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Review: The Prowler DVD (1981)

By Lance Vaughan



A prime example of the slasher genre that gleefully touches all the familiar bases before sliding home (home being an exploding head courtesy of living legend Tom Savini). The bloodbath begins at a graduation party, when a returning G.I. responds to a Dear John letter with a firmly inserted pitchfork through it's author and her new beau. Rather than focusing on capturing the crazed madman with the pointy tool, the town of Avalon Bay decides graduation dances are the problem and bans them indefinitely. This policy works well for 36 years. Then in 1981, having never seen My Bloody Valentine or even Footloose for that matter, the town makes the sudden decision to throw another party. The resulting mayhem is an atmospheric and deliciously gory jolter that, like it's lead heroine, stumbles a bit, but ultimately gets the job done. Director Joseph Zito was hired to direct Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter based on his work here and although sloppy in spots (several story-lines go nowhere), it's easy to see why.


Zito was given a cool million to play with so the film has a slicker look than many of the independent fright flicks of it's time. Though a bit dark in places there is some interesting shadow work here a'la Halloween, especially in the staircase chase scenes. Ultimately it's all a bit drab but a nice contrast to the lovingly filmed gore scenes. The sound is Dolby mono and effective. Richard Einhorn (Eyes Of A Stranger) does great work with the classy old school musical score.


The audio commentary with Producer/Director Joseph Zito and Special Make-up Effects artist/wizard Tom Savini is like listening to two old college buddies go off. Savini's recall is a bit rusty and Zito isn't afraid to razz the gore maestro about it. Apparently Avco Embassy, the folks who unleashed John Carpenter's early work to the masses, fell through as a distributer which may have lessoned the films impact in the states.

Tom Savini's behind the scenes gore footage: Here we have the true treasure trove of the package. These are Tom's actual video documents of the filming of his effects. To any gore-hound these are priceless images of an artist at work.

The theatrical trailer is jaw-dropping as it pretty much reveals all the film's kills in a matter of minutes, including the aforementioned exploding head. You could never show it in a theater today without immediate protest. Oh, the good old days!

The still gallery is an extensive collection of poster art, press-books and my personal favorite, print ads. As a kid I used to clip out all the horror movie ads from the newspaper and keep them in a photo album. The best reads: " The summer of '78: Halloween, The summer of '79: Amityville Horror, The summer of '80: Friday The 13th, This summer your blood will freeze!... Catch The Prowler."


The DVD cover is a strong altered image taken from one of many theatrical posters. (check out the custom covers section of this site for a handsome alternative) Inside, there is a similar image on the flip-side of the contents card that sports the films European title Rosemary's Killer and it's X rating. The menu lead-in is a nice montage of murder but the actual menu screen is rather plain and boring. All in all, this is a well done edition of a sometimes maligned minor classic that's finally getting some of the respect it deserves.



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