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John’s Horror Corner: The Prowler (1981), a lesser-known slasher film that was the ultra-violent movie of its time.

August 21, 2014

The Prowler poster

MY CALL: This lesser-known slasher film was the ultra-violent movie of its time, brandishing more gore and “visible” kills than others of its era. This will please seasoned admirers of 70s and 80s slashers. MOVIES LIKE The Prowler: Happy Birthday to Me (1981), The Burning (1981), The Funhouse (1981). ALTERNATE TITLE: I believe that this is titled Rosemary’s Killer in the UK and Australia.


The year was 1945; it was a time of war. After receiving a “Dear John” letter from his girlfriend Rosemary, a soldier with a wounded heart returns home and goes on a killing spree. 35 years later, a (perhaps new) killer wearing WWII regalia begins slaughtering youngsters on the weekend of their Graduation Dance before he even changes out of his military greens. And, following in the most typical and dated of horror tropes, once the kids spike the punch bowl and start touching each others’ fun parts prior to saying their “I do’s” the killing can commence.

the prowler killer

The acting is bad and the story runs way too slowly, but after the dragging lulls of plot we are rewarded with satisfying (for the era) death scenes that should please seasoned lovers of the classics but which may leave youngsters who grew up on the Final Destination films wanting quite a bit more out of their kills.

The gore is “simple” by today’s standards, and representative of Tom Savini’s early work. But hey, make no mistake, it was the 80s and before horror ever had much of an effects budget. For its time this was REALLY GORY! And what’s really impressive is that you can see the penetration of the weapon into the victim during the kill scenes instead of a shot of a knife, a shot of a screaming victim, and a shot of blood spraying on the wall.


For those of you who have seen few movies that came out before the 90s, this was really graphic in 1981!

throat slash

At the time of its release this was the equivalent of what we now call “ultra-violent.” The style of the kills in this film predates the commonality of “fun” kills in horror, but there’s still some good diversity including a couple getting collectively stabbed by a pitchfork while making out, someone getting stabbed all the way through the skull and then having it wrenched back out, someone’s head is blown to chunky bits before our eyes, and there’s a delightfully drawn out and gory shower kill.

knife through head

So graphic for 1981!



The clichés abound but…wait a sec, here…as I watch I actually realize that this movie is so old in the history of slasher flicks that at the time things like murderer POV shots, the all-too-cool killer “walking” after his victims who just can’t seem to outrun him because of stumbles and locked doors and dropped keys and jammed doors, the killer suddenly “appears” in places to which he couldn’t possibly have moved in the allowed time and circumstances, and of course (VERY, VERY long) shower scenes weren’t even tired out clichés yet.


So the moral of the story here is, ladies, don’t send any of our troops a “Dear John” letter until your absolutely certain that you’re not in a horror movie! Otherwise, you and the next generation may be in for an unpleasant surprise at your next school dance.


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