER started getting more attention. But I can see why the film isn't talked about all that much. While the gore by FX master Tom Savini is incredible, THE PROWLER lacks in other aspects.

I think the worst culprit with THE PROWLER is the pretty dull story. Now I know slasher films aren't known for their incredible well-written screenplays and narratives. But when I start getting a bit bored with a slasher, something's not quite right. I'm not saying that the story itself is terrible. As a matter of fact, the premise is actually good enough to carry a film like this. The beginning alone, for me, is the best part of the film storywise. Rosemary breaks up with the killer for another man. And the killer takes revenge by killing the both of them. That's a great setup to the rest of the film.

However, when the killer comes back years later for another Graduation Dance massacre, what are his motives? Is the guy still nuts over Rosemary's betrayal? Is he continuing a tradition he started back in 1945? Does the dance bring back bad memories? We never really know why the killer returns to murder these innocent college graduates. And while it shouldn't bug me, it does. I mean we know why Michael Myers, The Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger did what they did. The Prowler got his revenge in 1945 and remained at large for 36 years. Why screw that up just to murder one-dimensional personalities? Yeah, there wouldn't be a movie called THE PROWLER if logic was intact, but I'm a logical person. Sue me.

And yeah, the characters weren't really all that interesting. All they do is walk around aimlessly and scream. I honestly couldn't have cared less if any of these people lived or died for the most part. I like to root for someone other than the killer in these slasher films, but there was no one here that deserved my support. Not even Pam or Mark, who as the protagonist leads, were as captivating as watching paint dry. I know slasher film characters are supposed to be stereotypical and lacking depth for the most part, but there was no depth to these characters at all. If Pam and Mark had more personality, the story would have worked better for me. The Prowler had more personality just in his murder weapons. That's pretty sad.

And I also guessed who The Prowler was within the first half hour. Maybe I've seen too many of these slashers but it wasn't hard to guess who the killer was. Still, at least the attempt at mystery was decent.

And I gotta mention the ending of the film - really, really lame. I don't even understand why the final sequence was even left in THE PROWLER. It didn't add anything to the story. If this sequence was placed in the middle of the film, it would have worked a whole lot better and would have added tension. But it just falls flat as an ending. I was left sitting there going, "That's it?" Hell, I saw this movie many years ago and I actually forgot this was the ending to the film. No wonder I couldn't remember. It sucked!

So while the narrative is flat, what really makes THE PROWLER worth watching is the gore. Tom Savini does probably his best work here, really making the murder scenes stand out and cringe-worthy. Especially in Uncut form, where you really see the destruction The Prowler does to his victims. From the scene where The Prowler impales some horny dude with his long dagger from the top of his head to the point where the end of the blade sticks out from under his chin, to the pitchfork scene in the shower, to the chaperone getting impaled right through her throat, to the AWESOME head explosion scene at the end, Tom Savini really works his FX magic to make this film stand out amongst the rest.

The direction by FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER director Joseph Zito is very good. Zito uses the chase sequences extremely well, creating lots of suspense and tension as The Prowler stalks his victims. We always know that The Prowler is lurking around before he strikes, really keeping you watching to see when the payoff will happen. There's also a dark atmosphere throughout the film. It's rarely upbeat which I liked. The editing is fantastic and the cinematography looks pretty good. My only issue was during the middle portion of the film, which was really slow and almost put me to sleep. So the pacing was a bit off because the beginning had action and the ending had action, while the middle just involved a lot of walking and searching. But other than that, Zito did a very nice job to make the dull story more exciting than it should have been.

The acting won't win any awards but no one was horrible. No one really stands out, even though Vicky Lawson and Christopher Goutman did what they could with paper-thin characters. THE PROWLER isn't an acting showcase nor is it treated as such. The actors did what they were supposed to do and it worked out fine. So no complaints here.


- Some guy asked Rosemary if she wanted a "slug" to get her in the mood. Chris Brown was known to give Rihanna a "slug" every once in a while, although Brown's "slug" had a different connotation than the one in 1945.

- Lisa flashed the wheelchair ridden Major Chatham from her window across the street, saying he wouldn't be able stand up after the sight. Oh he's standing, Lisa. He's standing at attention while it counts.

- The Prowler rammed his dagger through the top of Carl's head out of his throat. Talk about getting skull fucked!

- The Prowler wiped the blood off of his dagger before using it on someone else. He'll kill them with violence but not with AIDS - gotta respect that on some level.

- Pam got upset when Mark was stolen by Lisa for a dance while she served punch. I have a feeling this homewrecker will be served a big cup of it by the end of the night - and it won't be fruity or spiked!

- The band at the dance sang about making some girl bleed because they want to see blood on the floor. You're at the wrong dance, guys. Carrie White's prom is two miles down the road. It may have been a good thing that you missed it.

- Miss Allison got impaled by the dagger through the neck. Talk about deep throat!

- Pam found a skeleton hanging inside a chimney peeking out in the fireplace. And that's why, kids, there's no [more] such thing as Santa Claus.

- If you're fooling around with a pretty lady, don't let her play with your gun. She'll make your head explode, and I don't mind that one in your pants either.

While cliche and a bit boring and slow at times due to a pretty weak story and characterization, THE PROWLER is still a more than decent slasher flick worthy of your time. Tom Savini saves the day with this film, bringing gore that will be remembered for quite some time. While not the greatest slasher film out there, there's still alot to like about THE PROWLER and it definitely deserves its cult following. Slasher freaks will probably buy this one, but everyone else should rent and watch before they decide on a buy.

Now where's my pitchfork? I need a bit of closure on someone...I mean, something.




  3. Youre dead on on this one Fred, I love The Prowler for two things: the gore and the score. The plot is dreadfully slow and emotionless, and I cant stand any of the characters really. But man oh man is the friggin gore fantastic!

  4. Fred: This was a helluva post. This is one film I have been wondering about, and you really brought it in specific focus for me. You've really gone into wonderful detail. I completely believe you when you say the gore is this film's main ace in the hole, but after watching that trailer, that may just be enough. Plus I notice from an earlier comment that Carl was impressed with the splatter. If you two say it's so, then it must be so! Also, you say Zito's direction was good in the action sequences. Those two pluses are really all I need. -- Mykal

  5. @ Patch - Yes, it's underrated mainly for the gore and direction. The story does nothing for me though. And yeah, may she suffer from a chronic case of yeast infection.

    @ Carl - Yeah the gore and the score are fantastic here. But I wish the film was more faster paced and the characters and story were more interesting. But Tom Savini is at his best here when it comes to the FX.

    @ Mykal - Yeah, THE PROWLER will make a good rental if you love gore and splatter. It's extremely impressive stuff for an 80s slasher. The story is what drags it down though. Would love to see your opinion on this film when you do get to watch it.


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