The Prowler (1981)

Director Joseph Zito really cranked ’em out in the 1980’s, with films like Invasion U.S.A.Red Scorpion, the original Missing in Action and 1984’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. This one’s an interesting tweak to the slasher formula, plus it has what all gory movies need most: the imaginative grand guignol artistry of Tom Savini.

June 28, 1945: World War 2 may be coming to an end, but Rosemary Chatham is also ending her relationship with her boyfriend. The war’s gone on too long and she can’t wait for him any longer. As she attends the Avalon Bay graduation dance with her new boyfriend, they decide to slip out and make out at the point. Mid-tryst, a man in an army uniform impales them both, leaving behind a rose.

June 28, 1980: Pam McDonald has finally convinced the town to have a graduation dance, the first since Rosemary was murdered. Her boyfriend, Mark London (Christopher Goutman, who went on to be a soap opera director) is the town’s deputy and in charge as his boss, Sheriff  Fraser(Farley Granger, Strangers on a TrainWhat Have They Done to Your Daughters?Amuck!) is heading to his cabin for the weekend.

Pam has some help — or well, she did — in Lisa, Sherry and Carl. The latter two are killed by The Prowler from the opening — Carl with a bayonet through his brain and Sherry by pitchfork. The blood is copious in both murders and the murderer leaves behind a rose.

At the dance, Pam gets upset when Lisa dances with her boyfriend and she gets a drink on her dress. Back at her dorm, the Prowler chases her, but at the last minute, she runs into Major Chatham (noted Hollywood crazy person rulebreaker Lawrence Tierney, who was arrested a dozen times in seven years and claimed he “threw away about seven careers through drink.” You may know him as the boss of the Reservoir Dogs and as Elaine’s dad on Seinfeld. During the shooting of that episode, he stole a butcher knife from the set and when Jerry Seinfeld asked him about it, he made threatening motions toward him while claiming he was just imitating Psycho. I could — and can and will and do — go on about Lawrence Tierney), a war veteran who grabs at her.

That’s when Pam realizes that the major’s daughter was Rosemary, the girl killed 35 years ago. Right around then, Lisa and Paul argue and he gets arrested for public drunkenness. Lisa decides to go swimming and gets her throat cut by The Prowler. Another girl, Allison, tries to find her and is killed as well.

Mark tries to call the Sheriff, but can’t get through. A shopkeeper tells the deputy that there are some kids up in the graveyard and when he investigates, Lisa’s body is in an open grave. They go to the major’s house to investigate and Mark is attacked and left for dead. Pam is chased through the house, learning that none other than the Sheriff is the Prowler. She is able to turn his gun on him and blow his head his shoulders.

After its all over, Pam returns to her dorm and discovers the bodies of Sherry and Carl. Carl comes to life and grabs her, but she’s just in the end of the movie hallucination shock scene that we all know and maybe love from Carrie.

The Prowler is mostly worth it for the extended gore sequences. It came out in the middle of the slasher cycle, so it has plenty of the hallmarks (maybe that’s not the right word) of the genre. You can catch it on Shudder and marvel at Savini’s handiwork for yourself. PLUS! They have it with Joe Bob Briggs commentary now!

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