The Prowler (1981) Poster

(1981)

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6/10
Oh, Yeah! The Prowler!
gavin694211 December 2009
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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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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7/10
A jilted lover suffering from ptsd can be a lethal combo.
Fella_shibby28 December 2020
I first saw this in the early 90s on a vhs. Revisited it recently. This one is another slasher with a lousy twist but the best part is the eerie settings of that of a sleepy town. Another best aspect is the special effects by Tom Savini.

The second kill is the most gruesome. This film has one of the best head exploding like a watermelon scene.

Ther is a scene where a man shoots the killer and he keeps on staring n smiling at a babe and the babe too keeps staring n smiling inspite of enduring trauma. The same killer survives the bullet shot n it is never shown how he survived.
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6/10
Surviving graduation hasn't been bloodier.
lost-in-limbo8 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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8/10
A really nasty, effective and above average early 80's slasher item
Woodyanders15 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
June 28th, 1945: A jilted World War II soldier dressed in combat fatigues pitchforks his two-timing girlfriend and her lover during a graduation dance. June 28th, 1980: When the graduation dance is held again after many years of inactivity, the grisly murders start anew. Director Joseph ("Missing in Action," Invasion U.S.A.") Zito manages to wring plenty of suspense from the formulaic script, nicely creating a bleakly haunting small town atmosphere (the movie was shot on location in my home state of New Jersey in the hoppin' resort community of Cape May) and staging the shockingly ferocious kill scenes with considerable skill and style. Moreover, the solid supporting performances by Farley Granger as the folksy sheriff and the always great Lawrence ("Midnight," "Reservoir Dogs") Tierney as a mean, crippled old grouch lift this picture well out of the rut. Both Raoul Lumas' polished photography and Richard ("Shock Waves") Einhorn's spooky score are likewise up to par. Popping up in nifty minor roles are future "Riptide" TV series regular Thom Bray as a bespectacled nerd and Cindy ("Humanoids from the Deep") Weintraub as a promiscuous harlot who winds up having her throat slit wide open while enjoying an evening dip in a pool. However, it's the incredibly ghastly and gruesome gore make-up f/x by Tom Savini which give this film an extra brutal and upsetting edge; said hardcore graphic splatter moments include a bayonet in the neck, a particularly vicious impalement on a pitchfork (this murder set piece happens to an attractive young lady who's taking a shower), a bayonet through the head, and the killer's head being blown up with a shotgun (this latter bit is quite bloody and alarming). The excellent Blue Underground DVD offers a bang-up widescreen presentation along with the theatrical trailer, an extensive poster and still gallery, behind-the-scenes videotape footage of Savini at work, and a lively, enjoyable and informative commentary by Zito and Savini.
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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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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
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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8/10
Maybe The Best Slasher Film Of Its Era
gregsrants12 June 2012
Released in 1981, The Prowler never got the recognition of its peers. Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine and Prom Night all went on to pop culture familiarity spanning countless sequels and eventual remakes. Yet the Joseph Zito classic about a masked World War II army gear wearing slasher remains nothing more than a footnote in the annals of horror history.

And that is unfortunate. For not only does The Prowler exhibit some of make-up effects artist Tom Savini's best work, but it also might just be the best slasher film released in the glory days of the early 1980's.

Opening after the conclusion of World War II where a couple is brutally murdered, the film forwards 35-years to present day (1981 present day) where a group of college kids are preparing for an annual spring dance. Mysteriously, the fatigue donning killer reappears and using his weapons of choice (a bayonet and a pitchfork) he begins his night of terror that will leave the small New Jersey town soaked in adolescent blood.

A slasher film is routinely graded on the graphicness or originality of its kills. And The Prowler delivers the bloody goods thanks to the aforementioned Tom Savini. A pitchfork puncturing shower scene, a pool throat slashing and the shotgun blow to the head were arguably three of the best kills of The Prowler's era – and era that included Friday the 13th sequels, A Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween II.

