Director – Joseph Zito
Cast – Vicky Dawson, Christopher Goutman, Lawrence Tierney, Farley Granger, Cindy Weintraub, Lisa Dunsheath, David Sederholm, Bill Nunnery, Thom Bray, Diane Rode, Bryan Englund, Donna Davis, Carleton Carpenter, Joy Glaccum
Release Year – 1981
Reviewed by John of the Dead
After the success of Halloween in 1978, Friday the 13th in 1980, and Friday the 13th Part 2 in May of 1981, it seems many overlooked The Prowler, also debuting in 1981(November). Most of the horror genre is aware of this film, but those outside the genre will only recall the three previous films mentioned, but not this fantastic and highly effective slasher. With the recent string of horror remakes I really am surprised that The Prowler has not suffered a remake, especially given that in this film we get one of horror’s most awesome killers to date.
While away at war during World War II a soldier receives a letter from his lover Rosemary, saying she cannot wait for him any longer, and is moving on. Eventually the great war ends, and Rosemary and her new lover are brutally killed while attending a dance for a small New Jersey town’s college graduates. 35 years have passed since the incident, and not only was the killer never caught, but any such festivities have been banned from occurring in Avalon Bay, New Jersey…until now. Tonight will mark the resurgence of the Graduation Ball, as well as the return of the very killer still seeking vengeance over his lost love.
Any true fan of the slasher genre has, at the very least, a fine appreciation for this under-appreciated film. Right from the beginning this flick takes off with a very unique(and gory, heh) intro that set the tone for the awesome events that would ensue throughout the film.
Director Joseph Zito made his name and his mark on the genre with this flick, which is credited as the absolute reason why he was given the job of directing another notable slasher film, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. In this film he gets pretty much every element right, with some help from his incredible looking killer. This killer doesn’t just don a mask, but shows up still in his WW2 fatigues and army helmet, and employs a giant sword sheathed to his side as well as an infamous pitchfork that provided some very memorable kills. In fact, both weapons of his provided some great kills, and all were successful due to Joseph Zito’s execution of those scenes. The gore is prevalent in this film, and that comes as a result of Zito hiring none other than horror effects maestro Tom Savini(Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Friday the 13th) to handle the effects and gore scenes. To this day Mr. Savini has been quoted as saying that it is this film that shows his finest work, which says something about the quality of this film’s kills as well.
Story-wise I really enjoyed this one because it is a slasher that really employs a true love element to the vengeance. Sure we have seen slashers involving some guy who was screwed over by a dumb b*tch, but never have I seen one in which a man was (whether he liked it or not) serving his country in one of Earth’s biggest wars and had his one true love leave him because she would not wait for him to return from war. If you put yourself in his shoes you should be able to imagine the heart wrenching feel he must have endured when reading the letter from Rosemary, and that only makes his vengeance all the more fun to watch. Aside from that the story remains pretty simple, yet highly effective thanks to some great kills and overall execution from this film’s director, as well as a very surprising twist when the killer’s identity is revealed…a twist that I did not see coming.
Overall, this is an incredible and truly under-appreciated slasher film that deserves to be held up in the ranks of Halloween and Friday the 13th. We get a truly iconic killer in this film, a great and respectable usage of the vengeance element, and an overall experience that leaves this a highly recommended film from me to all fans of the horror genre.