31 Days of Slashers: The Prowler (1981)

The twelfth entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series is another film from 1981, The Prowler. The film begins in 1944, as Rosemary writes a letter to her enlisted boyfriend saying that they need to break up. A year later, she’s attending her school’s graduation dance with Roy, her new boyfriend. The pair go to Lover’s Lane to neck in the car, and are soon both impaled with a pitchfork by someone in a military uniform who leaves behind a red rose with the bodies. 35 years later, the university has finally decided to hold the graduation ball again, leaving behind the violent history of the event. Pam (Vicky Dawson) is overseeing the dance with her friends. Soon bodies begin to pile up, as a prowler in a military uniform continues to leave red roses by his victims. Could it be Rosemary’s ex-boyfriend seeking more bloody carnage?

Directed by Joseph Zito, The Prowler features incredible practical gore effects by Tom Savini. Zito and Savini would end up working together again on Friday the 13th IV: The Final Chapter (1984). As with all of Savini’s work of the time, the practical effects look spectacular and make the film stand out from its peers. The titular prowler’s military uniform is also particularly effective as the creepy facade of the killer.

The film features a solid aesthetic that really takes advantage of the WWII era during its opening sequence. The setting of the graduation ball gives an air of elegance to the whole affair that is not common with slasher films of the era. The beauty of the set design and the location of the ball provides a stark contrast to the brutal murder sequences that Zito showcases throughout the film. The concept of a traumatized veteran from WWII as a villain was also quite controversial at the time.

The Prowler also features a strong supporting cast with Farley Granger starring as Sheriff Fraser. Granger is most well-known for his leading roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) and Strangers on a Train (1951). It’s fun to see the classic Hollywood actor turning in a solid performance in this standout slasher. I always really love when legendary actors pop up in horror films of the 1980s. Vicky Dawson’s Pam also proves to be a strong and capable Final Girl character.

Through its interesting WWII angle, its excellent practical gore effects, and its solid performances, The Prowler proves that is another great addition to your Halloween watchlist this year!

The Prowler can be streamed for free on the Tubi and Vudu apps and with a membership on the Arrow Player app. The Blue Underground blu-ray, which features a solid restoration, can be bought HERE.

I’ll be back tomorrow with another exciting entry in the 31 Days of Slashers series!

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