Prom Night (1980)

DECEMBER 13, 2007


I saw Prom Night once, back in 1995 or so, when I was old enough to rent my own movies and thus was going back and trying to see all the slashers from the early 80s. And I remember being disappointed with it, considering that unlike many of my favorites (such as My Bloody Valentine), it actually spawned some sequels, earned some mild critical appeal, and featured Jamie Lee Curtis herself.

So now, 12 years later, with a remake looming and my memory of the film entirely vanquished (I couldn’t even remember who the killer was) I gave it another pass, and I was surprised to discover that... Prom Night really isn’t all that good.

For starters, it takes far too long to get going. The first killing occurs around the one hour mark (and they kill the hottest girl first, never a good idea with me!), but without anything really happening before it. A mirror breaks for some reason, and that’s about it. No POV shots of the killer watching, no Halloween style “Someone’s watching me but I turned to get my friend and now he’s gone” type stuff, nothing. Hell, one could easily forget it’s a slasher movie at all. Usually I appreciate these deviations from the slasher blueprint (especially one from this time period) but here it just doesn’t work, because nothing else in the film makes up for it. The characters aren’t terribly interesting, the setting is bland, and the red herrings are so badly implemented that it’s a wonder they even tried (like the “escaped killer” guy would really be the killer when we’ve never even SEEN him?). Plus the killer’s outfit is pretty much the least memorable in slasher movie history.

Girls, do you often leave the locker room like this? I hope so.

It’s also a painfully dated film. Every guy in the movie has a perm, and the dancing numbers take more than a little patience. And while I got some perverse amusement from seeing a kid in a ski mask walk casually around his high school (he’d be tasered on sight nowadays), it wasn't enough to get that nostalgic feeling that other dated movies have. Hell, I almost started getting the impression that the remake might even be an improvement, before remembering that A. it’s PG-13 and B. the killer in it is the guy who was an asshole in That Thing You Do!

The adult characters aren’t much better. Leslie Nielsen, in a rare straight role, is top-billed for his three, largely inconsequential scenes (he’s in the film for MAYBE 7 total minutes, and that’s being gracious. I don’t think he even appears in the film’s final half hour at all). There’s a cop who keeps narrating things, and another guy who looks like an old Michael McKean, and that’s about it. Most of the time we are with our core group, 4 girls and 3 guys (2 of which look a lot alike, and since one is the brother and the other is the boyfriend of Jamie Lee’s character, this leads to some momentary Taboo-style hilarity).

Still, there are enough occasional sparks of greatness that save this one. The shock beheading kill at the prom is a fantastic sequence (the only kill in the film worth a damn, really), and I laughed endlessly at one guy (who looks like Jonah Hill) being surprised that the girl he just fucked was a virgin. And Jamie’s Final Girl is a lot more fun than her Terror Train character.

How this spawned three sequels (which I haven’t seen but apparently have zero relation to one another) is beyond me, and I have little hope that the remake will improve on it, but it has its moments (and certainly its fans), so it’s not a total loss. Still, I fail to see why Randy had so much love for it.

What say you?


  1. I recently watched this again; I probably saw it for the first time around the same time you did. The one thing that really kills me is, and I won't give away who the killer is, but if you're wearing a mask, do you really need all of the make-up on? Maybe there was a part earlier where they explained why this was, but I don't remember it.

  2. Nope... there was no explanation. One could theorize that the killer wanted to be the 'deceased' but the film gave no other evidence of that.

  3. Hey... the guy who was an asshole in That Thing You Do! co-wrote Road House 2 so don't give up hope.

  4. I never saw this one, but I did see the sequels, which are kind of a mash up between Carrie and a zombie flick. I remember them being fun, with the main baddie ("Mary Lou," I think) spouting Freddie-style one-liners about the prom or something.

    Or maybe I just dreamed it.

  5. This is the exact sort of film that has to be watched in a comedic manner.As soon as it gets to the disco dancing stuff that goes on far too long it becomes either tedious or comedy gold.
    I personally couldn't stop laughing all the way through,so thought it was great eg goodbad.Whereas Terror Train was dullbad.Top of the goodbad slasher genre is Silent Night,Deadly my top ten funniest films ever,although I really am not sure how much was purposeful and how much accidental.
    There has to be some horror films that are not allowed to be remade.The Burning,Madman and The Prowler don't seem to be getting remade.Good.Damn remakers need shooting.Or warned off some other way *cough*

  6. Man, I felt like I was watching a particularly dull episode of Degrassi for most of this movie. Like they were making a standard high school drama and suddenly thought "wait, maybe we could work in some murders here!" The beheading scene was delightful, but then it just returned to continuing the bleak and depressing opening scene's story. Hardly any fun at all!

  7. "Still, I fail to see why Randy had so much love for it."
    Maybe it had to do with that screenshot you put up.


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