You can’t lose your virginity twice: Prom Night (2008)
A plague on this kind of film. There’s nothing less imaginative or original, and dare I say soulless, than this shiny American remake trend. Having worked their way through classic films, and less than classic films, it was only inevitable that they’d turn their jaundiced gaze on those lower ranked horror movies. As Prom Night has always been a hugely profitable film series, it isn’t so surprising that this was one of the first out of the blocks once the actual good movies had been ruined. As is always the way with these remakes, instead of taking the original film and having another look at it, perhaps amping up the boob count and the gore for the jaundiced youth of today, maybe introducing some drugs and whatnot, the makers of the 2008 version of Prom Night decided to toss the whole thing out and introduce us to the most drab, boring, shiny and heartless slasher movie imaginable. There was no love put into this production at all, and as a direct result of this Prom Night 2008 is a charmless and dull experience, one that is not recommended to anyone other than those completing a series.
The film opens, not with Prom, but with a flashback to a horrific event in young Donna Keppel’s life. Her family is slaughtered by a teacher with a kiddie fiddling obsession for her, and as a result, she’s deeply traumatised. Fast forward to 2008, and the nutter is on the loose again, while young Donna (Brittany Snow) is on serious antidepressants. Donna and her odious friends all are booked to go to prom, and I bet you can’t see how this is going to go. In the meantime, Detective Winn (Idris Elba) is desperately stumbling around trying to prevent Donna going to the graduation in the sky. Incidentally, it’s one of the major weaknesses of the script that he doesn’t seem to particularly be concerned in comparison about everyone else at the party.
Amongst Donna’s foul group are Claire (Jessica Stroup), her dickhead boyfriend (cannot be bothered to look either his name or the character’s name up. The film isn’t worth it), Ronnie (Collins Pennie) and Lisa (Dana Davis). Lisa and Ronnie are mentioned because aside from being obvious cannon fodder, they are the bookies’ favourite to walk away with the plastic crowns. Really, though, a more identikit group of slasher victims has never graced the screen and the whole exercise feels a bit, well, pointless. Not that the actors are bad, because they aren’t, but let’s face it, we’re not talking about Jamie Lee Curtis here.
Anyhow, the nutter picks them off one by one, apparently to get to Donna, and the film culminates in him being shot in the head by Idris back at Donna’s place after the rising body count has forced the organisers to call the Prom off.
Where to begin, where to begin…
Right, this is clearly a crap film. I’ve already called it heartless, charmless and soulless and really I haven’t got a lot more to add. This is the very epitome of a well made, well acted, well produced film with an utterly dismal script. I’m not convinced this started life as a Prom Night film, to be honest, as it seems to lack the verve of the sequels (pretending 4 doesn’t exist) or the moral core of the original. By deliberately breaking the link between the childhood sin and the later murders, Prom Night 2008 manages to remove the singular interesting feature of the original. I can’t see the point of doing this. Slasher movies are dime a dozen, and by not only stripping the killer of his anonymity, but by making him a diagnosed psycho (there’s a clear nod to Halloween here, which is a shame, because it just reminded me of how to do this sort of thing properly) it removes the sole point of distinction to the original movie.
I’m not saying that I want to see a blow-by-blow rehash of the 70’s film. However, what I would like to see, and I don’t feel that this is asking too much, is a film that can at least be distinguished from the herd in some way. This cannot be said of Prom Night 2008. To compound the sin even further, the killer himself, Richard (Johnathon Schaech) is a singularly uninteresting individual. There’s no controlled or otherwise mania to him, and there’s nothing there that distinguishes him from countless other slashers out there.
This is a film that belongs in the same class as When A Stranger Calls (although it is far, far better than that piece of shit), and in terms of cinematography and sound work it’s very similar. I suppose because the Prom itself is transplanted from the fucking O.C. or something, but there’s none of the disco flair that the 70’s version had in spades. Instead, the music is as generic chart music as you can imagine. In terms of interest as well, sadly, it’s also very similar, being a boring and tiresome effort that I’ve now seen twice, due to being utterly unable to remember it at all first time.
Almost all the problems here come from the script and direction. The script (by J.S. Cardone) fails to distinguish between the teenage characters. They all speak with the same voice and so forth. This is the Prom Night for the fucking Midwich Cuckoos. The direction, on the other hand, is almost paint-by-numbers stuff. Nelson McCormick is a TV director of some note, and this reeks of TV direction. It’s just so fucking flat and lifeless, failing to generate either tension or fear, and being so stingy with the gore (and completely absent with the boob) that it feels as if he’s following a set of orders from the marketing department at the studio.
This is not cinema as art, and it isn’t cinema as entertainment either. What this is is merely another, and in my opinion, culminatory example of marketing driven horseshit. This isn’t a film, it’s the plastic toy in a cereal box, being properly designed to be as utterly disposable and worthless as possible. Watching Prom Night 2008 is a draining experience, for all the wrong reasons, as I could feel my soul sinking with every predictable and uninteresting turn the story took. This is a very bad film.
It’s actually a bit of a shame as well. Prom Night had a budget of $20m, which is so far in excess of what the original had as to not be funny in the slightest. When I think about how that money could have been better spent on a film with some originality, heart, flair and, well, sense of fun, I can’t help but think this is an inconceivable waste of time, money and effort. Although I do remain unconvinced that anyone put in anything more than the most perfunctory of effort.
Overall, this is shit and I don’t recommend it. I’m sorry about the depressed tone of this review, but these Platinum Dunes style films really do get me down. I can’t try to be funny about it, because the fact that this piece of shit made double it’s budget at the Box Office (and it had a decent budget as well) is just so profoundly depressing that it makes me despair of the youth of today. I’m not Orangutan of Dooming it (although it is tempting) because that does a disservice to the cast who really are trying to make the best of a bad script. Instead it can have 1 dumpster baby out of a possible 4, and as I say, don’t touch it.
At the end of the day, if you want to watch a Prom Night film, watch either the Original (for Jamie Lee) or either of the two Mary Lou films, which are both hugely entertaining, and above all else have a bit of heart. That is not something you can accuse this film of having.
Until next time,