My own senior prom was the pits. My then girlfriend and I had broken up the week for but decided to remain “friends” (oh young Michael, you had so much to learn) and still go together. I believe we said about five words to one another. The Prom song was Frankie Valli’s ‘Oh What A Night’. After I dropped my date at her house, I was arrested ten minutes late. Not for any badassery or late night debauchery. No sir, I was hassled by The Man for failing to pay a previous speeding ticket.
So with that as a back drop, how did my craptacular evening shape up with the events of 1980’s Prom Night? The movie stars Jamie Lee Curtis as she’s smack dab in the middle of her run as horror’s favorite scream queen. It’s a simple story with a premise that gets overused nowadays.
The movie starts of strongly. There are some excellent exterior shots of the abandoned school our kids (Wendy, Nick, Kelly and Jude) are playing in. When the Hammond siblings (Kim, Alex and Robin) stumble upon the school, some contrived events involving a geography book end up with Robin being the only of the three that go inside the school. The other four kids decide to chase her while yelling that “The Killer is Coming” and it’s genuinely scary, and ends with a terrified Robin plummeting out a window to her death. Wendy makes the other kids swear a pact to tell no one they were there, but of course SOMEONE sees them. The next scene cuts to her dad (Leslie Neilson-criminally underused in this movie) grieving in one of the abandoned classrooms while the voice-over of Lt. McBride (George Toutilas-frankly he looks like Ralph Frumpyface Nader, so from here on in I’m calling him Lt. Frumpyface) tells him that the assumed killer, a sex predator, also sexually abused Robin, despite any evidence to the contrary.
Now the film cuts to “Six years later” and things take a turn for the odd. I understand that this was an early entry in to the slasher genre, and have to commend the film for attempting to ape Halloween rather than do what most of the followers did-throw as many teenage bodies on screen and let the body count pile up ASAP, For the fact that for the next hour, not much happens. Aside from some creepy prank calls (again, might as well steal from the best-Black Christmas), you’d think Prom Night was a mash-up of Mean Girls and Staying Alive. The next on-screen kill doesn’t take place until exactly the one hour mark, and even after that there are some odd pacing issues. Really, you just get an hour the kids hanging out at school and Jaime Lee's borther getting in a fight with three bullies where he busts some spider monkey next level moves before anything else happens. Oh, and a VW Bug drives by. Very ominous.
That’s not to say there’s not goofy fun to be had in that hour. There’s some snarky back and forth between Jamie Lee Curtis’ Kim and the bitchy Wendy as they fight over Nick. Even though she’s playing another version of the Laurie Strode good girl, the film allows Curtis to let her hair down a little more. She gives as good as she gets when she snarks with Wendy. There’s also an inexplicable dance number midway through the film where for two solid minutes Jamie Lee practices her disco dance moves on a completely empty gymnasium floor with no music playing in the background whatsoever. That alone is so deserving I spent a few minutes wondering if they were setting up a massive swerve where Jamie Lee would be unveiled as the killer instead of the Final Girl.
Can I just say that I completely understand (and heartily endorse) why Jamie Lee decided to go topless a couple years later after seeing her prom dress outfit. She looks like a pink Grimace’s puffed up little sister in this thing. She HAD to show off the goods after this movie if only to prove once and for all she wasn't a dude. The fact that the actor playing her boyfriend managed to pull off the “you look beautiful line” without dissolving into giggles when escorting her to the dance is a testament to his talent and ability.
There are also some great bit characters in Prom Night. Robert A Silverman is a great genre “That Guy” and he has some hysterical facial expressions as he’s planted as a red herring throughout the movie. Check out his reaction below when a luscious young coed gives him the full moon.
There’s also a great character named Slick. This chubby little guy drives a tricked out Shaggin’ Wagon, sports an amazing jewfro and looks like he could be Jonah Hill’s Dad. He also manages to score a pretty baberific Jude (Joy Cunningham) the morning of the prom AND gets in her pants that night. The fact that she’d never met nor heard of him before that day begs the question as to how you go through four years of high school and not at least bump into such an awesome schlep a few times, but this isn’t the type of film where heavy mental living is required. Their death scene, which involves the Shaggin’ Wagon and cliffs, is hysterical.
There’s also a dance number with Jaime Lee and her prom date that begins with the line “Le’s show them what we got” and is straight out of Staying Alive. It is Awesome with a Dick Vitale Capital A BABY!
I could have done without the extended chase scene. Suffice to say, if you’re getting stalked by an axe wheedling maniac in a ski mask, run TOWARDS the room with 200 students and teachers in it, not the student auto body shop.
Also, if you’ve ever thought “Man I kind of dug HALLOWEEN, but it lacked that disco soundtrack during the climactic struggle between the killer and the final girl that would’ve brought it over the top.” Then Prom Night is your movie. Also, I think Joss Whedon ripped off the idea of how to kill Buffy’s season five big bad Glory with the hokey idea of Summer’s blood when Jaime Lee understands who the killer is.
After watching a woman use a pair of fabric shears In order to give another woman a home cesarean (Inside) Prom Night is the kind of goofy fun that blasts some of the nightmares away. It’s not brilliant, but it’s a nice, nostalgic look at early 80’s teen scare flicks.
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