The Prowler (1981) Poster

(1981)

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6/10
Outstanding gore. Some suspense, too.
TOMASBBloodhound5 June 2005
The Prowler is an overlooked horror film from that golden age of slasher films of the late 70s and early 80s. The film is directed by Joseph Zito who has special effects wizard Tom Savini to thank for the film's best scenes. The two also teamed up for Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (part 4), and that film is a superior effort to this one.

The Plot of this film is very similar to My Bloody Valentine. We have a brutal act of violence taking place many years ago. We have the first big social event scheduled in several years on the very grounds where the trouble took place. And we have a spooky killer chopping up victims left and right. Only instead of full mining gear, our Prowler is dressed in WWII era military fatigues.

The gore is by far the best thing this film has going for it. There are some DISGUSTING killings which look very much like they could be the real thing. Our killer loves to use his bayonet, a pitchfork, and a sawed-off double barrel shotgun on his victims. Most of the killings in the version I have are not mere snippets of knives piercing flesh. You see the killer slice and penetrate these victims until they aren't breathing any more. There is a tidal wave of blood spilled in this film. They saved the best for last, when we see just what a blast from a shotgun at point blank range can do to someone's face. (I would not dream of revealing the victim's identity here!) The film has some glaring dead spots, too. Lawrence Tierney who is billed pretty highly makes such a short appearance you wouldn't believe it. Character development is nearly non-existent, and the motivation behind the carnage is not defined by any logical means. Let me put it this way; I have absolutely NO IDEA why the killer committed these murders. I wonder if the writers even knew.

Gore fans will definitely need to see the uncut version of this film at some point in their lives. It's like a golfer having to play a certain course he heard is interesting before he dies or a skier having to try a certain slope. That kind of thing. See this film out of a sense of duty, but don't expect a true classic.

6 of 10 stars from the Hound.
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Possibly the greatest of the early eighties dorm slashers...
RareSlashersReviewed13 June 2002
By far my favourite of the early eighties dorm slashers, THE PROWLER is an excellent and exciting film brought to the screen with finesse by Joseph Zito. He also directed arguably the best of the FRIDAY THE 13th sequels - The Final Chapter. He shows us his love for the hack and slash cycle here, by renewing a few scenes from two of the genre's pioneers. You've got the 'murder in the shower' fresh out of Hitchcock's renowned classic PSYCHO. Here Zito makes it a lot more brutal, with some realistic and visually stunning gore effects from horror maestro Tom Savini. And then there are various references to Carpenter's HALLOWEEN, including the assassin digging up the grave of the victim he killed some 35 years earlier. Michael Myers steals his sister Judith's headstone from her grave when he escapes from his 15 year spell in Haddonfield's asylum. But although there are brief nods to his obvious influences, Zito also manages to supply some originality and some genuinely scary sequences. Back in the day it was thought that he was going to be the next Tobe Hooper after his flawless work within the horror genre. But sadly he went on to work with more action-orientated films such as Missing in Action, Red Scorpion and Invasion USA.

The plot is believable and also extremely well written. It opens with black and white footage of GIs returning victoriously from WW2. Cut to a letter from a girl named Rosemary to an unseen receiver, stating how she 'does not want to hurt him, but could wait for him no longer...' In other words someone's been dumped and it looks as if a few people are going to have to suffer because of it! Again cut to Avalon Bay Graduation dance 1945 and we're shown the lady Rosemary for the first time with her new 'fella'. While the host merrily talks about Glenn Miller's death, Rose and her cocky boyfriend head out under the stars for a spot of good old harmless (or extremely harmful in these films!) huggin' and a kissin'! They choose a spot at the end of a brightly laminated pier and continue to smooch the night away under the stars, unaware that a somewhat unfriendly looking guy disguised in GI garb and brandishing a bowie knife is watching their every move! Suddenly the lights go out, and Rose and her partner are brought a little bit closer together...Both impaled on a pitchfork!

Skip 35 years and Avalon Bay is preparing for the first graduation dance since the fateful events that occurred before. While the young enthusiastic teens are shown getting ready to find romance at the dance, it looks as if a certain unknown someone is preparing for another bloody massacre. One girl unknowingly predicts the events that follow while she's getting dressed for the party by saying to her sulky looking friend "Hey you're not gonna mope about tonight are ya? Some of us will never see each other again..." Her remarks prove to be surprisingly accurate!

