THE PROWLER. A Forgotten 80s Slasher

The Prowler is an excellent slasher not remembered by many.

Jarosław Kowal

5 August 2023

the prowler slasher

There were about as many slasher movies in the 1980s as there are superhero movies today. Maybe even more. It was then that the best parts of Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, the second Halloween, Maniac Cop and Prom Night were created. These ten years changed pop culture forever, but on the other hand, the depths of history absorbed many other excellent slashers, which today only a few remember. The Prowler is just such a case.

The best recommendation may be the figure of the director, now inactive, Joseph Zito. Some associate him primarily as the creator of exceptionally successful films with Chuck Norris in the lead role (Missing in Action and Invasion U.S.A.), while for others he is the author of the cult installment of the tragic story of Jason Voorhees – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Interestingly, perhaps this part would not be in this form if not for The Prowler.

Shortly after the premiere of the film, Zito received a call from the then manager of Jason’s fate, convincing that if instead of the bizarre soldier his ward appeared, the money would flow in streams. The gentlemen entered into a gentleman’s agreement to test the prophecy at the next opportunity, and the Final Chapter was born, a $2.5 million production that grossed over thirty-three million dollars.

Both films are also connected by the character of Tom Savini, a living legend of special effects, who also showed his talents in the first Friday the 13th, but resigned from working on its sequel because it seemed ridiculous to him. You may also associate him with an acting episode in From Dusk Till Dawn, where he played the Sex Machine (the one with the revolver attached at the height of the penis). Savini’s way of acting is very… erm… spectacular, even too much for some, because, as in the case of Arson, published only a few months earlier, this time too sensitive censors from Great Britain decided to cut out many of the murder scenes. The author of the scandal himself confessed in one of the interviews that he considers what he created with The Prowler to be his best work.

One more interesting fact: the script was written by Glenn Leopold (author of many episodes of Scooby-Doo) and Neal Barbera, son of Joseph – co-creator of the legendary Hanna-Barbera studio. So the gentlemen had an experience with horror, but of a completely different kind.

At the outset, viewers are treated to a movie within a movie. Propaganda material emphasizing the heroism of American soldiers in the fight against the Nazis. Then a piece of paper emerges and we meet Rosemary, a very reckless young lady. Today, everyone probably knows that ending a relationship via Messenger or SMS is tactless and inelegant, but Rosemary has no scruples about sending a letter to Europe, in which she states that you don’t know when your beloved will come back, and you have to enjoy life. In short, “it wasn’t about him, it was about her.” Finally, he adds: “Maybe when you come back, we’ll be friends”… Oh, Rosemary, Rosemary… It doesn’t work like that! The recipient of the letter, unnamed by the writers, is obviously not happy, but it cannot be denied that he overreacts a bit, because soon after he shows up at the prom (where else?) in full uniform and deals with his former love and her new boyfriend. This is not a spoiler! These are the first minutes of the movie. Then we move thirty-five years into the future, to another ball, where the vengeful grunt returns.

Unsurprising – teens, dorm, prom, nudity. Surprisingly – choosing a completely ordinary soldier as the main antagonist of a slasher in the imagination may seem like a not very interesting procedure (that’s how it was painted in my imagination), but the effect is excellent. The grim warrior looks impressive, and in addition he can evoke that characteristic anxiety that accompanies only those horror murderers whose ties to humanity are still tight. After all, for example, in Michael Myers (at least in the first part) the scariest thing is that such a person could really exist… In fact, there are such people, and a whole series of them. The only thing that puzzles me is why most of the killings are done with pitchforks? I’m not a weapons specialist, and I know that firearms and slasher are a very bad combination, but I feel that a bayonet or a combat knife would be more adequate armament.

The Prowler kills eight people in total. Contrary to appearances, this is quite a good result, Freddy Krueger started with four, Michael Myers with five, and Jason Voorhees with zero, because – attention, spoiler – in the first film he is not at all (in the second he immediately jumps to the level of nine murders). However, quality is more important than quantity and here The Prowler never fails. The scenes of killing teenagers were done in an impressive way (most of them were played by Savini himself, because only he knew how to effectively activate the special effects), and in addition they were surrounded by tension and atmosphere, not banal jump scares.

The lack of a sequel can be explained by the fact that dealing with a murder soldier is very brutal, but on the other hand, what explanation is that? Jason or Michael didn’t go through things like that, but they always came back. On the other hand, maybe it’s a good thing that Rosemary’s Killer never returned. As history shows, we usually like cult slasher sequels out of sentiment and indulge in their abysmal level. So maybe a better method is once and for all.