It’s likely that if one were asking any horror fan when was the heyday of the glorious gore slasher cycle they excitedly announced the eighties, to be more precise it’s the early 80s. Shortly after both Halloween (1978) and Friday the 13th (1980) releases, the floodgates opened the blood splattering countless slashers flicks all following in the slitting of opening major arteries, and most have seen them or in some case own dozens of DVDs and Blu-rays of them. That brings us to The Prowler, a lesser known movie, perhaps obscure to all, but the dedicated masses of the slasher subgenre, which attempted to combine both slasher conceptual design with a mystery story. However, it actually goes a step further, it’s one of the first movies looking at PTSD and how a ‘dear john’ letter can cause turmoil, in the mind and soul of a solider/veteran tossed aside becoming a different type casualty. When it came to the screenwriters a slew of them were involved, a total of five, far too many for a slasher movie, Eric Lewald and Mark Edens provided additional dialogue and Sarah Higgins created the legendary Rose Chatham’s Letter, nevertheless the main writing came from Glenn Leopold and Neal Barbera (son of the Joe Barbera of Hanna-Barbera, famous for Scooby-Doo). Meanwhile its director Joseph Zito, who shot the entire project on time and budget, with providing crisp gory kills for the horror to audience gobble-up that later earned the directing position on Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984). Originally a short-lived distribution company named Sandhurst released the film, resulting in a moderate showing at the box, but in 2010 Blue Underground delivered a significant Blu-ray of the film. There’s seems to be a handful of films that either never have a proper release or overlooked falling into obscurity, The Prowler is definitely the latter.
It contains a customary pre-credit sequence, that woman named Rosemary (Joy Glaccum (Dressed to Kill )) reads out loud her “Dear John” letter, to a soldier serving his nation that conveys the intent that she’s abandoning him. It’s set in summer of 1945 in Avalon Bay, and college graduates are celebrating their accomplishments and the end of World War II. Rosemary and her boyfriend Roy (Timothy Wahrer) sneak away from the dance for a little private cuddling, but when the lights go out, we all know what’s about to happen, a soldier dressed in full combat gear delivers a double impalement, gotta see it! The story does a time jump to 1981, where the college students are once again holding the graduation dance, banned for the past 36 years. Meanwhile, Sheriff Fraser (Farley Granger known for Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope  and Strangers on a Train ) is leaving for his annual fishing trip and puts Deputy Mark London (Christopher Goutman) in charge, who has a love interest with Pam (Vicky Dawson). As she prepares for the night, a great cinematography scene occurs, her preparation matches that of the unforeseen killer. Now, without getting too deep into the story, which slasher and horror fans should see in general, a nice body count racks with some great impalements, stabbings, slitting and an explosive conclusion. A couple actors to mention, first Thom Bray who portrays Ben, plays the stereotypical nerd, that some might recall from Prince of Darkness (1987) and then the comical scene, which effective breaks all tension, by Hotel Clerk (Bill Nunnery) who pretends to check-in on a guest but never does the task at all, a must see moment.
While the movie tries to stay on an independent story-line course it does borrow from other productions, such as having a dance celebration 30-years later after a tragedy, which matches My Bloody Valentine (1981) that had its 20-years later, that hit the box office 9-monhts earlier. Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead ) gave great effects, with his version of the classic shower scene in Psycho (1960) this time involving a pitchfork and Sherry (Lisa Dunsheath) and a downward knife thrust to Carl (David Sederholm). Of course, censorship took many seconds off the film, now restored to the Blu-ray release, but also greatly affected the UK distribution in which the title changed to Rosemary’s Killer. As for issue directly related to the story, there’s typical thin character creations, a few longer than needed film sequence which offset the tempo of the movie, another killing could’ve replaced this hiccup (but that’s all in hindsight). Zito, did actually use an open grave on Halloween night, in 1980 to film the cemetery scenes, once again showing sometimes a filmmaker needs to use all available resources and locations, regardless of how unorthodox. Composer Richard Einhorn (Shock Waves ), borrows slightly from Harry Manfredini’s Friday the 13th score especially in regard to the false happy ending scene.
First the movie does fit into the slasher category, as it contains a final girl, a stalking killer, however it follows a bit of the a mystery/whodunit that Friday the 13th deploys part-way through their film, plenty of red herrings deployed but I think the experienced horror fan will likely know who it is. Overall, a good solid flick to include with your slasher buffet viewing next you desire something different than the normal rubber/plastic masked killer, this one doesn’t mind the close-quarter and hand to hand combat killing.
- You don’t need a chainsaw to have a massacre. (1984 re-release as “Pitchfork Massacre”)
- A four-prong nightmare! (1984 re-release as “Pitchfork Massacre”)
- Just when you thought it was over
- It will freeze your blood.
- The human exterminator.
- if you think you’re safe… you’re DEAD wrong!
- the film that shocked America!
IMDb Rating: 6.1/10
Baron’s rating: 6.0/10