THE PROWLER is often pipped in the popularity stakes by the same year's similar slasher MY BLOODY VALENTINE. Many reviewers also find the latter to be the slightly better of the two. However I beg to differ, because even though MBV is a decent enough movie, I find this to be a scarier and for the most part more sinister attempt with a much stronger cast. Zito's spooky direction is superb and Savini's 'almost too realistic' gore touches just round it off perfectly. There are a few jumps to increase your heartbeat and I strongly wouldn't recommend any young femme fatale who's trying to grow her finger nails to watch this flick alone, because there are a couple of scenes when I guarantee you'll be biting them off!! One of my favorite ever murder scenes is also in this flick, the excellent swimming pool killing. A female teen who is bathing by herself under the moonlight paddles over to the ladder to climb out of the pool. She reaches the steps and begins to ascend them when all of a sudden she is brutally kicked in the face. She finally comes back to her senses and looks around to see who attacked her, but no one is anywhere to be seen! The silence is broken when the killer jumps out of the water behind her and gorily slices her throat in amazing detail. Watch for the blood that leaks out of her wound as her lifeless body sinks in to the murky depths of the cold water; it's Savini at his best...Excellent! The cast are also superb, which, must've helped the general production no end. Veteran actors Farley Granger and Lawrence Tierney have small roles, but the real 'round of applause' goes to fresh faced newcomers Goutman and Dawson who actually steal the show. It's only a shame they never went on to do much worth noting in the movies after this.

All in all THE PROWLER is everything a slasher should be dark, scary, gory while at the same time fun. It's incredibly underrated so I would most definitely recommend it, try and hunt down a copy if you can and I guarantee you will not be disappointed!
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S10 Reviews: The Prowler (1981)
suspiria104 July 2005
Rosemary sends a "Dear John" letter to her boyfriend while he is serving in WWII then is mysteriously slaughtered with her new beau at a graduation dance. Flash-forward to 1981 and the current class of graduating collegiates are throwing the first dance in many moons and a killer pops up looking like a storntrooper from hell and dropping roses everywhere. 80's slashing is in the house.

This rather predictable and slow slasher is saved by the gore set-pieces by effects maestro Tom Savini. That really is the only saving grace and highlight of "Prowler". Everything else on display is a bit bland and rather standard.
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6/10
Surviving graduation hasn't been bloodier.
mylimbo8 March 2008
As for being your usual copy-and-paste slasher. "The Prowler" was a modest attempt, but its looming reputation makes it out better than it actually is. Don't get me wrong. Everyone talks about Tom Savini's magnificently creative gruesome FX work, and deservedly so. But other than the potently bloody gore, and overall nastiness of some memorable deaths. What really drags this one down is how it gets bogged down with a scratchy story, and inconsistent script which led the film to plod along. Director Zito does his best to in-store some life, but while effectively demonstrating a grim, cruel atmospheric wound. In between the death sequences is little in the way of suspense, or even interest since there are too many vaguely ambiguous and padded distractions that cement themselves in the second half and only go on to annoy. Figuring out whose behind that ominous masked solider in uniform figure, doesn't take much. Baffling though was the choice of weapon… no not the army bayonet, but that pitchfork. When did they issue those things out? Odd, but I like it. The stalk 'n' slash angle doesn't entirely wear its self out, since while the jolts are basically telegraphed (but genuine) and having a flimsy story being strung together by its set-pieces that don't tie together. Still it managed to get the heart-racing when needed, and there are few piercing visuals and positioning work by Zito. The shady camera-work luridly focus on the action at hand.

The performances are soundly delivered, but never did I feel anything for these rather one-dimensional characters. Vicky Dawson makes for a strong, likable heroine, but the rest of the cast don't have much affect. Stalwart actors Farley Granger looks embarrassed and there's rather an unusually pointless role for Lawrence Tierney (who also briefly appeared in Zito's 1979 film "Bloodrage") . Christopher Goutman as the local deputy sheriff just pines a lot, and looks clueless. Richard Einhorn's composed a forebodingly hummer music score that superbly complements the film.

