Slasher films are a dime a dozen, but every once in a while one pops up that transcends its genre and becomes a cultural phenomenon. Part of it can be due to the strength of the script, the directing, the cinematography, or the story concept, but what really elevates a slasher flick is the slasher. There’s something compelling and terrifying about Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Voorhees. We’re simultaneously attracted and repulsed by these movie monsters because they tap into something deep and iconic. This quality is completely lacking in The Prowler, and that’s why it will never be more than a slasher movie.
Don’t get me wrong, in terms of slasher films, The Prowler is actually pretty good. The story is coherent, the plot moves along at a good pace, the characters are well-developed, and it has plenty of the staples of the genre—namely, boobs and blood. What brings it down is a forgettable, lackluster monster.
In 1945 the teens of Avalon Bay were celebrating their high school graduation. The festivities are broken by the brutal murder of young Rosemary and her boyfriend, presumably by a jilted World War II soldier recently returned. A ban was placed on any future graduation parties, and for thirty years Avalon Bay rested safely, until some of the seniors decide to resurrect the celebration. In doing so they unwittingly resurrect the horror from thirty years past, and put into motion a series of grisly, horrific murders.
Special effects gore master Tom Savini worked on this film so the murder scenes are unsurprisingly great. People die all kinds of inventive, bloody deaths in this movie, but as I said before, the weak link is the monster itself. The Prowler prowls through Avalon Bay in World War II army fatigues, as silent as Michael Myers but without the imposing screen presence or any kind of iconic weapon. Most of the killings are done with random tools and farm implements people happen to leave lying around, so the whole World War II shtick doesn’t go beyond the outfit. There’s no unifying thought behind the monster. He’s not the dream killer, the boogeyman, or the man in the woods—he’s just a man, and that takes away a lot of the fun and potential scares.
I will say, though, that The Prowler does have above average acting for the genre. Farley Granger of Strangers on a Train fame and Reservoir Dogs‘ Lawrence Tierney both have bit parts in the movie, so quality acting from them isn’t surprising. What is surprising is that the two main characters, Pam MacDonald and Mark London (Vicky Dawson and Christopher Goutman, respectively) are just as good. It’s nice to have likable characters that you can root for, for a change, and they definitely make this movie worth watching, just as much as the special effects.
The movie is presented in widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio in 1080p HD resolution. The audio tracks are in 7.1 DTS-HD, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX, and the original mono. English, French, and Spanish subtitles are provided for the hearing impaired and non-English speakers. In terms of quality, the movie is certainly dated, but was transferred very well to Blu-Ray format with no real problems with either the audio or the video.
The extras are pretty standard here, but I do want to point out Tom Savini’s behind-the-scenes gore feature. I’m a fan of the man, so I enjoyed watching the extra footage.
Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Joseph Zito and Special Make-up Effects Artist Tom Savini
Tom Savini’s Behind-the-Scenes Gore Footage
The Prowler is a well put-together if somewhat forgettable movie. Fans of the slasher genre should rent it just to see an above average example, but unless you’re an enthusiast, I’d skip this one.
Blue Underground presents The Prowler. Directed by: Joseph Zito. Starring: Farley Granger, Vicky Dawson, Christopher Goutman, and Cindy Weintrabu. Written by: Glenn Leopold and Neal F. Barbera. Running time: 89 minutes. Rating: NR. Released on DVD: July 27, 2010.