In 1945, a returning WWII vet gets a “Dear John” letter from his girlfriend telling him that she just can’t wait any longer for him to come home. Instead of doing what any sane person would do – namely moving on with your life and forgetting about such a hurtful bitch – he stalks her and her new man at a graduation dance. When they decide that the dance is too dead for their tastes, they slip out and go visit a lover’s point to get a little action on. While the couple is starting to get hot and heavy, the vet makes his move and impales them on the business end of his pitchfork, leaving a single rose in the hand of his ex. The crime is never solved, and no graduation dances were ever held on the same location again… Not until 1980, that is, when it’s time for a new graduation dance.
The new dance is upon us, and some of the townspeople would rather forget about this dance so they don’t have to relive the events of the past. For the college students though, it’s a time to release and go wild for their last hurrah before they each go their separate ways. Pam McDonald (Vicky Dawson) is one of those students, and she’s been seeing the local town Deputy, Mark London. Mark’s got some big responsibilities falling on his shoulders, since the Sheriff will be out of town this weekend on his yearly fishing trip. He’s counting on Mark to keep the peace and make sure no townies get too upset at those darned college kids and their crazy party, which is a job in and of itself. When Pam goes up to check on her room mate who hasn’t shown up for the dance, and gets chased by a mysterious stranger in military fatigues – Mark finds his hands full very quickly.
The Prowler is a horror/thriller that is slow to build up, but ends up being very satisfying. While the movie isn’t technically classified as a slasher, it definitely has some slasher leanings. The prowler is a very similar to a Jason Vorhees or a Michael Myers in that he stalks his victims, but the prowler is also a very agile killer, made only the more visceral by Tom Savini‘s special effects that result in every kill being in your face and very raw. While the prowler can only claim a handful of victims, every one is dispatched in a satisfying manner.
When I sat down to watch this, I didn’t really have any expectations. What I had heard about it piqued my interest in seeing it, but I don’t think I was prepared for what was going to happen. While the plot moves along a little slow at times, it’s all to build suspense. Every time that Pam was left alone in a situations where she was out investigating with Mark, I expected there to be some cheap scare to be there to try to make me jump. I was really happily surprised when the first couple of times, those cheap scares weren’t there and that only made me more tense. Sometimes it’s the waiting that builds the suspense and the terror, not just the scare itself.
After you see enough horror movies, you can usually call the “surprise twist” a mile away – sometimes within the first 20 minutes you’ll say to yourself or your friends, “Yeah, remember that guy, he’s gonna be the killer”, but this time I was honestly surprised at who the killer actually was. One thing that I have to say I was expecting was the whole “final scare” bit that just about every horror movie has ripped since Carrie came out in 1976. All I can say to that to those who have seen The Prowler is… Really? Do you really think Pam wouldn’t look in there the whole time? It’s almost as if the director, Joseph Zito, said “Alright everybody, we’ve wrapped filming… oh crap… but what about those bodies?”
Overall, The Prowler ends up being a good suspense film with some great slasher elements. There was a lot of opportunity for them to go way overboard with the killing, especially considering that they had the whole “School Dance” motif going on with a lot of fresh meat to butcher. It’s almost refreshing to see a movie like this restrain itself, and for that point alone, I have to give The Prowler 4 exploding heads caused by sawed off shotguns out of 5.