Jarv spikes the punch at Prom Night (1980)
We don’t have Prom in this country. It’s an utterly alien concept to us, along with other weird American celebrations such as Sweet 16, Thanksgiving and the Tea Party. Anyhoo, we do have discos and suchlike at school, or because I went to a posh school they’re upgraded to the status of “Ball”, except we’re actually allowed to drink at them and whatnot. In my case, due to a somewhat lamentable disciplinary record, I only attended one such ball in my final year, my Leaver’s Ball. I have a very hazy recollection of the festivities due to consumption of a vast amount of alcohol. Occasionally, though, I still experience the odd horrible flashback of an equally drunk ginger chick.
In my defense, due to a mild and ongoing case of body fascism, she was at least thin. And I was drunk, not to mention extremely grateful.
Look, we’ve all been there, so DON’T YOU FUCKERS JUDGE ME!!!
What this has to do with the 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis vehicle Prom Night is, well, nothing. Still, this is a review series of all 5 Prom Night films, and that’s the one I’m starting with…
1980 was a funny time in Horror movies. The runaway success of Halloween encouraged a whole plethora of hacks to sit there with a calendar picking out notable days to set a masked killer loose. First up was Cunningham’s dreary and unexciting Friday 13th, but hot on its heels was Canadian effort Prom Night. I recently saw a documentary with Paul Lynch, the director of Prom Night, interviewed and he was open and completely honest about it. They scraped together a little bit of cash, went out to hire a TV actress of some description and word filtered through to them that Jamie Lee Curtis was inexplicably interested. Lynch described it as being like having Christmas come early, and all of a sudden they had a hot property on their hands. Paramount, having lost out on Friday 13th, soiled themselves in their desperation to get hold of this, so through a complete fluke, this little film ended up having a proper cast, proper budget and proper distribution. None of which it deserved. Needless to say, it went on to make a whole shit-load of money, and spawn an inevitable load of sequels and a poxy remake.
This is such an uninteresting film to review. If ever there’s the very definition of a formula slasher movie, then it’s Prom Night. There is literally nothing that could remotely be called innovative here, and the “whodunnit” twist ending is both staggeringly predictable and deeply dull. To be fair, the beginning does hold some promise. A group of kids are playing some silly game in a school and through a fuck up of biblical proportions they manage to cause a little girl to fall out of a window and die. They make the inevitable decision to cover it up (showing remarkable ingenuity for kids) and go their merry way.
Fast forward to the tail end of their senior year, and our group of kids have turned into
30 something adults stroppy teenagers. They’re all supremely excited about their prom, and even token fatty manages to get a date. However, there’s a masked killer on the loose attempting to ruin everybody’s groove by sticking pointy things in them. What the rest of the film consists of is them being offed by said masked killer, some really shoddy dancing, and the inevitable defeat of the killer. Who it turns out was the little girl’s brother who witnessed the whole thing. Yawn.
Prom Night is the very definition of the stereotype slasher film. Randy’s monologue in Scream may well be directly referring to this. This really is one of the archetype sex= death movies out there. It nails almost every single cliché that eventually came to cripple the genre. Furthermore, it also rips off the likes of the vastly superior Carrie wholesale, and I don’t think there is a single idea in this film that could be called original.
The acting here is far, far too good for the film. What the hell Curtis is doing in this is one of the continuing mysteries of cinema, but as if that’s not bad enough, Leslie Nielsen is also slumming it here as the authority figure. The supporting cast of dickheads and harpies also put in a fine turn in their semi-dimensional characters, most notably the future Mrs. Michael Crichton Anne-Marie Martin as slut-in-chief Wendy.
The essential problem with this film is one that plagues the genre: it’s just not fun. Prom Night is actually a totally competent, reasonably effective, and utterly unremarkable film. At no point could it remotely be called frightening, and it never reaches higher than mildly amusing. If I blundered across it on television, then I would probably sit through it, but I’ve got nothing really of any value or interest to say about this film. It isn’t helped by the fact that our masked killer is both a massive klutz and a total wimp. He looks like he’s made out of twisted pipe cleaners, and has the co-ordination of a new born giraffe. I don’t think this loser could fight sleep, let alone slaughter a group of horny teens, and fatty in particular looks like he could batter lumps out of the clown.
I simply just do not understand at all why people flocked to this in droves, were the early 80’s really that starved of entertainment? Because this is one of the most successful movies of the early slasher period, and is repeatedly held up as one of the best examples, yet it isn’t in the same league as Halloween, and it could arguably be said to be about as good as the original Friday 13th. That is to say not very good at all. There’s fuck all in the way of boob, a bit of laughably inept gore, some good acting and that’s about it.
Anyhow, this isn’t the most auspicious start to the series, and I promise it does get better when they bin continuity for the utterly insane second and third films. However, in the meantime, I’m going to give it a totally middle of the road two Jessica Halters out of four because I couldn’t find a suitable picture for “meh”. I don’t really recommend this, by the way, unless you’ve got some sort of Jamie Lee Curtis completion fetish.
Jessica Halter, for those that are interested, is an 18-year-old Ohio resident who forsook cousin fucking to get absolutely obliterated at her prom and have a disastrous evening culminating in throwing up, punching herself, and then spitting blood on the cops that came to arrest her. Top work.
Anywho, that’s the hardest review of this series out of the way. Coming up next is the hilarious Prom Night 2: Hello Mary-Lou which has less than nothing to do with logic let alone this film, and is a vastly more enjoyable time.