The Prowler (1981)


You can really see Tom Savini’s fingerprints all over “The Prowler,” as it elicits a lot of gruesome deaths for such a downbeat slasher movie. Much of the effects also echo a lot of the gore we saw in “Dawn of the Dead” including the exploding head moments. That said, “The Prowler” is a surprisingly strong slasher effort that doesn’t hold a lot of doors open for sequels, but manages to be a surprisingly decent and vicious whodunit with a creative and merciless serial killer unleashed on a vacation resort.

Opening with a prologue set in the forties after World War II, “The Prowler” establishes its killer as a creative and very monstrous villain with an axe to grind. Thankfully much of “The Prowler,” which is then set in the eighties, gives us time to slowly unravel who the killer is behind the military fatigues and how they snare their victims left and right. Much of “The Prowler” revolves around setting up red herrings and clues, while also centering on rather interesting characters. While they are mostly just cannon fodder, they’re less obnoxious than the victims we see in most eighties slasher films.

And you really can’t hate them too much for their stupidity, since they’re stuck in a resort where the killer is a trained commando who knows about stealth and quick silent kills. It’s like going up against Rambo. Vicky Dawson plays the empathetic protagonist Pam, who attends a graduation party at Avalon Bay where the infamous murder in the prologue ensued. Deciding to forget the tragedy and move on to happier celebrations, the sheriff of the local town is made cautious of a killer that’s on the loose and headed for the resort. Just then the bayonet wielding, camouflaged killer begins offing local residents preparing for the festivities and takes great zeal in murdering them as horribly as possible.

“The Prowler” manages to achieve injecting tension, while also creating a genuinely creepy killer. The character Pam is an admirably smart and clever heroine who evades the killer quite cleverly, and even battles him in many instances. I particularly loved the final confrontation, since it’s not often eighties slashers feature gutsy final girls. Savini is able to open up scenes of brutality, including a knife through a head, and many a slit throats that revel in the blood splatter. “The Prowler” definitely is one of the better slasher mysteries of the eighties, and it’s another of the fine collaborations between Tom Savini and Joseph Zito, both of whom know how to deliver damn fine slasher fare.