The Prowler (1981)

A scary and very gory slasher movie from the genre's heyday with special effects by Tom Savini. Blue Underground US R0 DVD.

The Film

During the Second World War, many of the men at the front were abandoned by their women at home, who dumped them by letter and moved on - Rosemary was one of these women. During July 1945, America was celebrating the end of the war, and the pupils at Avalon Bay were holding their traditional Graduation Dance - but during the festivities, Rosemary and her new partner were brutally killed by an unknown assailant. Over thirty years later, a new Graduation Dance is being held at the Bay, but it seems that someone has returned to reek a horrible vengeance...

The Prowler dates from a time before slasher movies became self-aware and ridden with clichés, and its well written script is successfully dark and often genuinely scary. This is not to say that there are no cliché elements, many of the most common genre ingredients are present - a small town, a large group of late teens and a mysterious unsolved crime that occurred many years ago - but the script (from kid's cartoon writer Glenn Leopold) manages to keep the story moving with some realistic touches that add a rare level of believability to the story - specifically the short time span of the story (a single night) which makes it plausible that police re-enforcements could not arrive in time and that the culprit could remain undetected. The killer himself, a mysterious figure dressed in Army gear, ranks as one of the best of the slasher movie era and certainly one of the most scary. Very well paced throughout, the film builds to a strong climax, but sadly drags out the ending a little too long with a rather unnecessary extra scene.

Director Joseph Zito does a very good job on the production, helping to give the film its very dark atmosphere, helped considerably by a soundtrack from Richard Einhorn (Shock Waves (1977)) that eschews the genre's typical rock music for a very dark and creepy orchestral score. Most important, however, is the contribution from special effects legend Tom Savini who provides some dramatic and incredibly realistic gore effects that are a million miles from the cheesy blood-and-guts effects of many of the low budget slashers.

The two lead roles are played by the otherwise little known Christopher Goutman (as Deputy London) and Vicky Dawson (as Pam) - the two give very strong and sympathetic performances, and like the rest of the film, stand out from the cliché slasher movie cast. Better known are Lawrence Tierney (Reservoir Dogs (1992)) and Farley Granger (My Name is Trinity (1970)) who get brief but memorable performances as Major Chatham and the Sheriff respectively.

With a distinctly dark and serious atmosphere, strong characterisation, good acting and shocking special effects, The Prowler is certainly one of the best slasher movies from the 1980s boom and comes highly recommended to all slasher, and general horror fans.

In Brief

Anyone famous in it? No-one of note.
Directed by anyone interesting? Joseph Zito - an American born director who also helmed Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) and some low budget action movies, including Chuck Norris in Invasion U.S.A. (1985).
Is it scary?There are various atmospheric scares and some good jump shocks.
Any violence/gore? A few strong gore scenes.
Any sex? A couple of topless shots in the shower killing.
Who is it for?
Slasher and horror fans who enjoy their films on the more serious side will enjoy this.


Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic wide-screen. Colour.
The image is very grainy - as originally shot, with no print damage, and good colours.
Audio Original English mono - sounds solid.
Subtitles None
Extras The disc includes:
  • Audio commentary with director Joseph Zito and Tom Savini. Entertaining and well flowing with lots of interesting information.
  • Behind-the-scenes footage of some of the special effects sequences. Shot on home video, obviously contains many spoliers. 10 minutes.
  • Original theatrical trailer.
  • Manual scrolling gallery of behind the scenes photos and posters.
  • The DVD box also includes a mini-poster/chapter listing insert.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Other regions? Available on a very poor looking DVD in Germany.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut - the film was previously cut by several seconds in the US for an R rating, this is the original unrated version. The print is in English.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 27th July 2007. Released as part of Horror September 2.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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