The Road to Horrorhound Weekend '11: The Prowler (1981)

With Horrorhound Weekend Indianapolis coming up in just 18 days, my mind has been pretty preoccupied with thinking about both the friends and stars I will see there. Unfortunately, it seems that one of the biggest draws for me, Dario Argento, has cancelled his appearance due to his commitments in making Dracula 3-D. While they brought on a “big name” replacement (Corey Feldman is no replacement for Argento) that I have no interest in, the convention has many other attendees such as Joe Bob Briggs, Barbara Steele, Ken Foree, and more that I look forward to meeting. There are also many guests in attendance from films I had not seen. So in the days leading up to HHW, in a addition to a few other things I have up my sleeve, I’ll be taking a look a few of the flicks I want to brush up on before I make the trip to Indy.

The first flick that I thought was a glaring omission in my film viewing catalog was 1981’s The Prowler directed by Joseph Zito. While Joe would follow up The Prowler with Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, I’ve always been a bigger fan of his work with Norris such as Invasion: USA and Missing in Action. Sadly, Joe is not the guest at the convention but rather Peter Giuliano, the first assistant director who played the titular Prowler in every scene except the killer’s Scooby Doo-esque unmasking. The Prowler was Giuliano’s second screen credit following a stint as production manager on the forgotten mockumentary Mr. Mike Mondo Video, National Lampoon writer Michael O’Donoghue’s  skewering of Mondo Cane. Peter would go on from stalking  both sides of the screen in The Prowler to a prolific career as am Assistant Director for little films like Ghostbusters, Bugsy, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula before transitioning into producing.

The Prowler that Giuliano embodies in the 1981 film first struck in 1945 during the big Graduation Dance. The story goes that his sweetheart jilted him while he was off fighting the war, but when he returned on that fateful evening and found her with her new beau, he dispatched them both with a pitchfork. Now thirty five years later, it’s another Graduation Dance, the first since the murders, and with the Sheriff out of town, it’s up to Deputy Mark London (Christopher Groutman) to keep the peace. Unfortunately, he doesn’t keep it long, and soon a killer in WWII era duds is stalking the streets offing a number of graduates. The reinvigorated murderer sets his sights on Pam MacDonald (Vicky Dawson), Deputy London’s plucky main squeeze, and with a pile of misdirection and a bucket full of effects from Tom Savini, The Prowler stands as a sturdy entry into the slasher genre.

The way I would find out how someone who had never seen The Prowler would feel about it would be to ask, “Have you seen My Bloody Valentine?” If they answer “No”, then I’ve got nothing for them and my example is shot, but if they answer in the affirmative, I could pretty much assure them that they’d enjoy this slightly less. While the cast of no name actors (bolstered by veterans Farley Granger and Lawrence Tierney) has a certain charisma, some of the smaller performances fall short or veer into stock territory. The plot itself also comes from a stock linage, but Tom Savini’s array of exploding heads, severed limbs, and impaled co-ed’s brings the whole film up several notches. The same can be said of the titular “Prowler”.

The marauding Yank utters nary a word, but follows in the single minded, determined, and masked footprints of such killers as Michael Myers and Harry Warden with a dash of Black Christmas’ POV killer creep thrown in for good measure. However, the fact is, no matter how much I enjoyed the killer with a zest for militaria, it could have been anyone inside of that outfit. Where some actors, like Kane Hodder or Gunner Hansen, have been able to create a character from behind the mask, The Prowler is a blank, faceless enemy. When revealed to both be the most obvious and least inspired suspect, it pulls the rug out from under me as a viewer. The tacked on “shocker” ending only adds to this disappointment as it feels expected and telegraphed. In a nutshell, while it’s a neat piece of trivia that Giuliano played the killer, his actual “performance” (i.e. walking menacingly at people) left little impression. So while I will be interested to see him at Horrorhound because of his many career achievements, I won’t be jumping up and down to meet “The Prowler”.

In the coming days of March, look out for more posts about films from Horrorhound Weekend Attendees, a lineup of incredible guest posts for Hitch on the Hump, the 3rd Annual celebration of all things Shatner, You Don’t Know Shat!, and much, much more.   You never know what might me lurking…or should I say prowling… around The Lair this month!

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1 comment:

  1. One of my all-time favorite slasher films. Apparently, Savini still thinks this is by far his best work. The knife through the top of the skull scene was my personal fav.


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