Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Prom Night (1980)

There's not a lot that can be said about Prom Night that hasn't been said before. It is, in many ways, a very standard slasher movie, yet it also follows the standard template so slavishly that it moves beyond the ordinary into something that is all the more enjoyable precisely because horror fans can see everything being marked off the slasher movie checklist.

The plot is almost summed up in the title. There's going to be a prom night. That's it. Which makes the timing perfect for some victimisation and killing by a mysterious figure. Jamie Lee Curtis is the main girl, Kim, but it's Jude (Joy Thompson), Kelly (Mary Beth Rubens), and Wendy (Eddie Benton) who start receiving strange phone calls and cryptic messages/threats. Oh, and all of this is happening a number of years after a tragic death that viewers are shown in the opening sequence.

Written by William Gray, from a story by Robert Guza Jr, this is an effective horror movie that relies on pilfering bits and pieces from other movies and putting them together in a well-paced narrative that delivers what most genre fans will want to see, although a bit more of the red stuff being splashed around would have been welcome.

Director Paul Lynch is fairly pedestrian in his approach, taking the material and not really doing much to elevate it. He instead relies on his cast, the tropes of the subgenre, and viewers willing to have patience as they're taken towards a decent, over the top, finale.

The first familiar face viewers will see is Leslie Nielsen, playing a grieving parent alongside his wife (played by Antoinette Bower), but he's not given too much screentime. That is reserved for the younger stars already mentioned, as well as Casey Stevens, David Mucci, Michael Tough, and Sheldon Rybowski, and one or two other young men. Everyone does just fine with what they're given, but one or two scenes highlight the fact that Curtis is the star, including a memorable disco dance interlude.

Not quite the absolute classic that some make it out to be, Prom Night is a competent slasher movie with plenty of enjoyable individual elements that never add up to more than the sum of their parts. I would call it an essential film for anyone with even a passing interest in this subgenre, and it's one that I never mind revisiting, but there are at least a couple of dozen slasher movies that I would place ahead of it, in terms of sheer entertainment value.

Also, avoid the "remake" like the plague.


There's a collection available here.
Americans can get a nice shiny edition here.

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