Thursday, October 27, 2016

31 Days of Horror- Day 27: The Prowler (1981)

(dir. Joseph Zito)

*First time viewing

35 years after a double-murder at a graduation dance in the aftermath of WWII, the killer seemingly returns to wreak havoc in a trail left in blood and roses.

The Prowler is another B-movie 80s slash semi-classic that’s been on my radar for years but didn’t get around to watching until this week. Zito, who would later go on to direct Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, goes through most of the familiar slasher beats with a group of young college kids serving as carving boards for an army combat uniform clad, pitchfork carrying killer. Effects legend Tom Savini delivers a brutal series of kills, culminating in an explosive finale of blood. The kills scenes become adrenaline shots in a somewhat sleepy film. The story itself is intriguing, backed up by a post-WWII prologue that gives the film a sense of history. But as intriguing as the mystery is, the pacing is slow, consisting of long stretches between moments of horror and mystery. Much of the film is driven by wholesome final girl, Pam (who may be one of the most likable final girls) and her love interest, (a cardboard box) Deputy Mark London. The film stalls as they attempt to investigate the series of murders by wandering through dark spaces for what seems like unnecessarily long stretches of time, particularly considering the reveal which I'll touch on momentarily.

Even when The Prowler’s pacing suffers, it’s obvious that Zito is a director who stands head and shoulders above many of his slasher movie contemporaries. The production value in this film is unmistakable and while it may have been made for cheap, it never looks cheap and that's key to this movie's lasting appeal. Zito’s lighting and careful framing is noticeable within the first 15 minutes, and The Prowler truly is a beauty to look at. For the most part The Prowler works…until we reach the conclusion which may be one of the weirdest (and not in a good way) endings to a slasher movie I’ve seen. There are Scooby-Doo episodes with better wrap-ups, and explorations into character motivations. It’s so utterly weird that I can’t help but think a major chunk of the film was cut out. Endings may not make a movie, but when it comes to slasher films that tend to be distinguishable because of them, The Prowler unfortunately deflates before the credits roll, and a Carrie-esque dream sequence doesn't do a bit to help matters..

Scare Factor: 1/5 The Prowler is mostly enjoyable despite a WTF ending, and while it won’t create any nightmares it’s worth watching for Savini’s work alone.

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