Prom Night (1980)

Director: Paul Lynch (1980)
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens
Find it online: IMDB, Amazon UK, Amazon US

The other slasher movie to star a virginal Jamie Lee Curtis and lots of horny teenagers getting laid and dead, Prom Night will certainly come as a surprise to those who only have its remake as a reference point. Sure, both movies take place on a prom night and have teenagers getting themselves stabbed, but the two nights couldn’t be any more different.

They’re both terrible movies, but at least 1980’s Prom Night has the good grace to be enjoyable in its sheer awfulness. Things start off in a creepy enough manner. A bunch of brat ratbastard kids are playing a variation on hide-and-seek (“the killer is coming”) in a dilapidated old house, when 10 year old Robin Hammond turns up and ruins their game. The little bastards turn on poor Robin and bully her until she falls out of a window and splatters herself everywhere. In true I Know What You Did… style, the kids cover up their death and seemingly get off scot free, blaming it all on an innocent rapist.

In a bit of synchronicity, the six-year anniversary of Robin’s death coincides with the school prom night and the rapist’s escape from prison. Sister Kim has grown up to be Jamie Lee Curtis, and brother Alex has gone a bit strange. The movie also stars Leslie Nielsen in one of his ‘serious’ roles, as the kids’ dad. It becomes apparent that someone knows Robin’s murderers’ secret, and is planning on wreaking themselves some revenge. But who? Could it be the wronged rapist? A vengeful relative? The pervy groundskeeper? Or even Robin Resurrected?

Whoever it is, they’re a lazy-arse killer, since no-one gets killed until well over an hour in. Up till then, much of the screen time is devoted to sleazy eyeballing of the female cast and crank phone calls ripped off’ve Black Christmas. Once the prom gets going, there’s also an overlong dance sequence that reminds of Grease/Saturday Night Fever, mixed with a bit of Carrie. Only with a whole bunch of promiscuous ‘teenage’ shagging. Well, there’s a lot of shagging, but I seriously doubt any of the kids were of high school age (Curtis was 22 when this movie was made). Of all the boning and boobies, my favourite bit involved a chubby guy, his girlfriend and a camper van, although there’s plenty to choose from. A bit more sleaze wouldn’t have gone amiss in the remake.

So the killer finally shows up, but things are still pretty dumb. All the ingredients are primed for a scary slasher icon, but Prom Night can’t pull it off. He (or maybe she, as we’re led to believe) has a nice Giallo inspired look going on, but is ultimately as inept as the Scary Movie killer. The glittery balaclava just isn’t a good look; and consistent uselessness doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. The final fight is a joke, as are most of the kills. My favourite involved the same chubby guy, girlfriend and camper van mentioned in the paragraph above. Its climax makes me smile every time.

Prom Night is ridiculously stupid, but it’s also a hard film to dislike. There’s a general air of eccentricity going on, certainly aided by the casting of Leslie Nielsen. You can really see how he went on to become such a star in the spoof genre. Watching him doing a bit of Dad Dancing at the prom with onscreen daughter Jamie Lee just feels so… right. Prom Night occasionally feels like a spoof movie in its own right. I’m not sure whether that’s because of Nielsen or simply because it’s such a silly flick.

It’s worth watching if you’re a fan of 80s’ slasher movies, and even more so if you like it with an extra helping of cheese.

3/5 screaming Scream Queens!!!

1 comment:

  1. 3 out of 5 seems about right. The dance sequence is wonderful. But, the movie is very slow. One thing that drags it down for me is the way in which it is shot. It looks like the entire movie was filmed in a steam room!