Prom Night (1980) Review
Written by: skfan
The original Prom Night is a run of the mill low budget slasher film that if viewed by todays standards without any nostalgia, just doesn't hold up very well. The biggest problem with the film is how dated it is. From the stilted acting, blurry panning of the camera to the long scenes of disco dancing, its all just too dated to be any good. What makes things worse for it is the amount of better slashers that were released around the same time that have managed to age a lot better.
The premise of the film is pretty straight forward but it could have worked and there has been a lot worse ideas for a slasher film. The film opens with four young children playing a mean version of hide and seek in an abandon old building. The child that is "it" runs around the building trying to find the other kids when he or she finds one of them they are "Killed" then has to help try and kill the others. When another young girl unknowingly joins the game the group of four teens accidentally kill the girl when she falls out of a window. In a panic the four children make a promise to one another that they won't ever tell anyone what happened. When the child is found dead by the police they put the crime on a previously convicted child molester that had been in the area when the incident had happened.
Jump years ahead and we meet the four children that are all grown up and getting ready for the big highschool prom. Plus there is Jamie Lee Curtis who is the sister of the girl that was killed years ago. On the day of the prom the four teens get strange calls from a voice that utters threats to all of them. Thinking its a prank they don't give it a second thought. In the mean time the man that was convicted for killing Curtis' sister has escaped and the local police fear that he may be headed back to the town for revenge. One of the better things in the plot is how they hint at different killers throughout the film. There is not just one or two possible killers but numerous "red hearings" including Curtis's father and principal of the school played by Leslie Nelson in a early role. The film is very slow moving and there aren't any kills to the last half hour but when the killer is finally revealed it is a bit of a surprise and with all of the different characters that I suspected as being the killer I somehow missed the one that actually did turn out to be the villian.
Genre and TV director Paul Lynch really didn't do a very good job in terms of direction of the film which was a weak point to say the least. There wasn't any imagination in the way scenes were shot and the deaths were pretty boring aside from the infamous beheading scene. The only scenes that were actually effective was the opening sequence with the children in the old building. They were actually fairly creepy and the children acted well. It also seemed that even with the poor production and budget the crew had put time into the shots and it gave me a false sense of how the film was going to be. Sadly the rest of the film didn't come close to the effectiveness of those early scenes.
For the most part the cast of the film did a good job with what they were given. Curtis in the 80's was a staple of the horror genre and in this film she is no different in delivering an innocent yet strong charactered performance. The children that played the teens in the flash backs also did a good job and like I said they delivered the best scenes in the film. Another actor worth mentioning is Leslie Nelson who turns in a surprisingly straight role which was pretty strange to see form him. There was one scene in which he tried to dance on the disco floor that was hilarious though.
In any slasher film the kills are the most important part of the film and in this one they just fell flat. There was only about a hand full of death in the entire film and beside the opening scene they all happen in the last thirty minutes. Which leaves you with nearly an hour of nothing but one dimensional dialog and poor character development. What there was for gore was pretty average at best and there wasn't even any real jump scares. The only memorable death was when the school's "asshole" get his head chopped off by an axe and it rolls out onto the dance floor.
Overall if this hadn't had a known cast it probably would have fallen into the same pile of bad 80's slasher films like it should have and it certainly didn't need the recent remake. If you are a big slasher fan then you've probably seen this one already and if you haven't then you probably should check it out but for the average viewer there just isn't much in the film to keep you interested.