The Prowler (1981)

Wow, talk about being an all out stalk and kill flick. The Prowler just proves my point that 1981 had some of the best horror flicks of the 80’s. If nothing else, I would say 1981 is the best year of the 80’s for the genre (I was also born in 81 which also adds to it being the best year of the decade.) Rivaled only by The Burning, Tom Savinis work in this flick just proves how much he really was one of the top FX artist of that decade.

Opening with stock footage of American soldiers returning home after WWII, The Prowler is one of the rare slasher films that begins with the murders that inspired the legend instead of a spirited recap told around the campfire (see Friday The 13th Pt 2, Madman, The Burning). After receiving a “Dear John” letter while fighting overseas, the camouflage clad antagonist returns home to exact revenge on his unfaithful girlfriend. Finding Rosemary and her new beau skipping out on their graduation soiree to do some seaside face sucking, “The Prowler” swiftly dispatches the embracing couple with a brutal pitchfork impaling through both of their torsos. He then stomps his foot onto the base of the fork, further slamming the spiked prongs into the bodies of his love and her lover.

What makes these sequences all the more frightening is the attention to detail. As one unfortunate partygoer is stabbed through the top of the skull, “The Prowler” holds his hand over the boy’s mouth as blood pours down his face, his body rattles in a disturbing fashion and his eyes roll deep into his head. We linger with the killing for nearly a minute and it’s hard not to feel a bit nauseous after seeing Savini’s unsettling work.

Joseph Zito’s direction also helps add to the eerie atmosphere, showing “The Prowler” in shadows and darkness, never giving us a close look at the face of this mysterious night stalker. His work is also quite professional and this feature would springboard him into the director’s chair for two other stellar exploitation pictures, Friday The 13th Pt 4: The Final Chapter and Invasion U.S.A (Chuck Norris!)

This flick at the top of the slasher genre, boasting shocking kills, creepy campus settings and a wholly believable lead. Those interested in the genre would be hard-pressed to find a better example released after 1980. If you watch this film and want a good follow up, consider doing a double header with The Prowler and Madman.

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