The story itself is horror routine. But the execution by director Joseph Zito (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Invasion U.S.A.) is brilliantly choreographed in a thrilling and exciting film that holds up as well today as it did over 30-years ago. The Prowler was produced for $1 million but was self-distributed by Zito therefore relegating the title to the background of VHS rental video stores. But now that it is available on DVD and blu-ray, the title should be sought out by anyone who wants to be considered an authoritative voice on the genre.

www.killerreviews.com
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7/10
Dark, violent, and unsetting = a sui generis slasher flick!
insomniac_rod1 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
One of the best slasher movies from the 80's no doubt about it. I'm surprised that this movie has many "haters" calling it boring or "just like many other slasher flicks".

"The Prowler" is better than many slasher movies because it has an interesting plot, a dark creepy atmosphere, a sinister villain, and the best of all : beautiful, great gore. I'm proud to say that this movie has excellent death scenes that are worth the watch.

"The Prowler" made important contributions to the genre: First, the gory death scenes. Which one is your favorite? The infamous stabbing in the head? the pitchfork stabbing in the shower? the throat slashed? or the head exploding? The menu is exquisite! The scenes I've mentioned are great and by far, better than in most movies of this kind. Thank you Tom Savini, you made the movie.

The plot is simple. This is a revenge flick in the likes of "My Bloody Valentine". The Prowler "returns" in his army uniform and everything to avenge the betrayal he suffered years ago. The plot moves smoothly in a dark, creepy atmosphere. Every scene has a feeling of uncertainity that adds a sinister touch to the movie. That's what I liked the most about the movie. It's a slasher flick but it's scary, not cheesy. The death scenes add even more to the scare factor.

The acting is pretty good. Do you think that the lead female looks like a mature Kirsten Dunst? I couldn't stop looking at her. The rest of the cast is okay.

Joseph Zito's direction is perfect. He created a scary slasher flick. The correct use of shadows and the feeling of uncertainty before and after death scenes is perfect. Mr. Zito, my respect for you.

The soundtrack is also very effective and works perfect for the movie's events.

The ending is great! It has plenty of violence, gore, and a reasonable explanation towards the events. Great ending, in my opinion, one of the best of any slasher flick.

I highly recommend "The Prowler" for people who enjoy violent and scary movies. This one has excellent death scenes mixed with a creepy atmosphere. The plot is interesting enough to keep you wondering what will happen next.

Get this movie, you won't regret.
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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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8/10
Gory & suspenseful 80s slasher gem (See This Slasher #1)
Shattered_Wake17 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
A murderer dressed in World War II-style fatigues stalks down a group of college kids in the days before the annual graduation dance. The killer, who is attempting to reenact a decades-old murder, will stop at nothing until his plans are fulfilled.

Of all of the positive things about this early 80s slasher, I believe the most commonly discussed element is master of effects Tom Savini's work. Even he said he considered this film to be the best work he ever did. I'm not so sure as I would go so far as to say it's his best work. . . but, it's definitely up there as some of the best work of his rather large collection of special effects gigs. Now, no matter how good the SFX are, there are other elements of The Prowler that should not go overlooked. From the opening WWII-set flashback sequence, which was far more believable than I've come to expect, and on, The Prowler plays as one of the most realistic of the '80s slashers. The acting is on the higher end of the spectrum for similar slashers and the director's look of the film is very good, especially (duh) his utilization of Savini's gore. The writing is rather formulaic. . . all of the usual characters are there, including the typical group of victims and even the 'outsider criminal' used as a possible suspect for the murders. But, since this is from the earlier part of the '80s slasher craze, I suppose that's, at least partially, forgivable. The characters, sadly, were not very well developed and my caring for them was very rare. One thing that does make this film special is the killer. . . well, not so much the killer himself, but his costume. The dark fatigues, face covering, and helmet make for a really imposing sight. However, I would've liked to see him use more military-style weapons. A pitchfork? I understand it's relevant because of the murders in the opening scene. . . but, hell, there has to be a weapon more germane to the subject. Anyway, this film has its problems, but it's extremely enjoyable and well made, and the great use of gore effects only acts to accentuate its quality.

Obligatory Slasher Elements:

  • Violence/Gore: Oh yeah. As stated a couple times above, Tom Savini is the man behind the special effects and he, as expected, does a hell of a job. The death scenes are great and made even better by some great gore. Keep an eye out for the pool scene, it was my favourite. However, as I said, I would've preferred some deaths more relevant to the killer's identity.


