The Prowler is a quadruple pronged stab at psychological and visceral terror that will freeze your blood and leave you lobotomized. Returning from war shell shocked and thirsty for love, a stilted boyfriend enacts a brutal revenge on his ex-lover and her new wealthy boy toy. Impaled on a pitchfork is not the way I want to go. Although you do only die once, so might as well make it good! Fast forward to 1980, it’s time for the Graduation Dance again, and some people around town haven’t forgotten what happened in 1945. Major Chathan hasn’t forgotten. His every day is defined by it. His every thought returns to Rosemary. His precious Rosemary, brutally slain before her time; he had found her and her lover grotesquely impaled together; two lovers joined as one. The paper read that a woman was murdered that night, and he remembers screaming at the paper “not a woman…my girl…my girl!” until tears came pouring out, those shameful little droplets of salt and water, smearing the crumpled paper in his hands. His girl, he still remembers her that way, he can see her in his mind playing with the wooden rocking horse he had whittled for her for Christmas. He couldn’t buy her a real horse, not even with his pay as a Major, she wanted a real pony, but making one with his grit and sweat was more special. It was more meaningful, and he had hoped she would see that someday, when she grows up, a day that would now never come. His precious Rosemary; losing her was like losing a limb, losing a part of his heart, and when he thinks about her, and sorrow drowns him, he clutches his chest and feels a phantom pain where she was.
The sheriff is going on a fishing trip, one that he’s sure he will have a good time at and those of us who have seen the movie before knows exactly what that means. Old sheriff George Fraser has some skeletons in his closet, and he wants to put one in Major Chathan’s chimney, one by the name of Rosemary Chathan. The town can never, ever forget June 28th 1945 and he will never forget the betrayal of his one true love. As the party goers get ready, and the punch is spiked, the prowler prepares for his own kind of dance; the waltz of death and he has a long night ahead of him.
First stop, the student dorm looking for stragglers. He happens upon two lovers preparing for the dance and falls upon them, attacking with the cold precision of a well trained soldier. The prowler sinks a knife deep into the skull of his first victim since 1945, and the muscles remember what the mind forgot, killing is like riding a bike, and he’s back on the battlefield in the Big One. He leaves his first victim a drooling mess; the knife pierced his frontal lobe, robbing him of all reason. His next victim is taking a shower, oblivious of the prowler until it’s too late, and she’s left writhing on the end of a pitch fork, lifted into the air screaming like a new born.
The graduation party rages on to beat of psychedelic rock and slow 80’s love songs; meanwhile the prowler is outside scouring the night for new victims to pitchfork. A young girl, frustrated with the inebriation of her date, decides to break from the party for a cool evening swim. The prowler is on her like a great white shark. The girl’s throat is slashed; the pool turns into a crimson red cloud, but the prowler does not flee the scene. He waits, like a spider waiting to pounce on his next meal, the web cast and quivering in the wind. And it isn’t long before another feels his wraith. When cutting through the tendons of another throat he thinks “Rosemary, why have you forsaken me? Why did you have to leave me? Why? Why? Why?” but the whispering wind is his only answer, and the body at his feet lies silent and cold. He heads to the graveyard. She will not rest in piece this night, lost in an eternal sleep while he lives in a waking Hell of rejection and despair.
The Prowler has turned into one of my favorite stalk and slash flicks over the years. Brutal and unforgiving, the newly christened director Joseph Zito seemed to want to deliver the bloody, chunky goods slash-heads and gore freaks craved. Special effects superstar Tom Savini created some of the best impalements and cranial explosions this side of the screen. The idea of a psychologically scarred veteran getting dumped by his old flame and seeking revenge seemed to strike a stronger cord with me than some of the other, more colorful and over-the-top slash flicks. It seemed more real and feasible, and real is scary. Real is the reason we escape to movies, even nightmare ones, if only to lessen the blow of the shocking world around us, where the good guys don’t necessarily win in the end and the bad don’t always get what’s coming to them. In the end of the film the prowler is thwarted with a shotgun blast to the face, and the town can finally close the chapter on the mysterious tragedy of Rosemary, but they will never forget the pain wrought on June 28th 1945 and the bizarre events that followed. A night where the man charged with protecting the town coldly and calculatingly punishes it for violating a strict puritan code of conduct seemingly forgotten by the youth, and people standing on the cusp of graduating to a bigger world instead find themselves in the morbid seclusion of the grave, and the eternal nothingness thereafter.