When military personnel come back home from combat after being gone for any extended period of time they will often find that the social life they left has been taken from them forever, and that the friends and lovers they left at home have moved on to different pastures. The friends left in the military are soon to be lost as well; for they too have moved on to new chapters in their lives, are often in a different state, and whatever comradely discovered during the hardships of military life are slowly swept away. The single combat vet coming back “home” will find that their old “home” has moved on without them which could result in feelings of alienation and anger at a society they feel has abandoned them.
The Prowler is a movie that swims in that sort of rage. A man coming back home after WW2 is greeted by a letter of a former lover informing him that she had decided to move on “because it was too hard to wait”. Maybe she should have tried fighting the Japanese in
Cut to 1980, where the slasher who-dunnit-gambit begins anew with a college graduation dance that hasn’t occurred since the old murders happened. The movie follows a rookie cop (Deputy London) and his conservative blond partner following the killer’s trail through a night of horror as the masked man in WW2 fatigues returns to pick off any teen that crosses his path.
Most of the complaints I’ve heard about this film surround the fact that there’s a lot of time spent watching the main characters fiddle about in the dark looking for clues and trying to catch whoever the main killer is, but I think that if you sit down and watch this movie with a fresh set of eyes and without any distractions I think you will find that this film’s pace is not an issue. I really don’t think this is a movie to be watched with friends despite being a summer body count flick. There are so many little nuances and quirky characters in the film that come and go so quickly that the incessant babble of a crowd is likely to drown out some of the quieter, creepier and more suspenseful blood freezing points of the movie that I think a lot of people miss waiting for the big gore pay offs. Some aspects of the story will remain shrouded in mystery no matter how few times you blink while watching the film, but that just adds to the fun don’t it? I hate it when films explain too much; it’s like an artist explaining to you exactly what his or her abstract painting of Barney fucking a bowling ball really means. No thanks, I’d rather just speculate. I can live with not knowing exactly why Major Chatman spends all his time staring out windows at college girls, but as long as someone doesn’t come around to lobotomize me with a trench bayonet* I can surmise it’s over his loss of his daughter, Rosemary.
I believe that the killer in this film had the whole spiel planned out just in case someone decided to renew the tradition of the annual local college graduation dance. He obviously had a lot of ground to cover during the night and the town doesn’t seem to be so small that it could have been done on a whim (the rookie deputy in charge has to drive from location to location). There are also precautions he takes, like locking certain doors, that suggest that he is a bit more calculating than the normal 1980’s bull-in-a-china-house slasher.
There’s a reoccurring theme in the film about the past coming back to haunt and shape the future and more importantly, how one tragic event can shape the flow of people’s lives for years to come. The Prowler never really recovered from being left by Rosemary during the war much in the same way that Rosemary’s death left Major Chatman in mourning for the rest of his life, and as pointed out in the movie, the death of Rosemary and her partner is something that most of the town hasn’t forgotten about. The inability to move past a tragedy breeds more tragedy, and thus a vicious cycle of pain is born.