Directed by Joseph Zito [Other horror films: Bloodrage (1980), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)]
The Prowler is one of those early 80’s slasher classics I’ve just seen once before. Truth be told, I only remembered the vaguest of scenes, so it was nice coming into this one as an almost-new viewing. While the story and conclusion are a bit lacking, The Prowler more than makes up for it with it’s atmosphere and fantastic gore effects.
The setting for this one is pretty good also – it’s nothing overly special, just a college campus (of sorts), but I liked how everything happened so close to each other. In one scene, the main actress is walking out of a dance, tons of people and energy, and then just two blocks away, the streets are dark and empty. I’m not sure why, but I just really dug that.
Of course, when anyone talks about this one, they’re going to bring up the gore, and for good reason. I don’t think there was a single death in this movie that disappointed me. The bayonet through the guy’s head (from top of skull, coming out his jaw) was fantastic, as was the double pitchfork impalement at the beginning. Even better, the shower-pitchfork scene, which was fantastically gory, along with providing a bit of welcomed nudity to the film. Let’s not forget the head being blown off with the shotgun, though – in pure Maniac style, that scene was great.
Which makes complete sense, given that the same individual behind the special effects for Maniac, Tom Savini, was behind these also. If you want to see a slasher that’s not afraid of showing some gore, this one is perfect.
I don’t want to give off the impression that the film is without downsides, though. The motive behind the mystery killer are never really explained, leaving the kills without context, and in fact, the identity of the killer is almost pathetically easy to ascertain pretty early on (many of the red herrings were obvious, and we’re pretty much left with a single suspect in mind). Also, while the atmosphere never falters, it did feel a bit sluggish toward the end before the conclusion. And on that note, there’s a scene in the conclusion that just feels overly silly (I’m guessing that, if you’ve seen this, you know which one I’m talking about).
It’s also worth noting that the cast isn’t really amazing either, but for an early 80’s slasher, I pretty much think most of those involved did fine. Vicky Dawson was a pretty fair main character, and Christopher Goutman, while a bit generic, did okay as a co-protagonist. Neither one, by the way, had much a career in movies, which I find a bit interesting. I wish he had appeared more, but Farley Granger was fun while on screen, and I have no idea who Bill Nunnery is, but his short scene is pretty amusing.
It’s the lack of motive that bothers me most about this one, and all other complaints can mostly be swept under the rug. I don’t get why they didn’t throw in a short relevant flashback, or a Dear John letter, or something to indicate why the killer went out of his way to kill again after so long. It was noticeably weak, which is a shame, as otherwise, The Prowler is a solid movie. Even so, the special effects here are damn good, and if I’d recommend it for anything, along with the classic feel, I’d recommend it for that.