Celebrating B Movies, Cult Films, and Indie Classics.

The Prowler (1981)

by  |  April 4th, 2011  |  Horror

So here we have The Prowler (AKA Rosemary’s Killer), a fun little slice of campy whodunit. The Prowler starts off in Avalon Bay back in 1945, during the height of WWII. Avalon Bay is just your regular sleepy little New Jersey coastal town, calm, peaceful and serene… that is, until The Prowler hacks his way through the student bodies graduating from the local high school.

Don’t worry The Prowler isn’t a period piece. It opens in 1945 to “foreshadow” the back story of Rosemary, a young woman who breaks up with her boyfriend who is overseas fighting in the war, by way of a “Dear John” letter. After graduating, Rosemary sneaks off to the gazebo with the richest kid in town, for a little post-graduating celebration. While the 2 “kids” are locked in kisses and embraces, The Prowler, dressed in army fatigues, sneaks up on them and jams a pitch fork through the couple, skewering them together as though they are shish-kabob’s.

Cut to: Modern Day 1981 (36 years later), where todays kids are about to graduate. Only we find out that due to the nature of the unsolved murders 36 years earlier, the town has forbidden any type of graduation activities or celebration, due mostly to wrongfully determining that it was “graduation” that motivated The Prowler to kill Rosemary. However, today’s graduating class is protesting and demanding their right to graduate and celebrate, which of course always bodes well in a teen slasher movies.

Well, what with all the graduation buzz stirring up the towns folk, Sheriff Fraser (played by the late Farley Granger who passed away just last week, notably of Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train), splits town to go on some hunting or fishing trip or another, and leaves his inexperienced Deputy Mark London (Chistopher Goutman) in charge of things. Mark, when not flirting with the high school girls, teams up with Pam (Vicky Dawson) who’s friends are being picked off one at a time, to solve the murders.

Nothing like a late night visit to the local cemetery to piece together clues as to the true identity of The Prowler. Isn't that right Deputy London (Christopher Goutman)?

This is a fun film, but the real star here is the gore and splatter from the talented Special Effects Artist, Mr. Tom Savini. There’s no skimping here, and in some cases, the shot may linger a little bit long, so be warned.

However, I do have a few unanswered questions?

  1. Is The Prowler intended to be funny? If so, it’s not all that funny.
  2. Was this movie intended to be serious? If that’s the case, then it’s actually kind of funny.
  3. What’s the deal with the deputy’s hair? Is it a wig? How come he didn’t use any mousse?
  4. Between his shotgun, bayonet and pitchfork how does The Prowler know which weapon he should use on which victim?

In this scene, The Prowler comes after his intended victim Pam (Vicky Dawson) with a... Pitchfork!

More to the point, there’s some fun and effective cat and mouse suspense sequences under the direction of Joseph Zito, who of course would go on to direct Chuck Norris in Invasion USA (1985) and Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984). The Prowler tone and theme’s may have even influenced Wes Craven’s Scream (1996).

The unfortunate side is, you kind of don’t really care about any of the characters when they meet their demise. Look for an appearance by the late Lawrence Tierney (whom I’ve had the good pleasure to meet several times in the 90’s, when he walked up to me quoting his Reservoir Dogs dialogue).


Matthew Dowling, a native Philadelphian, now residing in Los Angeles, is an actor, writer and film maker. Matt's training with 2nd City, and numerous appearances in TV shows, movies, theater, infomercials, and most importantly... B movies, has prepared him for making B Movie recommendations.

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