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The Prowler (1981)
Directed by Joseph Zito, the man who brought us Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter, one of the superior entries in the series, this film was made before he helmed that installment. It is easy to see, watching this, why he was hired for that job.
Our final girl is Pam (Vicky Dawson) and she reminds me a hell of a lot of Amy Steel from Friday The 13th Part 2. In fact, they could be sisters – or cousins… “they laugh alike, they walk alike, at time they even talk alike -” As the Patty Duke Show theme song whizzed through my brain, I imagined Amy and Vicky starring together in a similar show… on this week’s episode: Amy goes to summer camp and Vicky organises a graduation day dance! There are several scenes in The Prowler quite similar to scenes from Friday The 13th Part 2 – hell, Pam even gets to brandish a pitchfork at the climax the same way Amy did. I was convinced the makers of this film had cast Vicky because of her resemblance to Amy, and that they had stolen paid tribute to Friday The 13th Part 2 by replicating some shots. But then I looked up the year The Prowler came out and it was 1981. Wait, a minute, Friday The 13th Part 2 was the one who copied off The Prowler! No, wait… what year did Friday The 13th Part 2 come out? The same year as The Prowler. Funny, huh? And what an idiot I felt like when I saw that numerous other websites had already drawn similarities between the two. Well, that is one reason I love fans of horror movies – they pick up on everything!
The film begins in the 40s with a bunch of soldiers returning from WWII to the town of Avalon Bay in New Jersey. One of the soldiers receives a letter from his love Rosemary, effectively ending their relationship. But he takes care of her and the boy she has replaced him at the graduation day dance!
Zoom ahead, thirty-five years, and Avalon Bay hasn’t had a graduation dance since the killings. But this year that will be different! Yes, this is another one of those so popular in the 80s slashers, where something tragic happened years ago on a certain day or at a certain event – Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Arbor Day, a Bar Mitzvah – and so the town decides – no more heart-shaped boxes of candy, no more trick or treating, no more planting trees, no more circumcision. But the kids graduating this year have finally managed to stage a resurrection so they can get their celebratory on.
Well, you know how history repeats itself, and as Pam primps in front of a mirror, someone is putting on their old army fatigues, and before the punch has even been spiked somebody gets a knife through the top of their head, somebody is pitchforked in the shower, and Pam is getting chased through the halls of the empty sorority in one very tense and effective sequence.
Pam tells her main squeeze Mark, the town’s deputy sheriff, about her little encounter, and the two go Nancy Drew-ing around.
Oh, Pam, I think you can do better than that dumbass deputy sheriff. Dump him, he’d driftwood. And probably the killer. Also, why is the killer, dressed as a soldier, using a pitchfork as one of his weapons of choice?
Well, there is a dance going on after all, and the band at the dance is just bitchin’. One of the songs they sing has a lyric that goes: ‘But I want to see blood on the floor.’ Who are they? Is their CD on Ebay? God, the dances I went to were never this cool. I guess everything WAS better in the 80s.
Lisa, the skanky girl who looks a little like Carly Simon, and has been flirting with Mark all day and danced with him earlier – RIGHT IN FRONT OF PAM – is pissed because her date is puking in the bathroom and she is not having any fun. Deputy and Pam arrive, having decided everyone should stay there so they can stay safe… though Lisa walks right past them and out the door two seconds after they walk in. Deputy and Pam talk Miss Something-Or-Other, who seems to be in a position of authority, into interrupting the band (boo!) to make an announcement about a prowler on campus and that everyone should stay put for their own well-being.
Well, Lisa is at the pool, swimming, and surprisingly she is not naked. But soon, she is dead. I guess Miss Something-Or-Other was right about the prowler being potentially dangerous.
A lot more stuff goes on – some hooking up, some finding of a dug up grave, some hiding under a bed, some killer unmasking… the identity of the lunatic isn’t really that exciting. The film would have been great if it didn’t have so much downtime where we’re just… waiting… for… something… to… happen…
Not the worst slasher around, but not on the shortlist either. C