  • Sex/Nudity: There's a bit of nudity from a couple of the female dormmates, but not to excess (is there really excess?). Most of the sex is more talked about than actually done (like with most young people), so don't go looking for any kind of erotic delights.


  • Scares: Surprisingly, the film focuses more on the heavy suspense than outward 'jump' scares, and the suspense is done rather well.


  • Mystery: The identity of the killer is kept secret throughout the entire course of the film and, while there are clues (I guess), it's not exactly totally predictable.


Final verdict: 7.5/10. See this slasher!

-AP3-
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6/10
Great Special Effects Can't Save A Tedious Mid-Section
molemandavid5 July 2017
I'll get this off my chest - the first 30 minutes of The Prowler are basically slasher heaven. I really mean that. The atmosphere is there, the characters aren't that bad, the killer is imposing, the kills are brutal and nasty...but then...(sigh) things just fall apart and don't get semi-exciting again until the last 10 minutes.

The Prowler might be so wonderful in its first act, because it starts off like most slasher flicks end. By the time its first act has wrapped up, it seems as if already a half-dozen people have been offed and our Final Girl to be has already had a fairly exciting chase sequence.

Sounds great, right? It is. But then she's saved and the rest of the film is spent with her and a policeman doing Scooby Doo-esque detective work in old houses with flashlights with brief interludes of death scenes during a graduation party. It just stops everything in its tracks.

This is not to say that The Prowler is a bad movie. Far from it. It just needed something more exciting and urgent in it's middle section to keep the audience interesting. One never feels like the two leads are in any danger and that drag it down. Still, the special effects steal the show and are wonderful.
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6/10
That's what you get for wandering off the path....
FlashCallahan12 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
The happiness and the sanity of a W.W.II vet is destroyed when he returns home and finds his girl in the arms of another at the town's annual dance.

Outraged, he kills them with a pitchfork, and the town does not hold the dance again for 35 years.

When the vet hears about the dance being resurrected, it stirs up those bitter painful memories once again, so he comes back to do a little more killing...

This is one of those film that have been mimicked so many times, if you haven't seen the original before the slew of re-imaginings/side-quels/homages, you may lose the overall effectiveness of the original.

Much like I did.

For me, it's pretty perfunctory stuff, with the added bonus of some wonderful make up by Tom Savini. But other than that, it's just a case of teen girls running down a corridor and reaching a locked door, while being prowled by the bad guy in Hellboy.

The cast are fine, they do their job as you'd expect, it can be slightly tense in some places.

It's my bad really for not seeing it any sooner, as I'd probably regard it a lot higher than I actually do.

But I will give it something to its credit, it hasn't been remade as of yet.

If you are just starting out with horror films, and you want a good old fashioned stalk n' slash horror, you'd be good to catch this as soon as possible.

