Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Prowler

Gone are the days when one referred to a weirdo lurking in the shadows outside a simple graduation dance a 'prowler.' Such an antiquated term, no? I don't think I've ever uttered the word 'prowler' to refer to such an intruder. I usually say crackhead. For example, way back in the day, the BFF and I used to live together in this crappy apartment downtown. My car was forever getting broken into, there was always some bum in the alley shooting up, and it was just one step away from a pornographic bookshop, and what I swear was a Yakuza fronted Chinese restaurant. Anyway, I was liquored up one night (we drank malt liquor back then) and was in the bathroom and I looked out the window and I swear I saw a crackhead freaking out by my car, oh, excuse me, a prowler. I started yelling and called the cops screaming there's a crackhead by my car! Well, look who's the crackhead, it was a plant blowing in the wind. True story. It has nothing to do with the movie I watched last night, concerning an actual prowler. But I thought I would relate it you all, if not to solely entertain you with my drunken shenanigans.

So yeah, The Prowler (1981). It begins in 1945, with a vintage commercial for war bonds. Then Rosemary pens a letter to her boyfriend, breaking up with him because he's been gone fighting in the war too long. She said she'd promise she'd wait for him - but you know how these things go. She then takes off for the college graduation dance with new rich, roadster driving Roy. The dance proves to be a big fat yawn (even though it does sort of seem to be authentically 1945 - the costumes don't look all too bad and the band's got that swingin' sound), and Roy and Rosemary take off to find a secluded spot to make out and swill booze from a flask.

They find a lit gazebo and start doin' their PG rated thing, when someone kills the lights. No bother, they continue making out whilst a pitchfork-toting, black glove and helmet wearing, combat-booted madman comes out of the shadows and skewers the happy couple straight through. It really looked kinda cool (Savini, I think, was in charge of the bloody stuff), and I even found myself wincing a little bit. We're off to a good start, Prowler.

Next thing ya know, it's 1980 and go-getter Pam has organized a new graduation dance. Seems Rosemary's dad, the wheelchair bound Major Chatham (played by the always entertaining lump, Lawrence Tierney) has prohibited a dance from taking place for the last 35 years on behalf of his grief following Rosemary's death. He hasn't died or anything, I think he's too sick or something, to prevent Pam and her friends from throwing the new party. But he's not to sick to position his wheelchair directly across from the girl's dorm, to peep on them while they take showers and rub lotion on their nubile flesh. Slutty Lisa even takes it upon herself to show him the goods every now and again. Oh, she'll get what's coming to her, she will.

So the dance must go on - and the usual stuff happens, the band plays, students twirl about on the dance floor, the punch gets spiked and everyone gets wasted. Lisa takes off for a dip in her underwear in the pool and gets her comeuppance for her flashin' ways via the hands of the prowler. Our prowling friend also manages to knife a fornicating couple in the shower, in a really actually suspenseful scene, and the only time we get to see boobs.

I must say this about the movie - the score is dead on. It's really perfect. It does much to enhance the atmosphere and there are really a lot of great suspenseful moments. You still know what the fuck is gonna down because we've seen it all a thousand times. I gotta hand it to the score here. And I'm normally not one that pays attention to such things. Maybe I'll pay a little bit of attention.

Still, the movie is slow and has some really strange non-sequitur moments. Out of nowhere, a grocery store owner alerts the police that there are kids in the cemetery. Deputy Mark goes to check it out and takes Pam with him. Why would you take your maybe girlfriend to the scene of a possible crime? They find Rosemary's open grave with Lisa's body inside. Another out of nowhere moment is when another horny couple goes down to a basement to make out and an old teacher dude peeps on them from the stairs. Also, Mark and Pam go to Major Chatham's house and just walk inside, calling his name, looking for him, and investigating with flashlights, even though all the lights are on. They find pictures of Rosemary and put two and two together, but we already knew all that. As did they. It coulda been the wine on my part. It always coulda been the wine.

But I love the word 'prowler.' And the prowler looks great - he's pretty scary looking, what with his whole WWII getup and pitchfork and long knife which he uses to penetrate unsuspecting victims. He's got issues, that's for sure. Sex issues. And while I won't reveal his identity, 'cause I know ya'll are all gonna rush out to see this one, it's not who you suspect. Or maybe you will because you're smarter and less alcoholic than me.

I kinda get a My Bloody Valentine vibe off of this one, maybe it's the killer's ensemble, maybe it's the plot. Probably both. I think they came out the same year. Anyslasher, if I had seen this one as a kid, I probably would've been scared and bored or a little of both. But I still would have noticed that when the prowler gets out of the pool after killing Lisa that he's not wet.

Let's get the word 'prowler' back into circulation. Let's start using 'cat burglar' too.


  1. Jenn: How about "Vandal" if we're bringing back old terms. I always thought that was a cool one - sort of medieval somehow.

