|The Prowler (1981)
|Glenn Leopold, Neal Barbera and Eric Lewald
|Vicky Dawson, Christopher Goutman, Farley Granger, Cindy Weintraub, Lisa Dunsheath, Lawrence Tierney and David Sederholm
“I don’t believe this. You’re talking about something that happened over 30 years ago!” Dep. London
A girl named Rosemary writes a “Dear John” letter to her boyfriend oversees during WWII. Some time later she’s out with her new beau during a graduation dance and a figure clad in army fatigues stabs them both to death with a pitchfork
35 years later and another graduation dance is about to take place in the small New Jersey town. Student Pam (Dawson) is excited for the evening and Dep. Mark London (Goutman) is assigned to make sure everything goes smoothly in the absence of Sheriff Fraser (Granger) who’s gone fishin’ for the weekend. But a maniac dressed in army fatigues has other ideas and goes on a bloody rampage.
“The Prowler” is the personification of a slasher film that’s cut everything down to basics and doesn’t attempt any novelty whatsoever in it’s presentation. Released at the height of the sub-genre’s popularity, it more or less carved it’s special place due to the gruesome nature of it’s kills and the straightforwardness of it’s simple narrative. Every rule put in place by “Halloween” (1978) or any other slasher film that may have helped lay the groundwork is present here. The real coup here is Tom Savini’s magnificent effects work that looks alarmingly real on occasion and some kills here among the highlights of the slasher genre. This army dude also ranks as one of the meanest ones as well…at least amongst the human villains. As said, the kills are absolutely brutal and pack a punch.
The mystery is rather simple and most will have, at least, ventured an educated guess as to the identity of the culprit and got it right. That said; if you’re in the club of having watched “The Prowler” numerous times chances are you’ll have noticed a rather big hint early on that is simply due to decent acting. The film’s real strength lies in it’s nuts & bolts approach to it’s set pieces (and false scares) and maintaining a serious approach that’s thankfully void of silly humor or intentionally idiotic characters. There’s an ominous mood throughout the entire film that’s well sustained by director Zito (who later helmed the arguably best “Friday the 13th” sequel with the fourth installment “The Final Chapter” – 1984) and it’s well photographed by João Fernandes (also the cinematographer of “The Final Chapter”). “The Prowler” is a very, very dark film and stylistically it looks good but also the viewer can clearly discern what’s happening and that’s not always the case. In short; it’s technically well accomplished in addition to it’s fantastic make-up effects and successful dreary atmosphere.
The cast is also good. Dawson is more than capable and believable as the film’s leading lady. She’s not exactly the final girl, per se, as this Prowler has no one in particular in mind to slaughter. But her and Dep. London’s investigation continually puts her in peril and Dawson is very confident in her role and asserts quite a bit of character. Goutman is also very solid as the acting Sherriff for the weekend and his character is quite likable and isn’t saddled with a lot of nonsensical decision making that causes eye rolling. Old pro Granger is good to see but his role is more of a cameo and to actually list Tierney in the credits is a bit of a stretch as he’s nearly unrecognizable in a bit…and I mean bit…part.
“The Prowler” gets a spin fairly regularly and it rates IMO as a top tier slasher from the golden period.