You'll appreciate it a lot more than I did.
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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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7/10
On the prowl...with Tom Savini
Coventry18 June 2004
Like a true horrorfreak, I get a kick out of hunting down all the films for which Tom Savini did the make-up. `Friday the 13th' and `Dawn of the Dead' are the obvious ones, but the real treats can be found in the overlooked early 80's slasher section. `Maniac' and `Nightmare in a Damaged Brain' are perfect examples and so is this little gruesome tale. The Prowler doesn't outshine the mainstream horror movies when it comes to plot, characters or twists…but it does show some nauseating and hard to digest sequences. The film also has a pretty atmospheric and mood-setting opening. We learn how young WWII soldiers return to the US after the war. One of them finds a letter of his high-school sweetheart upon his arrival in which she's dumping him. During the Graduation celebration of her school, the girl (Rosemary) and her new boyfriend are brutally slaughtered by pitchfork. 35 years later, the town finally decides to organize a new school-dance. Unfortunately, this event also causes the return of the army-uniformed madman. The characters aren't exactly intriguing and the climax is far from surprising, but the brutality of the killings is definitely worth it. We're even treated to lovely head-explosion that lives up to the one in Maniac. Thank you Tom Savini! Compared with the overload of polite and ethically correct (read = boring) slashers, the Prowler looks fresh and very entertaining. Director Joseph Zito also signed for one of the better F13 sequels as well as a few over-the-top Chuck Norris action flicks. I took me quite some time to finally find The Prowler and I feel no shame in recommending it to real horror fans. If you can't stand blood or in case you have a sensitive throat, this film will not leave a good impression behind. Otherwise…enjoy!
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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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10/10
Very gory slasher flick.**Spoilers**
HumanoidOfFlesh25 September 2000
Warning: Spoilers
"The Prowler"(1981,Joseph Zito)is a lot better than many other slasher flicks.The film is about a WW2 veteran who first kills his girlfriend who left him and her current boyfriend and then goes on a rampage years later,brutally killing teenagers.There are some truly creepy moments and the gore effects made by maestro Tom Savini are truly gruesome.Yes,there are some boring scenes,but who really cares?The killings are unique and extremely bloody.A young guy gets a knife through the top of his head and then out of his jaw,a girl,while seen swimming neo-nude,has her throat slashed,a woman is brutally stabbed in the throat etc.The killer's demise is also great-he gets his head blown off with shotgun(this sequence is very realistic and reminiscent to the one in William Lustig's "Maniac").Besides the gore,the acting is surprisingly decent and Vicky Dawson plays a really likable heroine."The Prowler" is rather hard to find,so if you get a chance watch it.I can safely say that it's ten times better than stupid and politically correct teen slasher movies of the 90's.Highly recommended.
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8/10
Brilliant 80's Horror, Awesome effects.
RockPortReview27 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The Prowler 9/26/2010

This early 80's slasher film by Joseph Zito is a horror classic. Tom Savini's make up effect are simply amazing. When you look back at a film like this you really appreciate the time and craftsmanship that goes into these practical effects. In the time before CGI, problem solving and creativity was at an all time high. It is no surprise that these days with computer effects so readily available, filmmakers have become lazy and over reliant on effects to save their films.

The "Prowler" is the story of a soldier coming home from WWII to find out that his girlfriend Rosemary has left him. This doesn't sit well with our soldier as he stalks and pitchforks a young couple at a college graduation dance. The Prowler always leaves a rose at the scene as his calling card. The Prowler as a character is a little weak. He is dressed head to toe in a WWII uniform and uses either a pitchfork or a bayonet to kill his victims. He is not as scary or as menacing as some of the other more infamous 80's killers like Jason, Freddy or Michael Myers. But as I mentioned in the beginning the kills are phenomenal and make this film what it is.

After the intro, the story jumps ahead 35 years to the present (1980) to the same college as students get ready for the first graduation dance since the double murder. Classic 80's clothes and hairstyles are always great to see, even if it is for cheap laughs. Our heroes are Pam, a beautiful blonde haired student and Mark, a big haired young deputy. The Sheriff goes on a fishing trip leaving Mark on his own for the weekend to cover the big dance. Like a lot of horror movies, the "Prowler" is not big on plot. The supporting characters are your average stupid college kids that make it way to easy for the Prowler to have his way with them. Pam and Mark piece things together and eventually wind up face to face with the killer. He is unmasked in the struggle and it kind of felt like an episode of Scooby-Doo. Pam survives the ordeal and when she returns to her dorm she gets a final scare. Zito and Savini got back together a year later and did "Friday the 13th Part 4.

Both DVD and Blu-Ray edition have a commentary track from Zito and Savini along with a featurette about the effects.
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8/10
One of the most terrifying 80's slashers from Joseph Zito/Tom Savini i ever saw my personal favorite slasher
NightmareOnElmStreetFan6 February 2019
Yes "The Prowler" also known as Rosemary's Killer from director Joseph Zito is my personal 80's slasher horror favorite film. I love this movie to death I love it. I don't understand the hate the crap this movie get's. I got this film on Blu-ray my girlfriend bought me this movie before my birthday is coming's up, I must say I have enjoyed the film. This is a soild, entertaining decent terrifying goriest horror slasher film from the 80's, I ever saw. Great direction from Joseph Zito, awesome gore, great special effects by Tom Savini he knows his stuff. One of the best gore overdone death scenes I ever saw in the movie.

