Eunice does Prom Night (1980)

“The killers are coming!”

The Scoop: 1980 R, directed by Paul Lynch and starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, and Michael Tough

Tagline: …Some will be crowned, others will lose their heads

Summary Capsule: Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A group of friends who share a childhood tragedy mysteriously start being killed off one by one.

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Eunice’s Rating: Prom Night is ultimately a cautionary tale whose moral is “Don’t be so friggin’ stupid as to get yourself killed playing hide and seek, Moron!”

Eunice’s Review: We open up with a group of some of the worst child actors ever in an abandoned building. Odd man out Robin comes in to join The Killer game (hide and seek only you growl out “The killer is gonna getcha!” Kind of like the rhythm, only more irritating). Instead of meth addicts or structural weakness, Robin is her own worst enemy, pretty much throwing herself out a window with the velocity of a 2×4 in a tornado. Over hide and seek. Really.

And so begins Prom Night’s first problem. Everything is so ridiculously over the top, but the movie takes itself deadly serious.

But, okay, whatever.

After the kids promise to never tell what happened, we move ahead six years. They’ve become teens who are gearing up for prom, which happens to be on the anniversary of Robin’s death. The cast is as follows: Kim, the heroine, Robin’s older sister who is played by Jamie Lee Curtis; Alex, Robin’s twin brother; Nick, the heart throb and one of the kids who was there when Robin died; Wendy the school [w]itch, Nick’s ex and leader of The Killer game; Kelly and Jude, fellow killers and otherwise nondescript. There’s also a creep janitor and school thug Lou who teams up with Wendy to ruin the prom (along with the guy, Kim stole the prom queen title) in a way that totally does not resemble Carrie. At all. No really.

But, okay, whatever.

After a loving slow shot of a telephone cord (seriously, it’s the kind of pan up usually reserved for a pair of women’s legs), a shadowy figure is making threatening phone calls to the four responsible for making Robin go through the window, setting up the revenge killings theme. I’d like to point out that none of the suspects, much less the one who actually ends up being the killer, would be capable of making the phone calls since we’re shown that everybody is somewhere else at the same point in time.

But, okay, whatever.

Also in the mix is a cop (a poor man’s Dr. Loomis) trying to find the man who was wrongfully accused of murdering Robin, who was disfigured in a car wreck while fleeing from the cops, and has escaped from the state hospital. It’s clumsily shoehorned in, I get the feeling that footage was shot and then the run time demanded that everything be edited in as flashbacks. And the movie just stops every time the cop shows up. Really.

And then the disco dancing starts.

See, Prom Night, which totally rips off Halloween and Carrie, decides to think outside the horror box and rips off Saturday Night Fever too.

In fact if you ask anyone who has seen the original Prom Night what they remember from it, the answer will probably have something to with the dancing scene. After some slutty dancing with her father (Leslie Nielsen, who doesn’t say “Don’t call me Shirley.” once), Kim and her man stop the movie for almost four minutes to boogie oogie oogie. High kicks! Flips! The spinning!

Truly it is epic.

Then –finally- at the one hour mark, the movie -finally- remembers it’s a slasher flick. With red paint –again I say “Finally!”- beginning to flow. But the kills are pretty weak.

And well that’s probably Prom Night’s biggest problem. It’s not really a mystery, it kinda wants to be a drama, it’s not all that scary, and it’s not creative enough to make it all that memorable. It can’t decide what it wants to be and keeps forgetting what it is and ends up not doing any of it right. All the while being so serious it sucks all the life out of the room.

It’s a shame because the ending is actually pretty good and makes me sad every time I see it.

One of the more forgettable horror movies of the eighties, the sequels are definitely more entertaining, and the whole ‘killer seeking revenge on the kids with a dark secret’ thing would be done way better later on with Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer in the nineties. I’d only suggest Prom Night for horror completists.

And disco enthusiasts.

The true horror of Prom Night: Twins in matching outfits

Intermission!

  • Prom Night has three sequels, Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou (1987), Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1990), and Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil (1992), and a [very loose] remake in 2008. All the sequels take place at Hamilton High. II and III are the only connected movies, going the paranormal route with the ghost of prom queen from Hell Mary Lou terrorizing the living (II has one of my favorite deaths, the footlocker squeeze). Brock Simpson, Young Nick here, is in all four Prom Night movies.
  • Seriously, Robin is barely pressing up against the window in one shot and then the next comes flying through it. So silly.
  • The yearbook pages are pre-torn.
  • “Frank call your wife”
  • Jamie Lee Curtis looks amazing in this movie.
  • The disco! The disco! Make it stop!
  • Is there a teen, even a thug, in all the world who would actually say “The Hammond girl?”
  • Is it wrong I ended up rooting for the killer?

Groovy Quotes

Repeated: The killers are coming!

The killer: Jude, can you come out to play tonight? I’ll see you at the prom.

Wendy: It’s not who you go with, honey, it’s who takes you home.

Teacher: Now Alex.
Alex: *mimes handing over a bouquet*
Teacher: That’s it, Alex. Now kiss her.
Alex: My sister?
Teacher: Alex! … Now the king.
Alex: Kiss the king?
Nick: On the mouth.
Teacher: Shake hands!

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5 Comments

  1. Robin’s accident wasn’t all that far fetched. The building the kids were playing in was old and rundown. The window frame Robin was backed up against was probably rotten, and that’s why the pane fell out so easily.

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