Thirty-Five Years Later... that same town is still reeling from the horrors meted on them, like an angry lunch lady with some bad pimento loaf. Unsurprisingly almost four decades have gone by without any kind of Graduation Dance, making damned sure that the killer, wherever he is, stays the eff-you-see-kay away.
But the local horn-dog twentysomethings decide that this year they're going to have a Valentine's Day Dance... oops, I mean Graduation DAY DANCE... figuring that the killer in question is, by now, just a faded memory. And... Mayhem Ensues!
Now if you think that sounds almost EXACTLY like the setup for (the original) My Bloody Valentine, let me assure you that... you're right... it does. But it's not. This is the setup for yet another Psycho Slasher Killer flick called The Prowler!
Do I smell RIP OFF? Well... POSSIBLY, but not bloody likely. You see, both flicks were released in the year of 1981 and while My Bloody Valentine predated The Prowler by nine months, it's hard to believe that the latter film fully gestated (what with writing, filming, distributing, marketing) in just that time. Further, the synergy here is only slightly less deniable than that of Sleepaway Camp and Unhinged!
So... Rip Off? Nah... but not winning any uniqueness prizes, either!!! However, one thing that The Prowler has going for it that neither Unhinged, nor Sleepaway Camp nor even My Bloody Valentine can claim is special makeup effects by the great Tom Savini!
Ah, yes, folks, Tom Savini's undeniable fingerprints are all over this movie and one of the reasons that The Prowler remains effective after all these years and all these competitors and followers is that the death scenes look VERY real. VERY!
The main plot begins, as you may have gleaned, just as the decades-dormant Graduation Night Dance is being reinstituted by the town of Avalon Bay. This is in spite of the fact that the older generation(s) still remember all too well what happened on June 28, 1945. They may not remember what they had for Breakfast, but 1945 they're cool with. That goes especially for Avalon Bay's elder Major Chatham (Lawrence Tierney)! I... I mean the remembering 1945 part, not the Breakfast part... but... ask him. Anyway, Chatham lost his beloved daughter Rosemary (Joy Glaccum) that fateful night and he's had a serious mad-on since then about any kind of Graduation Dances. Maybe he'd have been more comfortable in that town where Footloose was set???
While Sheriff Fraser (Farley Granger) is still warning that the Major would stop THIS Grad Dance if he could, he's much more serious about criticizing his main-man Deputy (Christopher Goutman's Mark London) on his taste in younger (reading: just graduating college) women, like Pam MacDonald (Vicky Dawson). Still, the show must go on... and it does... even after the bodies start piling up.
And pile up, they do! Whether the bulk of these murder concepts came from the pens of writers Neal Barbera and Glenn Leopold or from an on-set collaboration between director Joseph Zito and Savini, it's clear that old Tom's specialties are being used to great success up to and including his ability to "think up new ways to kill people".
Our menacing title Prowler (a portrayed, mostly, by first assistant director Peter Giuliano) uses his 1940s-era weapons along with the strange choice of a pitchfork as he stalks the teenagers in this movie and Savini uses each weapon to convincing effect. What the town doesn't know is who this killer, who is still dressed in his World War II US Army uniform, truly is. Could this be the original killer from 1945, returning to stop the dance and terrorize the town again or could this be a copycat out for his own agenda? And either way... who is that and what IS that agenda?
Well, actually, any 1/4 way astute viewer can figure that out almost as soon as we enter the 1980s from the 1940s. As soon as we first meet the character who is eventually revealed to be the culprit, just about anyone might say "Hmmm... I wonder if it's THAT guy?" Well, it is. Trust your instincts, kid-a-rinoz! Further, the hints that Zito gives us to help figure this out are far from subtle and feel a lot more like repeated confirmations than mere clues. There were a few points that I wanted to grab that Mark London kid and say "DUDE, Open your Soap-Opera Producing EYES and answer the proverbial Daily Double, man! It's so obvious!"
Therein lies the main issue with The Prowler! It's not only a variation on a theme that was already being copied and recopied throughout every SPLATTER hit wannabe already (and would be re-re-re-re-copied over and over until this very day and beyond), but it's also predictable as hell and none-too-mysterious in the mystery category, pilgrims. Not that the film is a waste of time, dudes and chicks, but I've had salads that packed more surprises than this film.
You may thrill to the scene of the overweight lodge clerk pretending to work while playing solitaire. You may be riveted when Mark drops his girlfriend off at the dance so that he can do his police work solo... and then... (drum roll) changes his MIND! You may even feel chills when Major Chatham shows up... at his own house!
Maybe... but the real thrills and frights have less to do with these things, or even the surprise twist ending than they do the amazing special effects by Mr. Savini. From a frightening Shower Scene to a disturbing head-stabbing scene, to a chilling pool sequence to one of Savini's signature moves, the infamous "Exploding Head", this remains as one example of some of his best work.
Further, the actresses he and Zito get to work with in these scenes are quite lovely and talented, especially Cindy Weintraub and Lisa Dunsheath (whom we see naked!). Then again, none of the actors in this movie are really "bad", considering the type of movie this is, but they all find themselves caught in the trappings of a predictable movie with familiar sequences and repeated iconography.
Still, those special effects are great!
That alone is worth PITCHING the movie to a friend, right?
GET IT? "PITCHing"? Because "The Prowler" is dispatching his victims with a Pitch Fork? What? Bad even for me? Okay, I'll move on, then!
What? I used that same joke in the My Bloody Valentine review? Well, that seems appropriate, doesn't it? Huzzah!
Similar though it may be to other (often superior) films, The Prowler has it where it counts in a lot of the right areas for your early-80s Masked Slasher Serial Killer B-Movie! This may not be the best of its kind, but it does achieve a passable Two and One Half Stars out of Five! It's a gory, disturbing good time with some campy and unintentionally cheesy moments not to mention an over-arching familiar story and a questionable choice for Graduation Dance rock band. Yeah, nothing says "Romantic Night at the Dance" like a singer describing how he wants to walk in on his girlfriend dead. Why not just go for broke and have Alice Fucking Cooper sing "Cold Ethel" or something? Then again, I'm guessing that Prowler fellow is much more of a Glenn Miller fan. I wonder what a Glenn Miller Orchestra version of "Cold Ethel" might sound like.
Chatanooga Cool Cool Ethel, maybe? Damn it. Clearly I've spent too much time in the sun and need to get some sleep. I'm not even making MYSELF laugh anymore. See you prowler clowns in the next really unreal reel!
Man, that PROWLER was really FORKED UP!
Who PITCHED this movie?
Somebody stop me from reaching for puns my ass can't cash
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