A group of college students holding a graduation spring dance, 35 years after a double-homicide occurred. Unbeknownst to them, they are targeted by a masked assailant dressed in World War II G.I. fatigues who begins a murderous spree as a result of the graduation's continuation.

I love the main heroine Vicky Dawson she was a bad-ass heroine. Mostly in the 80's slashers genre the heroine crosses the killer on the end of the movie, when the killer kills everyone. In this movie it is a twist Pam (Vicky Dawson) crosses the killer in sorority house after he killed 2 people in the middle of the movie and I love that in here so much, that really surprised me. Vicky Dawson in my opinion is the most underrated heroine icons from the 80's. She outsmarted the killer and she stabbed him with a pitchfork she put a good fight in it. Vicky Dawson belongs there with Amy Steel from Friday the 13th Part 2 and April Fool's Day.

It was fast paced and it went fast around, I wasn't bored with the film, I enjoy it. You have mystery like in the original Friday the 13th (1980) movie who is making those murders and why? The movie too me is very terrifying and scary, it also did surprised me. It did though had a plot holes in the story and it is not perfect other than good gore. It was way better to me than Silent Night, Deadly Night, Black Christmas, Maximum Overdrive, The Car, Sleepaway Camp, The Shining I just couldn't got in to those horror movies and I don't like em. The Prowler I love so sue me.

There is a lot of gore, bloody cruel body counts, Tom Savini's effects are excellent. I love the custom of the killer (masked assailant dressed in World War II G.I.) I love in which he stabs a girl with a pitchfork in a shower. You see a lot naked girls excellent gore, great kills. Tom Savini and Joseph Zito both worked on Friday the 13th franchise. I have reviewed all Friday the 13th films. Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter is my number 1 all time favorite film in the franchise, Friday the 13th (1980) is in my fourth rank in the "Friday the 13th" franchise just like in this movie I love Tom Savini's effects.

Come out the same year as Friday the 13th Part 2, My Bloody Valentine, The Burning, Halloween II did and more gory slasher films, the year 1981 was full of slaher films. "Halloween" and "Friday The 13th" started the 80's boom of Slashers.
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7/10
One of the better 80s slashers
bensonmum24 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
  • A "Dear John" letter is the impetus for a returning WWII G.I. to brutally murder his former girlfriend during a Spring Dance. 35 years later, the local college decides to bring the dance back. Once again, someone dressed in army fatigues is stalking a murdering the young women at the dance.


  • I hadn't seen The Prowler since it's initial theatrical run some 25 years ago. At that time, I thought it was a very good slasher. For the most part, it's held up rather well. It is easily one of the better of the slasher films from the early 80s. The killings are especially brutal and feature something that's not seen as often in today's teen horror movies – literally gallons of blood. Someone was working over-time mixing red dye with Karo syrup.


  • The story isn't much to write home about. Most of the plot revolves around people waiting around to be slaughtered. Most of the characters literally do nothing but stand around and act like easy prey. But in this kind of movie, a deep and meaningful plot is not what most people are after. It's the killings. And as I mentioned previously, that where The Prowler excels.


  • The Prowler does feature one camera technique that a lot of directors of 80s horror films used that drives me nuts. It's the fake POV shots that get under my skin. Personally, I like POV shots. When done correctly, as in Halloween, they're most effective. But when a director uses a POV shot to trick the audience into thinking something bad is about to happen, it's cheating as far as I'm concerned. Take the scene in The Prowler where the girl is waiting in the jeep at the cemetery. The camera slowly moves toward the jeep. The image moves slightly up and down as if it's shot through the eyes of a moving person. Suddenly, the shot is over and there's no killer (or any other person for that matter). Why do a shot like that unless you're going for cheap scares. It's really annoying.
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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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3/10
Senseless, Boring and Dated Low-Budget Slasher Movie
claudio_carvalho24 July 2007
On 28 June 1945, along the night of the Graduation Ball in Avalon Bay, the youths Roy (Timothy Wahrer) and his girlfriend Francis Rosemary Chatham (Joy Glaccum) are murdered penetrated by a rake and the killer is not found. On 28 June 1980, a new Graduation Dance is organized by the student Pam MacDonald (Vicky Dawson) since Major Chatham (Lawrence Tierney), who is very sick and in a wheelchair, has prohibited any celebration for thirty-five years. The local Sheriff George Fraser (Farley Granger) is traveling for fishing and Deputy Mark London (Christopher Goutman) is in charge of the security of the location. When a serial killer attacks the students, Mark and Pam seek his hidden place.

