Prom Night stars Jamie Lee Curtis as Kim, the innocent prom queen. Leslie Neilsen is her father the school principal.
Horror Movie Convention #8 (continued from The Dorm That Dripped Blood): Female stars must put in time on cheap horror movies at the beginning of their careers. Examples include Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween, Halloween II, Prom Night), Jennifer Aniston (Leprechaun), Daphne Zuniga (The Dorm That Dripped Blood), and Lisa Kudrow (Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion).
HMC #9: Convention #9 is the inverse of Convention #8 in every way. Male stars must put in time on cheap horror movies at the end of their careers. Examples include Donald Pleasence (Halloween and its sequels), Laurence Olivier (Dracula ), Leslie Neilsen (Prom Night) and the Fonz (Scream). Some of you might want to point out that Tom Hanks (He Knows You're Alone) would seem to be an exception, but we would point out that he spent most of his early career in drag, so HMC #8 really applies.
Everything is not well in little Kim's world, though she doesn't know it. It seems that when they were ten years old, four of Kim's friends were playing scary games in an abandoned building with Kim's little sister Robin. Robin was accidentally pushed out a window and fell to her death. The four friends made a pact never to tell anyone what really happened. Six years later, someone knows their dirty little secret and is stalking the four of them. If this sounds like "I Know What You Did Six Summers Ago," it is because writer Kevin Williamson (who also wrote Scream) seems hell bent on making a cottage industry out of ripping off and constantly referencing Prom Night.
HMC #10: There are no more original slasher movies. All of them are either rip-offs or parodies of other, better movies. Friday the 13th was a parody of Psycho, I Know What You Did Last Summer is a 90210 version of Prom Night, and nearly every other slasher flick incorporates or makes fun of Halloween.
Next up are the suspects, including the school's bad boy, Tony. Tony makes himself an obvious front-runner early in the movie when he shows up in the school's cafeteria wearing a black ski mask. Then there's the school's retarded janitor, who skulks in the shadows and peers out at the female students. But most promising is the known child molester who was horribly burned after a high speed chase with the police and then convicted of Robin's murder. He escapes from custody the day before the school prom. Or could the killer be Robin herself? Is she really dead?
This weird disregard for the rules of suspense (i.e., the killer's identity should be a pay off) is epidemic in movies made since Prom Night. We'll give a few examples.
Knight Moves, starring Christopher Lambert. Besides the fact that the killer manages to find an unlikely number of beautiful fashion model victims living alone in expensive homes (considering that the whole movie is supposed to be taking place on a small island), the killer seems to have been chosen by taking all the people in the movie who have fewer than five lines of dialogue, then rolling a die to see which one would be it.
Striking Distance, starring Bruce Willis. At the last minute the producers filmed a different ending with a different killer because preview audiences didn't like the existing ending. A good indication that the rest of the movie was not driven by a taut narrative.
Basic Instinct, starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone. Who was the killer? Don't ask the writer, Joe Eszterhas. Apparently you have to pay him more than $2 million if you want an ending that makes sense.
The few high points in Prom Night involve some unintentionally funny action and a rather gruesome death that scores originality points. Both of these scenes involve a rivalry between Kim and her boyfriend (Queen and King of the Prom), and the local bad girl and the punk she's fallen in with in order to dethrone said King and Queen.
At one point, the bad kids (looking for all the world like they might dump a bucket of pig blood on someone) pout viciously and make glaring faces at the good kids. Kim tells her boyfriend, "Let's show them what we can do." What follows looks like a combination of the Funky Chicken and an epileptic fit on the dance floor. Darned if we could figure it out, but it made us laugh.
The second scene involves one of the killers' victims, whose head lands on the runway down which the King and Queen are supposed to walk. We've never seen an auditorium clear out so quickly, and it's no wonder -- it's the only really scary scene the movie has to offer.
Review date: 10/31/97
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