Prom Night

Lava LampLava Lamp
Our rating: two lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

Jamie Lee Curtis mourns
Leslie Neilsen's career.
If only the number of sequels a movie generated were an indicator of quality. Prom Night has spawned three sequels to date, and watching the original will not give you any clue as to why. At the time it was made it must have struck some kind of nerve, but today it plays out like any other cheap slasher flick.

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 [1979]), 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?

The kids view the gruesome results of playtime.
Without giving too much away... we can't think of any way to finish this sentence. It turns out that the killer is none of the suspects. There are no clues, there are no plot twists, just some person in a mask killing people with an ax until he/she is unmasked. Why even bother unmasking the killer when there is no real buildup to his/her identity? The killer could have turned out to be any of the above mentioned people, or a complete stranger, and it really wouldn't matter. Also, Kim, despite being the main character, really doesn't play any part in what it going on. She isn't responsible for Robin's death, nor does she know the true circumstances. We had a tough time figuring out why she was the focus of the film at all.

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.

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 10/31/97

This review is © copyright 1997 Chris Holland & Scott Hamilton. Blah blah blah. Please don't claim that it's yours blah blah, but feel free to e-mail it to friends, or better yet, send them the URL. To reproduce this review in another form, please contact us at Blah blah blah blah.