I bought the DVD "The Prowler" with great expectations based on the good reviews in IMDb. Unfortunately I found a senseless, boring and dated low-budget slasher movie with awful screenplay and lines. The flawed story does not give any explanations to many points, such as the motives and why the serial killer kills his victims? What happened with Major Chatham? Did he die? What happened with the body of Miss Allison? How could Carl, who had the brain and throat stabbed by a long knife, have any sort of movement? How the killer could be so omnipresent? What happened with the couple in the basement? Why Mark did not die? I could list many other holes in this story, but I believe the previous examples are enough to show how bad this movie is. The beauty of Vicky Dawson and the good effects, showing very real deaths, are the good parts of this forgettable flick. My vote is three.

Title (Brazil): "Quem Matou Rosemary?" ("Who Killed Rosemary?")

Note: On 13 October 2022, I saw this film again.
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"I'm Here For Our Date, Rose!"...
azathothpwiggins11 September 2018
After a newsreel gets us up to speed on the end of World War II, a "Dear John" letter is shown. Then, we are made privy to a double murder that took place in 1945, resulting in a "pitchfork shish-kebab" by an unknown assailant wearing full military fatigues.

Fast forward to 1980, and the big Graduation Dance is about to be held for the first time since that fateful night. Sheriff George Fraser (Farley Granger) heads out on a fishing trip, leaving his deputy in charge. How could this be a bad idea? It's a small town with very little crime. What could happen?

Wha... ? Someone has just dressed themselves up in G.I. garb, and has begun stalking victims? Surely, deputy what's-his-name can put a stop to any shenanigans. Uh oh! He's busy showing off his moves at the big dance! Let the body count begin.

THE PROWLER is a memorable slasher from the time of the genre's greatest popularity. The use of military gear is what sets it apart, along with the film's brutal death scenes. Those featuring a bayonet are particularly wicked!

Fairly grim throughout, the one humorous part happens when the deputy tries to get a hold of the sheriff, only to contact the world's laziest, surliest camp manager. Then, we're right back in the bloodbath! The final showdown is a... blast! Be sure to stick around for the epilogue, as it's a real... grabber! Oh, somebody stop me!...
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5/10
Lame plot that wastes good Tom Savini special effects
macabro35726 August 2004
During a college graduation dance, a WWII veteran comes home and finds his ex-girlfriend kissing her boyfriend in a pagoda and kills them using a pitchfork and a bayonet. He goes around in full WWII combat gear with a mask over his face.

Jump 35 years later and at the new graduation dance (the 1st one since 1945), the killing begins again with various college students having their throats slit, pitchforks in their bellies and being chased all around Cape May, New Jersey. And that's pretty much the plot.

Except for Farley Granger (who must've sunk pretty far career-wise in order to do this) and an unspeaking cameo by Lawrence Tierney sitting in a wheelchair, I've never heard of the rest of the cast. They're all unknowns to me.

The only thing saving this otherwise mediocre HALLOWEEN clone is the great special effects by Tom Savini. The throat slittings and the pitchfork piercings look particularly realistic and gruesome, some of the best I've ever seen. And with no lame CGI anywhere in sight. It's all done the good old-fashioned way. With latex and blood bags.

Blue Underground gives this one the class treatment with a nice wide-screen print that looks about as well as can be expected for a medium grade 80s horror film. However the real jewel of this DVD is Savini's 12 minute videotape from late 1980 showing the behind the scenes special effects set-up, including the leading antagonist's head being blown off by a shotgun. That in and of itself is worth more than the whole movie put together.

Without the special effects, I'd give it a much lower rating.

5 out of 10
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