There are no pretensions here, in what it wants to be. A middlingly gritty, shocking slasher fare.
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9/10
A slasher that delivers
acidburn-1025 February 2008
Rosemary's Killer (aka The Prowler) has a central theme similar to the same year's My Blood Valentine - a killer who's psychosis is re-triggered by the reawakening of a long dead tradition, in both cases a dance. The Prowler is not a great little slasher flick, there are a few redeeming features; highish production values, some suspenseful chase sequences, gruesomely effective gore effects courtesy of Tom Savini. The film tries to set itself up as a bit of a mystery and much is made of the snooping couple looking for clues, I factor that I always finds interesting in these movies, the killer's identity is a surprise, It could have been anyone.

A prime example of the slasher genre that gleefully touches all the familiar bases before sliding home (home being an exploding head courtesy of living legend Tom Savini). The bloodbath begins at a graduation party, when a returning G.I. responds to a Dear John letter with a firmly inserted pitchfork through it's author and her new beau. Rather than focusing on capturing the crazed madman with the pointy tool, the town of Avalon Bay decides graduation dances are the problem and bans them indefinitely. This policy works well for 36 years. Then in 1981, having never seen My Bloody Valentine or even Footloose for that matter, the town makes the sudden decision to throw another party. The resulting mayhem is an atmospheric and deliciously gory jolter that, like it's lead heroine, stumbles a bit, but ultimately gets the job done.

All in all The Prowler is definitely up there as one of the best 80's Slasher definitely worth seeing.
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7/10
Wrongfully overlooked and underrated early 80's slasher
Vomitron_G28 February 2006
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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Surprisingly scary, creepy slasher flick
ehoshaw2 August 2000
To me, "The Prowler" is a lot better than any other early eighties slasher flick out there. The Tom Savini FX are excellent and very bloody. It all has to do with a phantom slasher dressed in combat fatigues stalking teenagers at the graduation dance. This is fast-paced for the first half, but then it slows down a lot until the exciting finale. Vicky Dawson is an attractive heroine, and the twist ending and nightmare sequences are first rate. Slasher fans should love this!
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6/10
One of the Better Slasher Films from the Golden Age of Slashers, "The Prowler"
captaincracker12 June 2007
"The Prowler" is worth all the viewing that any horror fan can muster up the time for. It is a decent little viewed slasher that has some good story qualities but will mostly be remembered for its extremely graphic gore (especially for the time period of which it was made). Aside from the gore, one of the things that was actually enjoyable about "The Prowler" was that it did offer a little bit of suspense and tension, and the direction by Joseph Zito is perfect while he creates a scary atmosphere and uses the camera to make his killer all the more terrifying. It is rare that people nowadays can cringe at slasher films from this era, but "The Prolwer" certainly will add a little bit of suspense.

The acting isn't as bad as one might think, and its shocking that most of these stars were never heard of again. The musical score is very well done, and keeps the audience tuned into the film. However, as mentioned, it is the director Joseph Zito and the make-up artist Tom Savini (of the "Friday the 13th" and "Dawn of the Dead" fame) who really make "The Prowler" worth your time. Zito knows how to create a scary and ominous villain and he knows how to pace the storyline so that it isn't at all boring. Savini adds a lot of blood to some truly gross death scenes. Knives going through heads, through throats, head explosions, throat slashes, pitchfork killings... its all due to Savini's brilliance. I must say that these effects are the best I've seen in a horror film from the time period, and they surpass "The Burning", "Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter", and "Sleepaway Camp".

