The Prowler (1981)

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The Prowler aka Rosemary’s Killer, 1981
directed by Joseph Zito
starring Vicky Dawson, Christopher Goutman, Farley Granger

One of the “section three” films of the video nasties list from the UK in the 1980s is The Prowler (also later released as Rosemary’s Killer) features a few notable movie talents. Horror-wise, makeup master Tom Savini works his magic, and director Joseph Zito would go on to direct Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Farley Granger appears, most notable for his two (fantastic) works with Alfred Hitchcock in Rope and Strangers on a Train, and in a limited role we see Lawrence Tierney, who built an extensive resume with many RKO features as a intimidating tough guy. Those that are a little less known, such as a lead star Vicky Dawson and David Sederholm, are more than serviceable and make The Prowler a rare slasher that doesn’t have incredibly bad acting. However, even though the movie doesn’t fall into the frequent traps that often make slashers a chore to watch, it doesn’t do enough to place it far above an extensive library of “faceless killer hacks up young adults” films that were just becoming so common at the time of its release.

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What made The Prowler so notorious was definitely the makeup work of Tom Savini. It’s hard to write about a movie that he worked on and not bring it up, but especially for the time, this movie is very graphic and the effects are phenomenal. The only downside is much of the kills are spread too far apart, especially in the beginning. Saying something like that always sounds maniacal, but initially The Prowler does feel very much like a movie that you should be watching in a cinema with other screaming fans, or with a group of friends having a good time. The middle portion of the film slows down a bit, perhaps a little too much, but the atmosphere benefits from that. Although some of the scenes are repetitive and a touch predictable, they are well shot and the music accompaniment is effective. The plot is a thin veil covering the slashing action, but is still treated like a grand mystery throughout the film. Which is even more frustrating, because the opening scene completely explains what we watch a green deputy and a college girl try to figure out for an hour. The “whodunnit” part is then presented with three suspects, each of whom only receive two cliched scenes of enticement each.

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It’s hard to recommend or not recommend The Prowler, there’s definitely a pretty specific audience and mood required. This isn’t a hidden slasher gem like Intruder or Popcorn, but it’s not completely forgettable low-budget trash. It is, if I had to compare it to something, it’s a slightly more refined Slumber Party Massacre or The House on Sorority Row. It starts off well, stutters a bit mid-way, but has a good finish and a solid final fight. Dawson is great in the role given to her as the leading lady. Although, even though the plot is essentially wrapped up, the very final scene seems like something thrown in at the very last minute, with either filmmakers lost on how to roll into the credits or producers wanting one last scare. The real show stealer here is Savini, and his work definitely makes the movie a slightly above average slasher.

6.0

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