The Prowler has all the conceits of an 80s slasher: a prologue, a grudge, a flash-forward, a ludicrous proposition*, a masked killer, unique weaponry, college students, a lack of ambient light.
And usually if a film’s title is said in a film, that counts as a strike against it. In The Prowler (listen to our podcast discussion thereof), all of these attributes are forgiven. After all, while there are lots of films that follow the field guide above, few are lucky enough to have the stunning special effects black magic of a Tom Savini.
The Prowler begins in grainy black and white newsreel footage of victorious GIs returning from Europe and the Pacific Theater. And there’s a voice-over – a sad Dear John letter sending a young soldier from the war zone right into the friend zone.
Cut to a post-war dance in fictional Avalon Bay, somewhere in the Northeastern USA. Glenn Miller’s version of Little Brown Jug is making everyone cut the rug (the big-bang leader himself went MIA in 1944 over the English Channel) save for an amorous duo gracing a romantically lit ocean-side pier and gazebo. Their romance is cut short when a killer armed with a pitchfork kebabs the duo.
Flash forward decades and one Major General Chatham, hasn’t allowed the town to have a dance*. (Is there a particular military rank whose purview includes college prom oversight?)
But blond bombshell Pam MacDonald has some sway (after all, she’s dating the sheriff’s deputy, Mark London) and soon the kids are sashaying to a groove. The punch is spiked, weed’s been procured, couples have paired off, and all is right with the world until there’s word that a convenience store robbery in a nearby town has gone awry and has now been ruled a homicide.
The sheriff’s out of town and the rookie deputy’s in charge of everyone’s safety. What could possibly go wrong?
As it turns out, quite a bit. Soon, a killer bedecked in combat fatigues is bayoneting anyone with a student ID, and the dance floor is being cleared.
João Fernandes (Children of the Corn) brings a lot of visual style to The Prowler, and he’s aided by robust Tom Savini effects. This counters the somewhat stilted “I found an open grave out there. It’s been opened,” repartee.
While by no stretch a classic, Joseph Zito’s The Prowler is a solid, capable college slasher flick.
***1/2 (out of 5)
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