Stream to Scream: “THE PROWLER”
As many fright fans already know, FANGORIA offers a great selection of gruesome movies, old and new, for free at our Hulu channel. To give you a better idea of what’s available, FANGORIA is taking in-depth looks at some of the channel’s terrifying titles with Stream to Scream. Today: Joseph Zito’s early slasher, THE PROWLER!
Several films influenced the onslaught of cheap, predictable slasher films throughout the ’80s. Cinematic predecessors like HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13TH paved the way for many copycats, rarely inspired except for creative ways to dispose teenagers with household items. There are some slashers released just before the onslaught of ripoffs that have become notorious in their own right however, either for their outright senselessness or their outrageous gore effects. For hardcore horror fans, THE PROWLER is known for being a little bit of both.
THE PROWLER is simple in its set-up, as a brutal murderer from 1945 seemingly returns to kill again when the prom he made infamous is reinstated. But what the basic synopsis doesn’t explain is the random moments of absurdity that happen in between elaborate practical gore FX, including potential zombie-esque revivals, side characters who inexplicably disappear and one of the thinnest motivations for murder in horror history. Add in random nudity and convenient logic breaks at every turn and THE PROWLER becomes as much as a horror oddity as it does the first real slasher to recognize the tropes of low budget horror filmmaking.
THE PROWLER saves most of its inspiration for its jaw-dropping SFX, proudly constructed and executed by Tom Savini. Director Joseph Zito keeps a steady eye to show Savini’s work in all of its gruesome glory, and it’s no surprise that these FX have given THE PROWLER such an nasty reputation, as the heavily reworked script from Neal F. Barbera and Glenn Leopold is generic at best and convoluted at worst. Add on some stylistically repetitive cinematography from João Fernandes and the film at times becomes a waiting game for the immensely satisfying kill sequences.
THE PROWLER is also populated by unlikable characters and completely wooden performances, oftentimes making the handiwork of the titular character all the more involving. Though the dialogue they’re offered is often somewhere between exposition and eye-rolling horror movie logic, the closest thing there is to a protagonist is Vicky Dawson’s criminally naive ‘Pam McDonald’ and Christopher Goutman’s paper-thin ‘Mark London’, both of whom are abandoned in the narrative so frequently that you’ll forget they’re driving the story. Meanwhile, acting veterans like Lawrence Tierney and Farley Granger are so underutilized that you wonder why they were cast at all.
Nevertheless, THE PROWLER isn’t disguising itself as artistic horror, but rather a fun, cheap movie with graphic SFX that you won’t soon forget. Director Zito knows that violence and sex makes the most of his low budget, and the film is almost worthy of your attention in its silliness alone. So as long as your curb your expectations and can appreciate Savini’s extraordinary FX, THE PROWLER is an especially memorable, if predictable, slasher classic.