Prom Night (2008)

APRIL 12, 2008


Well I was wrong. The new Prom Night IS an improvement over the original, at least in general. It would be easy for me to join the bandwagon, and say that this movie is an abomination, complete waste of time, etc, etc. But that's not the case. If I had to choose to rewatch either of them, I'd definitely go with the new one, and would recommend it more than I would the original as well. And hell, it's literally a 'remake' in name only; absolutely NOTHING is carried over, not even a name (it's worth noting that the original's screenwriter is not given a "Based on a screenplay" credit that is customary for remakes, even those with little to do with their predecessors). Why it's been damned from its announcement I have no idea - I'm hardly the only one who dislikes the original, and it wasn't being made by Platinum Dunes (poster child for "Let's hate it before we see a single frame of the film" mentality). And no, it's certainly no masterpiece, but it's definitely worthy of a better reception. Christ, it's not even the worst movie I've seen this week (hello there, Scarecrow Slayer)!

Let's get the bad out of the way first. For starters, the final third of the film is a bit of a letdown. Like Assault on Precinct 13's remake, and Red Eye, the screenwriter opted to set the entire finale of the film somewhere completely removed from the film's focal point, in this case, the goddamn prom. Having run out of things to do, I guess, the action shifts to the less interesting locale of... the Final Girl's house. It'd be like if the finale of Halloween was set on Christmas. This is the exact opposite of the problem the original had, which took fucking forever to GET to the prom. Again, it's an improvement, but it severely breaks the tension.

Also, the 2nd in command cop, played by James Ransone. Who the fuck is this guy? (uh, James Ransone.) He resembles a video store geek or maybe one of the extras in Chuck's computer store. They don't try to make him a badass or anything, thank Christ, but still, it looks like most of the high school kids could take him out with a stern look.

And they somehow managed to make a costume LESS impressive than the original's ski mask. Our killer wears... a baseball hat. That's it. Granted, his identity is not a surprise, we are told who he is right from the start (the movie is refreshingly straight forward - there are zero twists or last minute revelations), but even so, if the movie's a smash hit, thousands of jock douchebags will be accused of dressing like the Prom Night guy.

And yes, there are a lot of fake scares. We are supposed to accept them because Final Girl (Brittany Snow) saw her family killed and thus is jittery, but they go a bit overboard. At one point she gets scared of her own boyfriend, sitting next to her in bed (something she had initiated to begin with). It's not as bad as When a Stranger Calls (The wind! The phone! The ice machine! The sprinklers!), but I would be happy with a few less.

But that's about it for complaints (oh, those and putting the beautiful Jessica Stroup under a pound of unflattering makeup. She's made to look like Lohan at her crackwhoreist). There is actually quite a bit here that is impressive. It's completely solid on a technical level (2.35:1 to boot!), which automatically puts it higher than most of the shit I watch (even other theatrical releases). And while the rating obviously means we are spared excessive gore, there is some light splatter. More importantly, it's actually pretty violent. The body count is higher than I expected (though many are off-screen), and it's even a bit sad when a few of them die. That is due to the fact that the kids are all likable, albeit in stereotype form. There isn't much in the way of characterization, but the actors are all good in the roles. Also, and this is surprisingly rare in slasher movies, we actually see the aftermath of how the deaths of friends affects our heroine (one benefit to the disjointed finale). One of my favorite scenes in Scream 2 is when Sidney says that she has to call Randy's mom and tell her that he is dead, and then Dewey lets her know that he "already made that call". It's a sad scene, and makes the death carry more weight when you know it's actually made an impact on the other characters. Same thing here - the boyfriend of one of the dead girls gets a nice moment of grievance.

Speaking of which, the guy in question is "the black guy". And yes, he survives. As does the resident bitch girl. These two archetypes are pretty much guaranteed knife fodder, but they survive (as do one or two other "sure things"). And this was surprising to me not just as a slasher fan, but as someone who read a review where the writer bitched and moaned that the killer was killing people for no reason. If you ask me, he was pretty selective - he even had the opportunity to kill the black kid and didn't bother. The review specifically pointed out the "pointless" killing of a maid, when in fact he killed her to get a master key which he used to get around. Fine, it's hardly the most original motive, but it's SOMETHING. It's not like the Halloween remake*, where Michael was seemingly going out of his way to kill people at random.

It's also reasonably suspenseful, and ironically I think the rating has a part of that. Since it's PG-13, we know that it won't be wall to wall killings. So when someone goes into a room by themselves, we aren't quite sure whether or not they will be killed, whereas in an R rated film it's pretty much a sure bet. They're also smart enough to avoid putting Snow into any such situations until the final half hour, as we know damn well she won't be killed or even harmed until the finale. I should point out that Variety, in their surprisingly positive review, made note that the kids separate for smarter reasons than usual. And they're right - I think this is the first slasher which put a girl by herself because she was starting to get her period. And since they aren't aware of any danger, there's no reason why they WOULD constantly stick together in the first place. The only exception is when one couple sneaks off to the room to fool around, 10 minutes before the announcement of Prom King and Queen (which they are both in the running for).

Idris Elba was the best thing about The Reaping, and he's damn good here too, as one of the better horror movie cops in recent memory. He's smart, he's not an asshole for no reason... he's a cop doing his job. The fact that Elba is a solid actor doesn't hurt, and he even pulls off the exposition scene (which comes surprisingly early) admirably.

