The Prowler  (1981)

Octoblur 2015 - #34: The Prowler (1981)

 
By dorrk, October 28th 2015
Octoblur: If the quality doesn't scare you the quantity will.

Earlier this month I watched the 1981 summer camp-themed slasher The Burning, which has recently built a new reputation as an underappreciated classic. Other than its cast of future-notables, I didn't see much that made it stand out from the middle-of-the-pack, but a case could be made for rediscovering 1980s The Prowler, which features some of gore-master Tom Savini's most bracing and disturbingly presented effects.

The Prowler has the standard slasher plot template: a long time ago something bad happened. Decades later, a mysterious figure cuts their way through a series of groping teenagers. Not only is the plot of The Prowler pure formula, the movie suffers from many of the same flaws that has tagged its subgenre as the ghetto of 1980s horror: weak characters, wooden dialog, sub-par actors (or decent actors giving sub-par performances) and often pedestrian storytelling. Vicky Dawson has a kind of charm as Pam, but little range (and looks a lot like Friday the 13th Part 2's Amy Steel), and Christopher Goutman is little more than a head of oddly parted feathered hair. Lawrence Tierney and Farley Granger also appear in minor roles.

However, director Joseph Zito — who would go on later in the decade to helm the enduring exploitation classics Friday the 13th Part IV: the Final Chapter and Chuck Norris' Invasion U.S.A. — really digs into the muck of a few key moments of The Prowler, giving it a more visceral and disturbing tone than most of its peers. Whereas many slasher movies build suspense leading up to a kill but quickly away from impact, Zito not only lingers on Tom Savini's vivid gore effects but prolongs these scenes with coverage from multiple angles, holding on the victims past the point of cheap thrills, creating a sobering tone of morbid finality that is unusually human for this type of material.

There are some other uncommon touches in The Prowler, such as the killer's awkwardness; a weird overlong exchange of facial expressions between two characters during the climax; and the atypical coda which attaches to the movie a fresher angle of horror than it maybe deserves; but all of these small qualities ended up resonating with me far more than I expected.

Great lesser-known horror movies

Fun, weird & dark corners worth exploring.
A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)

A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)

Demon Seed (1977)

Demon Seed (1977)

The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (2005)

The Exorcism Of Emily Rose (2005)

Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981)

Friday The 13th Part 2 (1981)

The Funhouse (1981)

The Funhouse (1981)

The Guest (2014)

The Guest (2014)

The House Of The Devil (2009)

The House Of The Devil (2009)

Housebound (2014)

Housebound (2014)

The Johnsons (1992)

The Johnsons (1992)

Kill List (2011)

Kill List (2011)

Little Otik (2001)

Little Otik (2001)

Motel Hell (1980)

Motel Hell (1980)

Orphan (2009)

Orphan (2009)

Seed Of Chucky (2004)

Seed Of Chucky (2004)

Silent Night Deadly Night (1984)

Silent Night Deadly Night (1984)

Spider Baby... (1968)

Spider Baby... (1968)

Starry Eyes (2014)

Starry Eyes (2014)

The Stepfather (1987)

The Stepfather (1987)

Suicide Club (2001)

Suicide Club (2001)

A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003)

A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003)

Dorrk's Top 20 horror movies

The boring list of horror essentials. If you haven't seen these yet, what are you doing?
The Exorcist (1973)

The Exorcist (1973)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

The Shining (1980)

The Shining (1980)

Jaws (1975)

Jaws (1975)

The Thing (1982)

The Thing (1982)

The Fly (1986)

The Fly (1986)

An American Werewolf In London (1981)

An American Werewolf In London (1981)

Psycho (1960)

Psycho (1960)

Poltergeist (1982)

Poltergeist (1982)

Alien (1979)

Alien (1979)

The Omen (1976)

The Omen (1976)

Rosemarys Baby (1968)

Rosemarys Baby (1968)

Halloween (1978)

Halloween (1978)

Nosferatu (1922)

Nosferatu (1922)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986)

Frankenstein (1931)

Frankenstein (1931)

The Return Of The Living Dead (1985)

The Return Of The Living Dead (1985)

Suicide Club (2001)

Suicide Club (2001)

Repulsion (1965)

Repulsion (1965)

Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)

Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)

Trailer for the Prowler (1981)

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#3: West Side Story (1961)

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#4: Manhattan (1979)

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#8: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

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#9: Star Wars (1977)

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#10: The Exorcist (1973)

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#11: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

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#12: Taxi Driver (1976)

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#13: Annie Hall (1977)

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#14: Vertigo (1958)

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#16: Boogie Nights (1997)

#16: Boogie Nights (1997)

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#17: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

#17: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

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#18: It's a Wonderful Life (1944)

#18: It's a Wonderful Life (1944)

Dir: Frank Capra
#19: Singin' in the Rain (1952)

#19: Singin' in the Rain (1952)

Dir: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
#20: Zodiac (2007)

#20: Zodiac (2007)

Dir: David Fincher