An unknown killer, clad in World War II U.S. Army fatigues, stalks a small New Jersey town bent on reliving a 35 year-old double murder by focusing on a group of college kids holding an annual Spring Dance.
A decades-old folk tale surrounding a deranged murderer killing those who celebrate Valentine's Day turns out to be true to legend when a group defies the killer's order and people start turning up dead.
The film begins with the return home of a wwII veteran who was the recipient of a "Dear John Letter". After swiftly dispatching a courting couple in a Gazebo we leap to present day where a college celebration becomes the hunting ground for a uniform clad killer. Written by
Barry Wall <Barry@Mage.demon.co.uk>
Wrongfully overlooked and underrated early 80's slasher
THE PROWLER maybe isn't a milestone in the slasher-genre, nor is it innovating in any way, but it certainly is one of the better teen-slasher-movies of the 80's. It has what it takes: Tension, a high body count, gore, nudity and a decent (though not really original) story. I'd say it even is almost on par with Friday THE 13TH PART I. Almost, I say, because Friday THE 13TH had an original twist in the end. In the case of THE PROWLER you'll probably guess the identity of the killer way before the final 'unmasking'-scene.
The plot is straightforward and easy to follow (like almost every slasher-flick). The prologue is a bit strange (black & white documentary footage of soldiers coming home from the World War II), but it's necessary to provide the killer's background-story. The first killing takes place in 1945 during a homecoming-party. It appears the killer had personal motives. He was never caught. Then, almost 40 years later, a new town's party is being organized and the killer picks up his old habits (and weapons).
On the bright site, THE PROWLER has a lot of killings, and therefore lots of bloodshed. All the make-up & blood-effects are masterfully executed by Tom Savini (with the ultimate high-light being an exploding-head shot). The killer is pretty creepy with his military outfit (including a German-like war-helmet) and uses various weapons (a pitchfork, a big army-knife, a shotgun,...). The fact that he doesn't speak one word during his attacks adds to the scariness. What also raises THE PROWLER to an effective and above-average slasher-level, is Joseph Zito's directing, the acting and the over-all atmosphere. Thankfully this movie doesn't include teenagers playing stupid jokes on each-other, a phenomenon slasher-movies too often suffer from. At a few moments Joseph Zito's directing even reaches levels of tension like in Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (no, it's not as good as HALLOWEEN but it has its moments). It's also nice to see that when leading girl Vicky Dawnson for the first time sees the masked killer, she doesn't ask obvious things like "Who are you? What are you doing here?". No, see looks at him, and when the killer stares back at her, silent and motionless, she immediately senses the danger and starts running. Further more, there are at least two jump-scenes that really work (always a good thing in a horror movie, but you might wanna turn up the volume) and I thought the roses were a nice touch.
It was also a nice surprise to see a slasher-movie that knows the rules of the genre and dares to break a few too (you figure out which ones yourself). I applaud Joseph Zito and Tom Savini for a job well done, and I feel sad about the fact that THE PROWLER seems to be a bit under-appreciated. So, come on all you slasher-fans, seek out this movie and boost its rating here on IMDb to a higher level.
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