Saturday, September 17, 2011

THE PROWLER (1981) - some poor teenagers become delayed casualties of Word War II, with the assistance of Tom Savini

To further piggyback onto my comparison between The Prowler and House on Sorority Row, here's my review of The Prowler.

We unexpectedly open with a doctored news reel about WWII soldiers coming home on the Queen Mary. It’s pretty bizarre to see a slasher movie placed in actual historical context. Anyway, some chick sends her soldier boyfriend a letter, basically retracting her promise of waiting for him until the war is over (i.e. she’s screwing somebody else). Even worse, she asks that they remain friends after he gets back. If he’s plugging Germans in your honor, and that honor becomes merely tagging along while you go shopping, it’s likely to short circuit a moral synapse or two. Best just cut and run.

Well, our turncoat Rosemary is attending her graduation dance, complete with some Glenn Miller songs providing the soundtrack to her life (well, what’s left of it). The music is also a cheap way of evoking the period, as you couldn’t so much as walk down the street in the forties without Glenn Miller being jammed up your ass. Well, Rosemary and her new boyfriend head to the gazebo to make out. Unfortunately for them, soldier boy pops in and double impales them with a pitchfork. As a soldier, you’d think he would just shoot them, but even in his homicidal state, he still has the where-with-all to embrace the intimacy and the cinematic thrust of a commonly found farming implement.

Well, it’s now modern day circa 1981, and another graduation dance is being setup by girls wearing shorty shorts so short they’re more like pillow covers for their asses. Sheriff Farley Granger informs the deputy and the heroine that a potential psychopath broke into a store in another town and may be headed this way. Apparently, he’s passing the buck because he’s going on vacation, and won’t let some psychopath infiltrating this small town detract from his trout fishing expedition. This news doesn’t deter the party girls, as one grabs about two gallons of vodka to “spice up” the punch.

To add some drama, Rosemary’s invalid father (played by Lawrence Tierney in a five second role) likes to peek out of his window into the adjoining sorority house, where a girl happily obliges him by flashing her headlights. I guess he’s supposed to be a red herring. Maybe the soldier Rosemary was screwing before the war was actually her father, and this wheelchair invalid stuff is just a ruse. Why not. I’ve seen stupider shit in my lifetime (i.e. religion).

Another girl gives us the obligatory sorority shower scene, who in turn gets an obligatory false psycho scare from her boyfriend. Apparently he had gone for more than 15 minutes without seeing her melons. Before lucky time can commence, he gets a bayonet through the top of his skull, which causes his eyes to roll into the back of his head (he seems to be in some pain). The killer joins our little missy in the shower, impaling her through the abdomen with a pitchfork (at least sparing her melons).

The graduation party is slamming, what with the Fly by Night-era Rush rip-off band kickin’ it old school (assuming you played D&D in school), and the loaded punch and plentiful cake. While everyone else is digging the party, our heroine is disturbed by a mysterious figure that seems to be following her. She alerts her worthless deputy boyfriend, and we infer that “worthless” and “deputy” are in fact conceptually contingent. They decide to investigate the disappearance of the sorority shower couple by creeping around in the dark and collecting clues, as per the Mystery Machine protocol handbook. They sneak into Tierney's house after he leaves (I guess he went out for his nightly wheelchair-bound jog) and find some clippings and what have you about Rosemary’s murder. I guess obsessing over your own daughter’s brutal murder is somehow considered suspicious.

They head back to the party and tell everyone to stay inside the auditorium, as there may be a wheelchair bound 85-year-old “running” around, hacking up teenagers. Unfortunately, the titty flashing girl didn’t get the memo in time, and goes out for a dark and lonely swim in her underwear. Her poor decision making skills result in a slit throat. Also, a nerd convinces some girl to make out with him in the open air, despite there being a killer on the loose. They too are stalked, but the killer backs off, apparently impressed with the nerd’s ballsy pick-up move to the point of letting him live.

Our heroic couple decides to investigate the cemetery after being tipped off by a local shopkeeper. Some creepy guy scares them (although anybody who wanders around the cemetery all alone at night is probably creepy by default), but, more importantly, they find Rosemary’s grave dug up; her body replaced with the body of the girl from the pool. They call the motel the sheriff is staying at in order to alert him, but the fat fuck behind the counter decides to lie, telling them he’s not available. Understandably, he doesn’t want to get up and move around, as we all know how taxing it is to sit in a chair and play cards.


They head back to Tierney's house and find Rosemary’s body stuffed up the chimney. Boy, Santa’s going to be pissed when he ass flops on a forty-year-old corpse. Anyway, the killer chases the pair with a pitchfork, but, thankfully, the simpleton store owner shows up and blows the killer away. His death is short lived, as he gets up and awesomely splatters the shop owner’s brains everywhere (thank you Mr. Savini). Our tenacious heroine is forced to take matters into her own hands, and wrestles the killer for the gun. He is unmasked during the struggle, and we clearly identify the face as belonging to Farley Granger (star of Strangers on a Train and Senso), right before it is obliterated with a shotgun blast. The special effect is uncomfortably convincing, and without the benefit of a cutaway. That Savini guy is either really good or just kills off the actors for real. You know, I don’t ever recall seeing Farley in anything after this movie. Jesus Christ.

The next morning, our heroine decides to check out the sorority bathroom, and the dude that got bayoneted through the skull grabs her; a menacing sight with his all-white eyes. Alas, it’s all just a dream, but questions remain. Namely, if Farley was the soldier that killed his girlfriend in the forties, wouldn’t he high tail it out of town rather than eventually become sheriff? Not to mention, becoming sheriff of a small town whose only criminal blemish is the very murder he committed many years prior? Also, why start killing again? I get he was set off by the graduation dance 40 years later, but there were 39 other graduation dances in the intervening years to go bonkers over. Not to mention, he must have planned the whole thing in advance, what with him setting up a fake fishing vacation as an alibi.

I guess the idea was that he wanted to murder everyone back at the circa-WWII graduation dance, not just his ex-girlfriend and her new boy toy. I guess while he was “serving his country”, his peers were free to do what they pleased (i.e. dance the charleston), and this was punishable by death. He could only manage the two biggest offenders at the time, but as Farley is obviously goal orientated, he decided to build up a 40 year fa├žade. His position as a respected sheriff left no doubt in the townspeople’s minds that he was there to protect them, as he had done most of his adult life. He would be considered the last person capable of impaling teenies with pitchforks. Not to mention, everyone would have forgotten by then that he used to pork that Rosemary chick that was killed way back when. So, he builds up those vacation hours, sets up his air tight alibi (“I’ll be alone, fishing in the boonies”), and then stalks the teens one by one. His life long master plan just might have been crazy enough to work had it not been for that middling heroine and her pesky Scooby Doo tactics. God damn kids these days, sticking their noses in where they don’t belong.

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