“Prom Night” (1980)
Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens, Anne-Marie Martin
Directed by: Paul Lynch
Running Time: 90 min.
Synopsis: A killer my be on the loose at the night of the prom to seek some revenge from a murder that happened six years earlier.
Prom Night is probably one of the better slasher films of the 1980’s and in some ways set the bar for other films in that genre. Full of suspense, a great who done it? story, good cast, and just a well made scary film, Prom Night starts off with a group of four little kids (Wendy, Jude, Kelly, and Nick) playing in an abandon building. Three other kids, a brother and two sisters (Alex, Kim, and Robin) come around and see the others messing around in the old place. The old sister, Kim, has to run back to school to get a book, leaving Alex and Robin there. They continue on home, but Robin wants to see what the other kids are up to. The Alex goes home, while Robin enters the building.
Inside, the kids are playing hide and seek. Robin walks around the building, hearing the others running all over the place, one yelling, “The killer is gonna get you!” Eventually, the others find Robin and they start to pick on her and try to scare her. Robin ends up backing up into a window and falling to her death. The kids first start to freak out and Alex suggests to get some help, but Wendy frightens the others by saying they’ll throw them in jail for what they done. So, they all vow never to tell anyone and run away from the place. As the body of Robin lies on the broken glass on the ground, a shadow comes across it of the person that witnessed the crime, but who is that person?
Six years later, Kim, played by Jaime Lee Curtis and Alex are in high school now. Their father, played by Leslie Nielsen, (this was just right before he did his comedies like Airplane and Police Squad) is the principle of the school. Along with the mother, the rest are at Robin’s grave on the anniversary of her death. Meanwhile, the rest of the kids are getting ready for the prom, that’s later that night, but someone starts to call up the four kids who are responsible for her death. All of them pretty much are still friends, except for Wendy, who is now the bitch of the whole high school. Alex, who use to date Wendy now is dating Kim. They are both King and Queen of the prom and Wendy can’t stand it and wants Alex back.
The phone call scenes are very well done, with the P.O.V. of the person calling them all on the phone. There are some cool quick cuts of a pencil being pounded on a table, the phone getting dialed, and then a name getting crossed out. There’s also a part where the person is going through a yearbook, tearing out the pictures of those four. The scene is very Argento like.
Also going on is a mental patient that escaped and kidnapped a nurse. This patient was blamed for Robin’s death and before he got caught was almost burned alive in a high-speed car chase. A police officer is on the case and wants to find this man before he hurts anyone. Later on, the nurse’s body is found in the abandon building where Robin died.
Through out the film there are many suspicious characters and some strange happens, such as the phone calls, pictures of the students being taped on their lockers, someone watching the girls in the locker room. Also, Wendy tries to get back at Kim for taking her man and she wants to stick to her on the night of the prom. Alex is the only one of the four that still feels guilty for what happened to Robin and at times wants to tell the truth, but can never do it. So, when school is done for the day, the kids get ready for the dance.
Once at the prom, the killings begin and revenge is taken. There are some great suspenseful scenes when the killer is stalking his prey in the halls of the school while the rest of the students boogie down to disco at the prom. This film probably has one of the best chase scenes between killer and victim. The killer, wielding an ax and wearing a ski mask, stalks Wendy. He chases her through out the school, going through room after the room. The whole place is very dark and spooky and it adds to the mood.
Along with Black Christmas, Halloween, and Friday the 13th, Prom Night sets staples that have been used through out almost ever horror/slasher film. The setting, being a high school, which has been used by so many movies through out the 80’s and beyond. Prom Night is probably the best horror films to take place in a high school. Other staples, something horrible happening in the past that’s covered up or someone else is blamed for. Everyone is a suspect. To the creepy groundskeeper, to the bully in school, to the escaped mental patient, to even Leslie Nielsen. Also, in the end when the killer is revealed, it’s someone that you didn’t expect. Actually looking back now, Scream used a lot of elements that were from this movie, from setting to back-story and other things as well.
Still a great horror film after all these years. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. Pass on the terrible remake and watch the original if you want to see a true classic slasher horror film.