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The Prowler (1981)

2:51 | Trailer
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 graduation dance.


Joseph Zito


Glenn Leopold, Neal Barbera (as Neal F. Barbera) | 4 more credits »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Vicky Dawson ... Pam MacDonald
Christopher Goutman ... Mark London
Lawrence Tierney ... Major Chatham
Farley Granger ... Sheriff George Fraser
Cindy Weintraub ... Lisa
Lisa Dunsheath ... Sherry
David Sederholm ... Carl
Bill Nunnery ... Hotel Clerk
Thom Bray ... Ben
Diane Rode Diane Rode ... Sally
Bryan Englund Bryan Englund ... Paul
Donna Davis Donna Davis ... Miss Allison
Carleton Carpenter ... 1945 M.C
Joy Glaccum ... Francis Rosemary Chatham
Timothy Wahrer Timothy Wahrer ... Roy


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>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Just when you thought it was over See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Tom Savini considers this to be his best work. See more »


At the end of the movie, Pam returns to her dorm room and sees the bathroom door slightly ajar. Then, there's an angle from inside the bathroom looking out at her, and the door is all the way open. Then, the angle changes back to her heading to the bathroom and the door is only slightly ajar again. See more »


Carl: Hey, who turned off the band?
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Crazy Credits

The color of the closing credits turns from blood red to yellow. See more »

Alternate Versions

Unrated R1 special edition DVD is uncut restores all of the gore. See more »


Referenced in Dead Teenager Movie (2006) See more »


Hard Way
Composed and Performed by Nowhere Fast (uncredited)
Courtesy of Trust Me Music, Inc.
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User Reviews

Oh, Yeah! The Prowler!
11 December 2009 | by gavin6942See all my reviews

A masked killer, wearing 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.

"The Prowler" was directed by Joseph Zito, an incredibly nice guy and talented artist, probably better known for his installment in the "Friday the 13th" series. Also notable is that this film features special effects and makeup by Tom Savini, the undisputed horror master of the era. According to Wikipedia, the "film has been praised by gore fans for its brutal and realistic murder scenes." I am not sure about the realism, but the brutal aspect is certainly true, and if there is an uncut version floating around, it must be a bloodbath. Eli Roth also considers it one of his inspirations in the documentary "Fantastic Flesh" (which is a good film in its own right).

Writer Neal Barbera is the odd man out in the mix. While Zito and Savini are horror guys to the bone, Barbera is a member of the well-known cartoon family (you know, with Hanna-Barbera). His credit, going back to the 1960s, are writing dialogue and lyrics for Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear and the Flintstones. How he came to write a slasher script is anyone's guess.

The movie landed in Zito's lap thanks to a man named Herb. (Exactly who this is I am not sure.) Herb was quite protective of the property; he was even offered a $700,000 advance for the distribution rights, but he feared the film would not make any more than the advance and chose to distribute it himself (which actually worked). And Zito hand-picked Savini based on his work in "Maniac". (It is perhaps no coincidence that Robert Lindsay, the cinematographer of "Maniac", was behind the camera on "The Prowler".)

"The Prowler" is in many ways like the 1981 slasher film "My Bloody Valentine", with the biggest difference being that "Prowler" is American and "Valentine" is Canadian. Both are excellent and both directors (the other being George Mihalka) are fine gentlemen, so I will not pick and choose between them here. Both films take place in a small town with the legend of a murder, where the killer has placed a so-called "curse" on the town where the residents cannot partake in a certain social gathering. Sure enough, the residents disobey the curse and are picked off in many brutal fashions. Must have been a 1981 thing.

I recommend "The Prowler" to any horror fan, and especially to those who love slashers of the 1980s. I think it has seen a bit of a resurgence in recent years, with shirts and posters becoming available. My friend and colleague Timm Horn talked high praise of this one, and was delighted to meet Zito with me. I wish I could have shared Timm's full enthusiasm at the time.

There are some slow moments, and some scenes that make little sense. Exactly why the deputy sheriff and his girlfriend are snooping around inside a house without consent or a warrant is a bit of a mystery. But it moves the plot forward.

This film is best seen on the version available from Blue Underground. The choice between DVD and BD probably matters little, as the BD is rather grainy on larger screens (you can only clean up a film like this so much). The Blue Underground disc has audio commentary with Zito and Savini, which is priceless for their banter and tidbits about where they acquired coffins, and a nice ten minute behind-the-scenes featurette showing how the gore and kill scenes were done. Very interesting.

Added fun fact: Peter Giuliano, who more or less started his career with "The Prowler" as assistant director and playing the man in the mask, went on to produce dozens of successful films and TV shows, as well as working as assistant director on such notable works as "Ghost Busters". Although not a well-known name, he may be the most successful person to have worked on this film.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

9 October 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Pitchfork Massacre See more »


Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Graduation See more »
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Technical Specs


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Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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