Is it the best slasher movie of all time? Of course not. But is it the worst? Not even remotely. It's entertaining, it's well-made, the pace is good (we get a kill every 10 minutes, not too shabby), it has a cameo by Josh Leonard and the movie Can't Hardly Wait, and there wasn't a single point in the film where I was ready to throw something at the screen (except maybe the boyfriend scare. Come on!). I even went in expecting it to be decent, not listening to the reviews (most of which were seemingly written in the writers' heads prior to seeing the film), and it was even a bit better than my expectations. If it wasn't for the poor box office of The Ruins (why is no one seeing this??), I would wholeheartedly recommend going out to see it, so long as you can accept that anyone old enough to vote is not the target audience. As it stands, it's the year's best remake, and a reasonably decent slasher to boot. It's kind of depressing that simply doing what it set out to do and absolutely nothing else is enough to warrant a recommendation, compared to all the abysmal shit that comes out nowadays, but that's the reality.

What say you?

*The highlight of the screening was when it was over, the 60ish woman in front of me said to her husband: "Rob Zombie would have made it a lot worse!" If I was 30 years older...


  1. Cameo of "Can't Hardly Wait"? How so? By the way, I'm a daily visitor to the site, always looking forward to it!

  2. Oh, the main girl is watching it on TV at one point. Always been a fan of the film, and it's a treasure trove of future stars - everytime I have seen it since it came out, I see another person who is now famous.

  3. I love this site and trust your opinion more so than not but is this really true? Horror movies starring teenagers and named according to this fact have pissed me off for the last several years. They seem to be made specifically to recieve monetary ass tickling from one small sect of people. The 14 year old girl holding onto her 14 year old or phedopihlic older boyfriend in the theater. So is this one actually a good movie or just better than the original? These day they can call a movie "whosy Whatsy" and have a trailer of a girl crying into a cell phone. Teens will flock like their face will explode if they dont. God I hate stuff sometimes

  4. It's a fair movie. I'd give it a C+. But the point is, everyone is acting (whether they have seen it or not) like it's an F. But the movie I saw had nothing worthy of any real hate, unless you just simply don't like slasher movies, remakes, or PG-13 kill scenes on snooty principle. If so, well, there's nothing I can do to change your mind - you'll hate the movie anyway. But if you can accept those things and just go in open-minded, you should be reasonably entertained for the most part.

  5. I'll prolly give it a try. Knowing that the actors actually are serious about the movie and sounds like the rest of the crew are too, makes it more promising. I just get bothered by the movies that come off as money makers rather than decent. I think plenty of PG13 movies are great, just recently not so much. Im really not a dick, promise. You know if there are gonna be anymore Horror's Hallowed Ground on the BD site?

  6. Idris Elba and James Ransone are both from THE WIRE (fyi). Well worth giving a shot, although it's not horror.

  7. i watched this last night. My only REAL reason for renting it aside from your review, was that I really enjoy Jonathan Schaech (the killer). He has always done great roles, and even wierd roles at times. all over the place.

    I enjoyed the suspense. Yes its definitely not HORROR on the side of gore and mutilation. Just strictly the suspense. I also agree with the 3rd half. I found myself quite tense through the movie UNTIL the final house scene. I wasnt sure what to expect, but I hoped for a 300 style massacre DURING the prom, running through the crowd hacking away. that would be a different movie im sure.

    I never did realize why he was so damn infatuated with her though. did I miss that?

  8. An improvement over the original? Oh, that's probably the funniest thing I've read all week! PN '80 was interesting and a fun slasher; the only thing PN '08 slashed was my patience. I HATED the lead girl and wanted to fillet her myself, I hated the Academy Award Prom, and most of all I HATED THE FACT THAT THE CHARACTERS ACT DEMENTEDLY BECAUSE OF THE PLOT. Any movie that commits such a crime is an abominion. But knowing the high rating you gave to another abominion called 'The Hitcher 2007' - and especially the REASON why - Sophia Bush's hotness and NOTHING ELSE - I should expect this idiocy...

  9. I noticed the comment about both cops being from The Wire, which made me laugh because not only are both of them drug dealers in The Wire (Idris was a boss, other dude was really just a fuckup, but still on the opposite side of the law) and they both play cops in this. Also it was cool because in The Wire they never actually appeared on screen together because they never even knew of each other but now we see them together

    honestly I expected crap and came away really enjoying it

    Only a couple issues,

    during the hotel room scene with final girl and killer, she runs in a bedroom, locks the door, and seconds later killer has exited gone down the hallway, exited one door and is opening the other (which by the way alternates door knobs from right to left to then become the original door)

    Also no hotel has stairs that go down to a construction site, you always have to go through a door to get to the actual floors while the stairs just bring you up and down each floor on the outside of the floor itself

  10. It seems like the more horror movies you see, the more it affects how you feel about them. I can appreciate Prom Night for not being horrible but I just can not appreciate its lack of originality. They did a teen slasher movie that was better than all of the usual teen slasher movies but I would've appreciated it more if it had even been technically worse but more creative and/or surprising.

  11. Waaaaay better than the original. Though, its hardly even fair to call it a remake, as really its just another slasher movie that happens to be set at the prom (and thus shares the title, Prom Night) and has nothing else whatsoever to do with the other. Really great atmosphere! Unlike the eye-rolling disco inferno, this prom could have been my own, albeit with a much higher budget.

    And with characters you can actually relate to or care about! My only complaint would be that in their endeavor to play with convention over who lives and who dies, they actually made it really depressing. I would have loved it if they hadn't started killing off characters that just made me feel bad (while letting plenty with no business doing so survive), negating a lot of the fun of the film's first half.

  12. This was a decent slasher and I quite enjoyed it. It was heads-and-shoulders above the original, which isn't saying much as it is one of the most boring and uninteresting films I've ever seen.


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