Blue Underground // 1981 // 89 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // July 23rd, 2010
If you think you're safe...you're DEAD wrong.
A simple math equation: Friday the 13th -- Jason Voorhees + Bad Hair / Tom Savini's Make Up F/X -- Interesting Characters = The Prowler
At the end of World War II in 1945 a soldier receives a 'Dear John' letter from his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend saying she wants to be 'just friends'. Upon this soldier's return home he goes a little Lady Gaga in the head, high tails it to the local graduation dance and kills his girlfriend Rosemary and her newly christened boyfriend out near a gazebo (I'll give you a hint how it all goes down: we're having BBQ shish kabobs for dinner tonight). Flash forward a few decades to 1981 and the graduation dance is back on (10 extra bonus points if you've figured out the killer was never caught). All of the elements needed for a night of terror fall into place. Nubile teenagers who like to take showers alone. A sheriff who is conveniently out of town. A rather inept deputy left in charge. People wandering into dark spaces followed by pointy, sharp objects. And finally, a killer who wears an old WW II army uniform.
Can our young and horny protagonists survive? Will the killer's true identity be unmasked? And where can I get a set of army boots, size 11 ½ regulation with a steel tip toe?
I remember when the name'Tom Savini' really meant something. During the mid-to-late 1980s Savini was the go to guy for horror movie effects. Needed a head sawed in two? An impalement or vivisection? A rotting, walking corpse? Mr. Fangoria was your man. Even more than three decades after his seminal work on George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (what most consider the pinnacle of his effects work) Savini's fans are legion. Even in the most trite of films (Invasion USA, anyone?), Savini's effects always raised the bar higher than was warranted.
Which brings us to the hack n' slash dud The Prowler (AKA "Rosemary's Killer"), an early '80s entry into the slasher subgenre that included Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine and the one that started it all, John Carpenter's Halloween. To view this film today I'm struck by how run of the mill it is. The plot is generically derived and stuffed with long stretches where nothing seems to be happening. The characters are no deeper than a converse mirror. Savini believes this film features some of his best effects work, but that's like pouring some of the best tasting marinade on a pound of rotten chicken.
Director Joseph Zito helmed Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (which is an accurate title, if you consider the final chapter of anything the 1/3 mark), and The Prowler has almost the same kind of feel as that film except for...well, the entertainment value. By today's standards The Prowler is mediocre at best, and meandering and rote at worst. Here is a movie that takes its sugar sweet time getting from point A to point B, and neither point is any more interesting than the one that follows or proceeds it. If I didn't have the Internet Movie Database I wouldn't be able to tell you what any of the actor's names were (save for Christopher Goutman who plays the deputy, a dead ringer for Batman Begins co-star Cillian Murphy). Not that you'd really care since the entire cast is as disposable as a complimentary hotel shaving razor. Any anytime you can describe the entire plot of the movie in one short sentence -- a guy gets his heart broken and goes on a killing spree three decades later -- you know things aren't looking good. The Prowler ends up having all the drawing power of using Apple's iPad underwater.
I realize these kinds of films were never meant to be groundbreaking classics. The slasher genre is as close as you can get to the equivalent of fast food; it's the same menu item served up time and time again with little in the way of variety. I have little else to say about The Prowler except this: if watching mildly decent effects for 30 seconds punctuated by many 20 minute scenes of banality sounds like a good time, then welcome home! This is your movie.
The Prowler is presented in 1.85:1 1080p HD. That sounds fancy, but the fact is The Prowler does not look very good. Like a lot of low budget films of its time, it sports heavy grain and some small imperfections in the image. While this transfer may be a step up from Blue Underground's original DVD version, it's not going to blow anyone out of the water. Colors are solidly rendered and black levels decent if unimpressive. When taken for what The Prowler was -- a low budget one-off horror movie -- this transfer looks fine. When compared to what high definition should be, it comes up lacking.
The soundtrack is presented in 7.1 DTS-HD and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX, both in English. Much like the video presentation the audio portions of this disc are adequate if unimpressive. Surrounds are at a minimum and what use there is of the side and rear speakers is minimal. Dialogue, music and effects are clearly heard. Also included is the original English Mono track, plus English, French and Spanish subtitles.
The bonus features include a commentary by director Joseph Zito and makeup artist Tom Savini (informative for fans, worth skipping for everyone else), a ten minute behind-the-scenes look at Tom Savini working on the effects for The Prowler and a theatrical trailer.
Needless to say, The Prowler isn't very good. I am sure that it has its supporters, but I'm not one of them. Blue Underground's work on this disc is respectable, but there's only so much you can do with a film that cost $78.95 to make almost thirty years ago.
The Prowler should be locked up for a long, long time.
Review content copyright © 2010 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Blue Underground
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (English)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Rated R