THE PROWLER (aka Rosemary’s Killer) (1981)
Director: Joseph Zito
Starring: Vicki Dawson, Christopher Goutman, Farley Granger, Cindy Weintraub, Lisa Dunsheath, David Sederholm, Lawrence Tierney
Blue Underground Blu-Ray
The Prowler does not get as much love as it should. Which is a shame because it’s one of the better entries in the golden era of the slasher movie.
It all starts with a Dear John letter sent during World War II. The recipient comes back a year later dressed head to toe in military gear, face covered, and armed with a pitchfork meting out revenge on young couple who chose to sneak off to make out during a graduation night dance in Avalon Bay (filmed in Cape May, NJ) on June 28, 1945. After the brutal murder the town leaders decide there will be no more graduation dances, but that all changes thirty five years later, bringing us to 1980. Of course the killer, who evaded capture all these years, has returned as well, which puts him in his late 40s, early 50s.
We are introduced to a young deputy sheriff, Mark London (Christopher Goutman), and Pam MacDonald (Vicky Dawson), who are the central protagonists and young lovers, and their circle of friends; Lisa (Cindy Weintraub from Humanoids from the Deep), Sherry (Lisa Dunsheath), Carl (David Sederholm), and Sheriff George Fraser (Farley Granger from Amuck, They Call Me Trinity, Strangers on a Train, They Live By Night). Also, see if you can spot Lawrence Tierney (Reservoir Dogs).
Mark and Pam are so pure and wholesome that they are dull, and I found myself wanting them to be on the wrong end of the bayonet like the others. But this is a slasher and it’s more about the kills and the special effects than it is deep character development, and what these kills lack in creativity they make up for with brutality. The camera lingers on the kill scenes, almost basking in the moment. A bayonet slices into a throat, is worked back and forth to widen the cut and go deeper; a pitchfork in the back is aided by a boot stomping on it to drive the tines deeper into the victim. The body of a murdered swimmer twitches in underwater silence one more time before dying.
These are not like Friday the 13th kills (director Joseph Zito also directed Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter) where the creative kill lightens the mood. These murders are carried out very straight forward. Here it’s just stab, hack and rend. There’s a rage and a point to be made in these murders. The special effects by Tom Savini are excellent. There’s one scene, which I won’t give away, that stands out, and it comes early on. You will know it when you see it, and it’s particularly gruesome.
Although The Prowler is not grim and heavy like Maniac, and Don’t Go in the House (two masterpieces!), it does deliver on the brutality and blood promised. (MA)
Nate Wilson: NW Devon Cahill: DC Matt Average: MA