"The Prolwer" is available on DVD, from the Blue Underground Company completely uncut, uncensored, and relentless. It also includes a commentary by Zito and Savini, a brief featurette featuring Savini, a theatrical trailer (which will remind anyone of the "Thanksgiving" trailer in the film "Grindhouse"), as well as a poster gallery. Its a nice package for such a rarely seen little gem.
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6/10
It's a soldier, a farmer, a washed up sheriff! Nope, it's the Prowler.
Cristopher_Jeorge11 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Soon after a young GI hits stateside he finds his ex best gal getting ready to do the whoopee with an aristocrat in a gazebo. Well war is hell but young love is worse and our GI stomps a pitchfork through both of them. Hot!. It's now 35 years later and the dance that has been canceled all these years is now on, someones been murdered in a neighboring town, the town sheriff NEEEEDS to go fishing. Does any of this matter? We're talking 80s slasher film here. We have the rebel rousing teen fodder, the young deputy left in charge, the red herrings, the awful mullet clad rock band, the spooky old house and our maniacal soldier returning to kill. The plot to this thing is awful thin, it's really a shoestring for Tom Savinis gore effects which are pretty darn impressive. Lawrence Teirney shows up as a gimpy major who pops some wheelies in his wheel chair, hides out in the bushes and grabs at girls prom dresses but.. doesn't have a single line of dialogue. Most of the inane dialogue is handled by the deputy whos' bone structure is extra terrifying, don't laugh, I'm not kidding, scary! For all the bashing I liked the Prowler especially the fact that said Prowler totes around a double barrel sawed off shot gun. You'll be waiting for evil GI Joe to whip it on out and you won't be disappointed, Ba BOOM times two!!!
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7/10
A well-above-average entry into the early 80's slasher film canon
happyendingrocks5 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Those who are interested enough in this modest little gem to read a review of it are undoubtedly only aware of The Prowler because it features the work of splatter effects maestro Tom Savini. For some, that fact alone will be enough to convince them to watch this film. However, even the skeptical will find this an enjoyable, if not entirely original, offering.

While Savini's effects here aren't the best on his resume, they certainly elevate this rather rote slasher and make it stand out amidst the hundreds of Friday The 13th clones that dominated the horror genre in the early 80's. The production forces Savini's set-pieces to adhere rather rigidly to the slash-and-stab formula, but there are at least a couple of kills in this film that outshine anything else from that period that was attempted by anyone whose initials aren't T.S. An extended shower murder sequence is arguably the best of the bunch, and thanks to some leniency from the MPAA, this scene remains intact enough to fully demonstrate the master's abilities. Another nice touch appears during a knife through the skull scene (later re-imagined with more banana juice and less red sauce in Savini's next pairing with director Joseph Zito, Friday The 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter), when the killer pulls the blade out and we see the victim's eyes roll back in their head, adding an additional layer of realism to an otherwise standard money shot.

Elsewhere in the production, it is abundantly clear that intelligent minds had their hands in The Prowler's creation. The 1945-set prologue looks far more lavish and historically accurate than we have any right to expect a low budget slasher flick to offer us, so it's obvious the film-makers had a bit of money to work with. There are also a few instances of deft humor peppered into the proceedings, my favorite being a montage that inter-splices footage of future victims prepping and preening for the graduation dance with images of our killer preparing himself for the gala by donning his disguise and equipping himself with cutlery for the killings to come. Hell, even the band that performs at the dance is pretty rockin', and fans of Boston and Nazareth may find themselves sitting through the credits to find out who's responsible for the tunes (to save you the trouble, I looked it up for you; the band is called Nowhere Fast).

There are some slippery plot devices, such as an extended sequence where our leading lady accompanies her police officer beau as the pair spend about 10 minutes of the film essentially breaking into an ancillary character's house and rooting through his belongings, which adds some semi-important information to the story but doesn't make a whole lot of rational sense. (Quick trivia bonus, this ancillary character is played by Lawrence Tierney, which kind of makes The Prowler awesome by itself). There's also a chase scene in a sorority dorm, in which our heroine finds every single exit door locked, even though each of these doors is indicated with a large neon "Exit" sign (I'm pretty sure those are never locked in a way that would prohibit anyone from leaving the building... it's sort of illegal). If I was really getting picky, I'd also tell you to keep your eye out for the easily identifiable wedding ring our female lead wears throughout the film, even though her character is supposed to be courting the town deputy who serves as our lead male protagonist. But I won't.

There aren't too many genuine frights to be found here, and most of the "gotcha" moments are of the "just kidding, it's your boyfriend grabbing you on the shoulder, not the killer" variety. Plus the final jump-scare is one of the more ridiculous I've ever seen. But what The Prowler lacks in pure horror, it more than makes up for simply by being an enjoyable yarn. The back story that sparks the murders is more basic and well-thought-out than most you'll find in the sub-genre (though it was essentially re-used in the original My Bloody Valentine), and the production as a whole has a competence and coherence we don't always get when revisiting the golden era of slasher movies.

Despite the film's strongest points, most viewers will conclude that the flaws inevitably bring us back to the revelation that Tom Savini's presence is the primary impetus for horror fans to see this film. Fair enough... But isn't that as good a reason as any?
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