    Good post! Pretty long for you. I see it has Lawrence Tierney in it as the Major. He's always a pretty good hard ass, take-no-shit type. Loved the story of you screeching for the cops for plants in the wind. Had a girlfriend once scream bloody murder because a black spider was attacking her in the bathroom. Turned out to be a feather. But that's another story. -- Mykal

  2. 'Vandal' is a good one. I like 'scamp' too.

    Tierney is completely underused here, IMO. He just sits in his wheelchair and looks at the girls. There's one point where he leaves his room and grabs Pam as she flees from the prowler, he's all hiding in the bushes, but still in his chair. It's weird. I don't even think he has dialogue. At the end, I'm like, that Tierney?

    I've been scared of plants ever since :P

  3. Darn you beat me to another film, first with "Sharks in Venice" and now with this film!!!

    Anyways I've been keen to see this one, since they used clips of it in the documentry "Gone To Pieces - The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Movie". Seeing the clips though I also felt that the "The Prowler" has a similar vibe to that of the Miner in "My Bloody Valentine".

    Good review!!

  4. 'Hooligan' is another good one that we have refused to give up on England. 'Hooligans' used to be people that let your tyres down or knocked on your door and ran away. Now they slit your throat for a packet of Marlboros. But we still call them hooligans. No wonder we haven't produced a decent horror film since 1975. I'm drunk, by the way.

  5. Agreed on most counts - this flick has terrific kills and LT is mysteriously almost a non-presence in this film, despite his bally-hooed billing. My only problem is that, kills aside, the pacing of this flick sorta reeks. Which is why MBV outclasses it every time in my book, because MBV is sorta interesting to me even when someone ISN'T getting offed.

    Nice write-up, yo.

  6. I love The Prowler, but I find the film to be extremely boring at moments and there are no characters to attach yourself to at any point. I am so happy to see you mention the score though, the two things I love about the film are the gore and the score =D

  7. Elwood, you still haven't seen Sharks in Venice? Come on! You're missing out big time! hehe.

    MC, way to be drunk, ya lucky bastard! That is so awesome. I just got off work and am well on my way. 'Hooligan' is a good one, very British, very Irvine Welsh. I'll put it on the list.

    Astro, MBV's got the whole these aren't vapid teens being killed off by a mysterious masked looney, these are working class miners being killed off by a mysterious masked looney. And that adds a certain griminess to the whole affair. And it has a much superior shower kill.

    Carl, you are correct and we agree once again. Come on, Aaron, where are you? See, Carl always agrees with me :P Yeah, but you're right, who cares about Pam and dumbass cop Mark and stupid no-talking Lawrence Tierney in a wheelchair and whoever the fuck else? Not me, that's who!

  8. Slow? Boring? I don't know what movie YOU watched, sister, but the Prowler is awesome and easily the best slasher ever made. My Bloody Valentine and Friday The 13th totally copied this one.

    Actually, Jenn I've never seen this (I know, blasphemy, whatever) but I just wanted to disagree with you anyway because I love you so much. Hey, how about a 'creepy kid' called "Whippersnapper"? Or a slasher about a vengeful hobo called "The Vagrant"? Just sayin.

  9. Oh, and Elwood: Sharks In Venice = BLEH!

  10. LOL's, Aaron. You had me going there for a second, I'm serious. It might just be the hangover talking, but I'm literally laughing out loud. I needed that this morning, or rather, this afternoon, as I'm just getting out of bed.

    You give me a vengeful hobo movie called The Vagrant and I'm all over it, buddy.

    And you just need to revisit my hi-larious (IMO) review of Sharks in Venice and you'll be entertained all over again.

  11. Cool review as always, Jenn. I haven't seen The Prowler, but as i am a sucker for a good old fashioned stalk and slash fest, i really must check it out. a few other blogs i frequent have reviewed this recently too - and all, like your good self, have mentioned the score as one of the film's highlights. i'm most intrigued. Another incentive (not that much is needed to be honest) was your comparison of The Prowler to My Bloody Valentine (which i HEART).

    Speaking of reintroducing words of a bygone era back into contemporary vernacular - how about 'Scallywag'? And in some other useless information, in Belfast we call groups of young hooded hooligans 'Spides.'

  12. Rapscallions and ne'er-do-wells! No-goodniks! Drunken reprobates!

    Just my additions to the list. Nothing personal. ;)

    MBV is one of my favorite lesser slashes, and to hear the similarities here (that I never knew about--bad slasher scholar, BAD!)--the cancelled yearly event, the revival of said event that causes the killings to start again, etc...means I have seriously neglected part of my edjumacation. I'll have to rectify, at some point.

    A great read as usual, Jenn!

  13. Rapscallion, ne'er do well, and scallywag. All good stuff, guys. I'm also going to start saying 'ye' instead of 'you.' Now that's taking it back!

    It's been a long time since I've seen MBV, but I think the similarities are way close. If I wasn't so lazy, I'd see which one was made first. But alas, even when I'm cracked out on coffee, I'm a slacker. :P

  14. the sneering (homo-phobic) snobAugust 18, 2009 at 12:31 PM

    Jenn, do you know what "choppers spunkin` in birds gobs" means?.

  15. I could likely venture a guess...