Saturday, January 10, 2009

Horror Movie Review: Prom Night

Prom Night

Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens, and Anne-Marie Martin

Directed by: Paul Lynch

Written by: William Gray and Robert Guza, Jr.

Production Companies: Quadrant Trust Company and Simcom Limited

Release Date: July 18, 1980

When you sit down to watch a movie 30 years old, you know there are some things that are going to seem dated. Some of the best classic films are able to make it with a minimal of quality degradation due to clear elements of "old skool" style and topical material.

But if my only complaint about the original Prom Night was that it's dated, I could still say it was a good movie. But I can't...

Six years ago, a girl died accidentally during a cruel game in an abandoned building. A supposed killer is hunted down and gets severely burned in an accident, but the responsible children, in a pact to keep the truth quiet, go on with their lives.

Until it's time for the senior prom. The convicted killer has escaped from a mental hospital and the children involved in the game are getting threatening phone calls. As the police try and catch the escaped mental patient and the teenagers get ready for the prom, someone is stalking the teens and killing them unbeknownst to everyone.

It sounds like a promising, if not a bit mundane, plot. We've seen some variation of that film a dozen times over. Halloween, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream all have similar plot elements and all entertaining. It did come across here for Prom Night.

Now, the disco used in the movie, naturally, makes the film feel dated, and watching Jamie Lee Curtis play some kind of High School Prom-Dance Queen certainly was difficult to watch. I'm a fan of Curtis horror films, possibly giving her too much credit for my love of Halloween, but she doesn't come through here. So it's probably best that, despite the fact that Curtis gets top billing and is featured on current DVD covers for the film, she really doesn't have any larger role than any of the other victims in the film. In fact Anne-Marie Martin, who plays Wendy Richards, seems to have the larger role.

But in the end, who has the larger role doesn't matter, and the overlong disco dance scene doesn't take anything away because the film just isn't scary. The kills are too quick preventing us from getting worked up. They're fairly boring kills that don't stun us, and gore isn't used at all so we don't become disquieted. The killer in his typical bank robber cotton mask isn't intimidating. And while a good job is done of spronkling red herrings about who the killer is, when you see who it is you're left wondering why Curtis's life was in danger at all.

If you want good Jamie Lee Curtis, stick with Halloween or The Fog and skip her role as Kim Hammond in this film. I'm going to check out her role in the lesser known Terror Train with a plot very similar to Prom Night with 6 friends responsible for a prank gone wrong find themselves victims of a masked killer.

It was interesting seeing Leslie Nielsen pull off a decent performance as Kim's father and principal of the school, especially considering you could also see him that same year in Airplane!. But Neilsen also appeared in the 1977 horror Day of the Animals in which hikers encounter a chemically imbalanced forest.

Casey Stevens did a nice job as Nick McBride, the boy caught between Prom Queen Kim Hammond and Queen Bitch Wendy Daniels. Unfortunately, this was Stevens's last hollywood film.

Anne-Marie Martin was fun to watch as the manipulative Wendy Richards. She reunited with Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween II.

Hopefully the remake will be better.

Related Movie Trailers

Prom Night Remake starring Brittany Snow

Terror Train starring Jamie Lee Curtis

Day of the Animals starring Leslie Nielsen

Halloween II starring Jamie Lee Curtis with Anne-Marie Martin

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