The Prowler (1981)
By: Drexl on March 9, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Blue Underground (USA). All Regions, 1.85:1 NTSC. (16:9 enhanced). English 2.0 mono. 89 minutes
The Movie
Director: Joseph Zito
Starring: Farley Granger, Vicky Dawson
Screenplay: Glenn Leopold, Neal Barbera
Music: Richard Einhorn
Country: USA
Tagline: It Will Freeze Your Blood
AKA: Rosemary's Killer
Before getting his shot at the big-time, (in the world of the slasher movie at least), with the fourth instalment in the Friday The 13th franchise, director Joseph Zito would warm up for his brush with Jason Voorhees with this nasty little shocker.

A US Army soldier celebrates his return from WWII by impaling his ex-girlfriend, (she dumped him, via a letter, while he was away serving his country - that's why he's pissed at her), and her new fella with a pitchfork. This spot of bloody carnage puts a downer on the graduation dance that was taking place at the time, leading to further events being put on hold for a decade or three. Some 30-ish years later, hoping the coast is now clear of crackpot killers, the event is back on, but time hasn't helped our boy to forgive and forget - he's still hanging around, he's still pissed off and he still has his pitchfork…

Creepy POV shots, plenty of sneaking around in the dark, a 'guess who the killer is' game to be played and, of course, lots of blood splashed around and a little bit of bare female flesh. Yes folks, this movie is as cliched as it gets - a slasher 'by the numbers' without the slightest hint of originality, (not that originality is one of this particular sub-genre's strong points anyway.) So what sets this film apart from the dozens of other similar flicks lined up on video store shelves, begging for your cash? While the material is hardly challenging, Zito does do a decent job of keeping the pace of the movie up and the viewers interest held for the 90-or-so minutes that this little bloodbath hogs our screens. Boring is a crime that this film could never be accused of as various 'boo' scenes, creepy scenes, gory deaths and the like zip across the screen at regular intervals. (I'm surprised that Zito hasn't worked more in the horror genre as he does a decent job here and also on the aforementioned Friday… sequel which, in my humble opinion, was one of the best of the franchise.)

While the script and plot of a slasher pic. can be considered of minimal importance, one area where this particular type of movie demands some originality and creativity is in the special effects department or, to be more specific, the various ways in which the characters are despatched - the kill scenes. In the realm of '80's slasher movies, the special effects artists were probably the most important people amongst the cast and crew, a few of them elevating themselves to legendary status amongst gorehounds. Any other shortcomings, (and this particular type of movie usually has/had many), could easily be forgiven when the audience is treated to some suitably splashy and inventive ways of trashing the cast. This is where The Prowler scores big-time due to the involvement of effects genius Tom Savini, who supplies some memorably nasty carnage for the viewers delight. Amongst the censor-baiting delights on offer are bayonets through skulls, throat puncturing, a pretty girl on the sharp end of a pitchfork and, Savini's usual party-piece, an exploding head. The death scenes here are pretty nasty and go beyond the usual 'quick shock' of tamer splatter pics. and into 'eewww!' territory, (if that makes sense!) Luckily BU have provided viewers with an uncensored print of a movie that was mercilessly shredded by censors in the USA, Australia and the UK when the film previously showed up on VHS, so every blood-soaked Savini moment is here to savour.

So that's really all there is to say about this film. Fans of this type of movie will be well chuffed with this release as it sits comfortably within the standard slasher framework but sets itself apart from the pack due to capable direction and the eye-popping gore effects from Savini. I've mentioned before my fondness for brainless stalk-and-slash movies and this undemanding, yet enjoyable slice of nonsense is easily one of the better examples of slasher mayhem to be found.
Framed at around 1.85:1 and enhanced for 16/9 televisions, the transfer on offer here is of an acceptable standard. Colours are a little lacking and the print is a touch soft and grainy but, since we are talking about a 20 year old slasher flick and not the latest Hollywood shambles, we can't really expect state of the art stuff, transfer wise. Nit-pickers may point out a small amount of print damage here and there but, again, it's no great shakes. I'm pretty happy with the transfer B.U. has served up, all things considered.
B.U. have given the full surround treatment to many of their other genre releases but, sadly, this disc has to make do with just the original mono track - a 5.1 remix is nowhere to be found. While the lack of a tarted-up new soundtrack is a shame, the mono track on offer here is of a good standard - clean, clear and completely lacking in any unwanted background noise.
Extra Features
First up, bonus materials wise, is a commentary track from Zito and Savini. The track is fun and full of interesting snippets of information. The two fellas are very easy-going and enthusiastic about the film, which results in one of the better audio commentaries that I've heard in a while.

Next up we have some on-set footage shot by Savini and his team illustrating some of the tricks-of-the-trade, special effects wise. The ten minute feature shows how some of the gore effects were achieved and illustrates what a time consuming job it can be. Interesting stuff.

Rounding things off we have the film's theatrical trailer (which is about as cliched as a slasher movie trailer can be) and our old favourite - the stills gallery. (Poster art, press adverts and some more stills of Savini at work.)
The Verdict
One of the better slasher movies of the '80's, which gains it's extra points due to the outstanding effects work on display. Zito's direction is capable enough but Savini's blood-soaked gore effects are the real star of the show here. Casual purchasers might be surprised to find that this film is a little nastier than the usual slasher movie, with the kill scenes being just that little bit more cruel and graphic, but hardened splatter fans are advised to grab a copy without delay.
Movie Score
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