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Release Date(s)1981 (July 27, 2010)
Studio(s)Graduation (Blue Underground)
Ah, the slasher film, beloved staple of 80s horror cinema... despite the fact that they’re all pretty similar and virtually none of them are particularly good. The slasher flick has always struck me as one of horror’s safer subgenres. They’re the rollercoasters of horror movies, providing thrills and jumps instead of truly disturbing fear. As an audience member, you can rest assured that you are much, much smarter than anyone on screen. They’re the horror equivalent of fast food... sometimes tasty and chockfull of empty calories.
The Prowler is a relatively early example of the form and yet it follows the slasher formula as if it’s an ancient ritual handed down from generation to generation. As required by movie law, our killer is masked. There was a double murder on the night of the graduation dance back in 1945, followed by a lengthy period of dormancy. Thirty years later, the dance is back on and the killings start again. When the killer is unmasked, there are only two possibilities for his identity. Either it’s the same guy, now turned into an unstoppable killing machine, or it’s The Last Person You’d Ever Suspect, who also happens to be an unstoppable killing machine for some reason. Go ahead and flip a coin to figure out who’s underneath The Prowler’s mask.
Directed by Joseph Zito (who would go on to make Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter before turning to Chuck Norris vehicles like Missing in Action), there isn’t much to distinguish The Prowler from its contemporaries. The movie is barely 90 minutes long and about 20 of those seem to consist of our young heroes (Vicky Dawson and Christopher Goutman) waiting for something to happen or snooping around old houses and cemeteries looking for clues. But the reputation of a slasher flick rests almost entirely on the creativity of its kills. Fortunately, Zito enlisted one of the best makeup effects artists of all time, Mr. Tom Savini. Savini is working at the top of his game here, coming up with gags that are both creative and highly realistic. The movie itself is kind of a snooze but it’s worth watching for Savini’s work alone.
Blue Underground brought The Prowler to DVD back in 2003 and have now upgraded it to high-def with its recent release on Blu-ray. It’s kind of neat to see such an obscure catalog title arrive on Blu-ray and Blue Underground has done their usual fine job with the title but it’s not entirely necessary. If you’re an aspiring makeup artist, you will appreciate the extra detail in the 1080p image and you should certainly pause, slow down and study Savini’s work. But if you’re just a fan who already owns the DVD, I wouldn’t bother upgrading. It’s a fine transfer but you won’t be blown away. Audio options include 7.1 DTS-HD, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX and the original mono track. The surround options are decent enough... they don’t add much to the experience but they aren’t distracting, either.
Extras include almost everything from the DVD, including a fun, chatty commentary by Joseph Zito and Tom Savini, ten minutes of Savini’s behind-the-scenes home videos and the theatrical trailer. For some reason, the Blu-ray does not include the still gallery from the DVD, which is kind of surprising and definitely disappointing.
I don’t have anything against slasher movies, the same way I don’t have anything against McDonald’s. Every so often, it sounds really good but you wouldn’t want to make a steady diet of it. The Prowler is a Chicken McNugget of a horror movie. If you’re in the mood, it’s going to be exactly what you think it’s going to be like. You’ll enjoy it and forget about it ten minutes later. But if you’re in the mood for something a bit more savory, this isn’t going to fill you up.
- Dr. Adam Jahnke