Prowler, The (1981)

The Prowler (1981)

If you think you’re safe… you’re DEAD wrong!

A veteran, returning from fighting in the Second World War, finds out that his love interest has found romance with someone else. Seeking revenge, he brutally kills them both during their graduation ball. Thirty five years later, a new generation of teenagers are about to encounter the wrath of the WWII veteran at their graduation ball, intent on re-enacting his deeds of yesteryear.


The Prowler is widely regarded as one of the torch bearers of the slasher genre, a no-holds-barred slash fest which wears its brutal slayings like a badge of honour. Coming right in the midst of the true golden period for the sub-genre, The Prowler was part of the early wave which produced such beloved 80s classics as My Bloody Valentine, The Funhouse and The Burning. This was a time where the sub-genre had yet to become an outright cliché and was producing scary and atmospheric material, with a grungy and dingy low budget approach more reminiscent of the backwoods horrors than the cheese fests they would later become.

Though it is one of the 80s most infamous slashers, The Prowler‘s reputation is somewhat greater than the sum of its parts. It is not the most satisfying film if you’re looking for any sort of plot (as you could probably guess from the synopsis) and this tends to harm the flow of the film as there are large stretches of dull padding which slows the pace of the film down dramatically. Joseph Zito, who would go on to direct Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, directs proceedings with a distinct visual flair but without any sense of urgency. Whilst the film looks good, and by this I mean deliberately dark and has a distinct and uneasy feel, there’s not an awful lot going on in the foreground. The teenage characters are bland, poorly acted and not given much to work with. There’s little to distinguish them from each other meaning that you will be hard pressed to remember their names by the end of it.

The killer, decked out in full combat attire, is visually memorable (much like the miner from My Bloody Valentine) but lacks any real sort of characterisation other than his costume. The final reveal of who the killer has been all along is a let down, revealing little about motives or reasons and finishing the film on somewhat of a whimper. At least they get plenty to do throughout the film. Whilst the film doesn’t contain a massive body count, it’s the memorable and visceral nature of each death which lingers long in the mind after watching.

It is this which is the hallmark of The Prowler. The brutal set pieces showcase the considerable talents of make-up effects maestro Tom Savini. He considers this some his best work but I got the feeling it would have been better served in a more-rounded film. Savini’s garish highlights include a girl being on the receiving end of a pitchfork in the shower, a brutal throat-slitting in a swimming pool and in the film’s most notorious scene, a double-barrelled shotgun directly unloaded into a head with explosive results. My personal favourite is when one unlucky schmuck gets a knife rammed down through his skull. With the camera lingering (and seemingly loving) every moment of violence, there is a nice touch as the guy tries to break free but the soldier simply holds him in place, twisting the knife further and causing his eyes to roll back white.


I guess The Prowler is a perfect example of what the slasher film would define itself as – moments of sporadic, brutal and gory violence interspersed throughout a weak story, flat and boring characters and a terribly sluggish pace. Whilst the set pieces are some of the best that this genre has to offer, it’s a real chore having to sit through the rest to get to them.





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