Prom Night Reviews
There were slasher films here and there in the '60s and early '70s that easily predate even The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the first real widespread known slasher. The genre didn't seem to form till then. But by now, there was a decent amount of examples to show folks how to make one or at least a decent one.
Filming and production of this film was in 1979, the film came out in 1980. Off the top of my head, I'm not sure if this predates Friday the 13th or not. Either way, if they came out around the same time, then it's easy to see how they film overshadows this one. I mean right from the very beginning you could tell that this was going to be horrible.
An abandoned building, not boarded up for some reason. Children play Hide and Seek, or what appears to be that but for some reason the deranged 11 year old's treat the game like Bloody Mary and are screaming out killer killer over and over again. Anyway, some girl who wasn't with them wants to play them wants to play and she pissed off one of the kids, fast forward the kids taunt her saying killer killer again and the 10yo falls out the 2nd story window and lands on a somewhat broken window conveniently placed outside that she lands on and passes away.
Fast forward the anniversary of her death is all the folks' senior prom. A crazy rapist is on the loose who is wrongly accursed for the murders to come conveniently of the kids responsible for that girls' death all those years back. We find out later the killer was actually the brother of the girl who died who also had a older sister who is prom queen. Either way, the entire plot is lackluster. The music and sound effects are annoying and don't add to the horror or eerieness of the garbage film. The production quality is so poor that the booted up DVD in standard def on Encode Suspense that I watched today on my Sony 46" 1080p LED looked so horrible that the already heavily censored deaths (censored by the filmmakers, not the channel of course) were hard to make out.
Worst of all, so much banter and time wasting. One girl took 10 minutes to kill because it was just really unsuspenseful chasing. Another two deaths before that were also dragged out. How did this dude run his cargo van off the cliff when the killer couldn't have nearby? In total, the film only had about 5 deaths, with 1 technically being a forced suicide. There is only two reasonably decent factors about this film. The final death. Former scream queen, Jamie Lee Curtis. But she already looked too old to be a senior in high school for some reason, even though she was only like 19/20 at the time of filming.
Everything about the original is bad. It's entirely idiotic that there are three sequels, but whatever. I've only seen the first two and the 2nd film has a completely different plot and is amazing. I guess the only reason it shares the title is because all four films have to do with prom, even if the first one is now the red headed stepchild of the series. The film was probably garbage in 1980 and is still garbage today, 34 years later.
The movie takes place-of course-on the day of a high school prom, which also happens to be the anniversary of little Robin Hammond's death; four other kids-Wendy, Nick, Kelly and Jude-were teasing her during a game of hide and seek in an abandoned convent, which resulted in her falling out of a two-story window. The kids have never spoken of it since, but now they're getting threatening phone calls, while a sex offender wrongly convicted for Robin's death has escaped from prison. Soon enough, there's a body count.
Not soon enough, though. Nearly the first hour of the movie is just the antics that take place prior to a prom. Who's going with who, what's everyone going to wear, who's going to lose their virginity, whatever. Occasionally, it's interrupted with scenes of Nick's father Lt. McBride (George Touliatos) investigating the offender's disappearance, believing he might be on his way to the prom. This actually raises a pretty good question for the viewer. We know he didn't kill Robin, so does that mean he's going to kill the others, or is something else altogether happening?
Now how about the characters? Jamie Lee Curtis plays Robin's sister Kim, and as you might expect, she plays her quite well. It's not the same as her Laurie Strode character, by any means; she's much more spunky and out-going. She's much more involved in what's going on throughout the movie; she has a lot more to do than just babysit. Curtis is basically the driving point of the whole movie; director Paul Lynch had a hard time even getting the movie financed until she signed on. Leslie Nielsen does a dramatic turn as her father, also the principal of the high school; he actually does pretty well too. He's done good dramatic roles in his career in films like "The Poseidon Adventure" and "Creepshow."
The rest of the cast is okay, if not particularly memorable. You have your typical weirdoes along with your typical assholes; I'm looking at you, Wendy (Anne-Marie Martin) and Lou (David Mucci). You see, Kim is going to prom with Nick (Casey Stevens). Wendy used to go out with him, so she asks out Paul the rebel so they can embarrass them...God, we're doing this crap again? To be fair, I suppose the motivation is a little stronger here than in "Carrie." But am I really describing something that teenagers would gossip about?
The story has almost no originality; I may as well say that. Setting the events on prom night is obviously borrowed from "Carrie," the phone calls were prominent in "Black Christmas," the masked killer is right out of "Haloween," even the whole "kids accidentally killing someone and then vowing to cover it up" scenario was the theme in "I Know What You Did Last Summer." The movie was years away, but the novel it was based on came out before. But I've always tried to go with the concept that it doesn't always matter if the story is original or not; what does matter is the execution. In this one, it's not really executed that badly. The story has plenty of mystery, and the scenes where the killer attacks are crafted quite well.
But let's jump to the climax, where all the violence happens. With an ax his weapon of choice, the killer in the mask kills off Kelly and Jude (they had almost no real role in this movie, did they?) before killing Wendy after a chase. Then he tries to kill Nick as he's named Prom King along with Kim as Queen, but he cuts off Lou's head instead. A pretty good duel ensues between the killer, Kim and Nick, even if there's some really lame music to go with it.
Then we get our big final act twist. It turns out the killer is Alex (Michael Tough), Kim and Robin's brother. I have to say, it's actually set up pretty well; giving someone else entirely plausible motivation but then revealing it was actually somebody else. But I also love how there's no clichéd lines of "How could you?" "Why are you doing this?" or "They deserve it," etc. It's just a silent stare between Alex and Kim, the realization dawning on Kim's face, and the horror in Alex's under the mask. As he runs outside the gym, gets shot by police and dies in Kim's arms, it's a genuinely emotional moment. I can hardly believe it, but it's true.
So even if "Prom Night" isn't particularly memorable, it's really not a bad movie. It actually became one of those horror franchises that nobody really knew about. In the 1980s and 90s, "Halloween," "Friday the 13th" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" dominated the horror movie scene, but "Prom Night" had the occasional crappy sequel just like the others. But we'll get to those another day; until then, this movie is good for a little time-killer, but there isn't a huge amount of replay value.