Prom Night (1980)
WRITER: Screenplay by William Gray
From a story by Robert Guza Jr.
DIRECTOR: Paul Lynch
STARRING: Leslie Nielsen as Mr. Hammond
Jamie Lee Curtis as Kim
Casey Stevens as Nick
Eddie Benton as Wendy
Michael Tough as Alex
Pita Oliver as Vicki
David Mucci as Lou
Marybeth Rubens as Kelly
George Touliatos as McBride
Jeff Wincott as Drew
Joy Thompson as Jude
QUICK CUT: A horror from the past comes back to haunt several teens on their prom night, when a mysterious figure starts picking them off.
Kim - Our lead, the daughter of her school's principal, and sister of the girl who dies at the start of the flick. She's good at school, and looking forward to prom.
Alex - Kim's brother, and he's pretty quiet, just trying to fit in and go with the flow.
Wendy - One of the group that was responsible for Robin's death, and the arguable leader of the group. She comes up with the plan to keep quiet about everything.
Kelly - The quiet one of the group of accidental killers, and the one most affected by their decisions, and the secrets.
Nick - Another of the gang of four, and currently Kim's date to prom, as well as Wendy's former boyfriend.
Jude - The last of the group that hid the truth of Robin's death, and desperately in search of someone to go to prom with.
Lou - Our typical bully at the high school. You can figure his character out from that, but he goes above and beyond the call of trolling.
SPECIAL NOTE: Hi! Y'all that are about to read this? I got a confession to make. I made a major screw up. You are about to read several jokes about Jeff Wincott being in The Crow. I got him confused with his brother MICHAEL Wincott. It's an honest mistake! I'm going to leave the jokes as is, because hey, they're still amusing. But yeah, I screwed up! And I own up to it! And leave things as they are to admit to it and not hide it! So enjoy my screwup, and the rest of the review!
THE GUTS: So, with the silliness of April out of the way, it's time to turn my attention towards a May tradition in the US, the prom. What better place to start than with the original version of Prom Night, a classic of the genre, starring Jamie Lee Curtis on a post-Halloween high.
Well, this starts out pleasantly enough at least! We get introduced to a bunch of kids running around an abandoned building playing a variant on a game of hide and seek, except their hiding from a killer and they keep chanting that "The killer is comming!" I totally would've played this version of the game.
Another group of kids stumbles upon their game where nothing can possibly go wrong, and Robin sticks around to check things out, lurking around the building.
They surround the newcomer with their chant, and drive her right out a high window and onto some handy windows waiting below. The kids all make a pact to never tell anyone what happened there that day. Great, this is I Know What You Did Last Recess.
We jump the plot ahead six years and meet Robin's family all grown up, and her dad Leslie Neilsen They all head off to high school, except for mom who stays home, still grieving. Dad and the kids pass a creepy dude trimming the hedges at the school and they try way too hard to make us think he's creepy.
The movie spends the next few minutes calling up all the other kids involved in Robin's death, which is a great way to introduce your cast. It sets up the eerie vibe of the lurking threat; they can brush it off as just a crank call, and it lets you name check everyone, along with showing hints of their personality with how they react to the calls, and when intercut with flashbacks to the earlier scenes, it makes for a very effective and efficient way to introduce everyone.
Oh look, it's a way to use footage from five minutes ago without seeming too forced.
They also slip in an additonal threat of a guy that was accused of Robin's murder, that got chased, burned, and spent the last six years in a coma because of the kids. And now he's awake and missing! But nothing every comes of this, we never see him, and I'll barely mention this plot thread again.
We spin our wheels a bit dealing with typical high school shennanigans, most of them centering around Jamie Lee Curtis and how all the boys want her. Probably the most noteworthy thing is a ski-mask that gets tossed in the trash to probably return later to disguise someone's identity.
Lou, who was the main antagonist of those events and Wendy, the mastermind behind the coverup six years ago, begin conspiring against the rest of the Hammond family thanks to Principal Frank Drebin suspending Lou earlier.
I hate to remind them, but did these guys see Carrie? Do they know how bad of an idea it is to try and get revenge or humiliate people at prom? That never ends well.
Kim and Kelly get a scare in the girl's locker room when an unseen person smashes up a mirror, and disappears with a chunk of the glass. That may be THE single most specifically elaborate setup for a murder weapon I've seen this side of the A-Team.
But there's no time to worry about seven years of bad luck, as Kim and Nick have to get ready for their debut as prom king and queen! Yeah, the movie does this weird balancing act between the mundane school stuff and the creepier aspects of the plot, but they manage to make it work.
A lot of the scares up to this point involve loud noises spooking the cast. They never get into the jump scare tactics for the audience, but all I can keep thinking of is that the school really needs to get their pipes checked out.
But there are the occasional creepy touches like having some of the people involved in the murder discover their yearbook photos taped up inside their lockers, some of them with chunks of mirror. It at least has them knowing that SOMEthing is waiting in the shadows, and the audience feels it too.
And right at the halfway point of the movie, it's time for prom night!
Which pretty much kills the plot dead in its tracks, to be honest. I'll often slightly exaggerate times in these reviews, but after Wendy and her neanderthal date arrive to the prom, we pretty much slam on the story brakes for almost a solid eight minutes of dancing, with only a few sprinked lines of dialogue.
But hey, I guess they paid for that light up disco floor, they may as well use it, right?
Meanwhile, Kelly and Drew are finally about to do it in some darkened corner of the school, but she has second thoughts, and he leaves her all alone.
Which can only mean one thing, it's time for the REAL third act to begin, with the killer finally popping up and slicing her throat open with the stolen piece of mirror.
I actually feel pretty bad about Kelly's death; she's the one who was least wanting to go along with the cover-up, and the one most affected by it all these years later, clearly being eaten up by the secrets. Still, she DID keep those secrets, so it's understandable why the killer still thinks she had to go. But really.
Next, it's time for Jude and Slick to sneak off in his van so THEY can have sex, and by Kaufman does the killer ever spend far too much time just lurking about watching. I grumbled "Get on with it!" more than once.
The killer finally listens to me and gets the chance to stab Jude through the nexk, and credit to the minor character; Slick actually lands a solid punch and throws their assailant out of the van. He tries to drive off, but the killer grabs on for the ride.
Poor Slick. He just stumbled into this plot to get the cute girl, and what does he get for his trouble? Some person popping out of the shrubbery, killing his girlfriend, and driving his van off the cliff into a fiery wreck. All without ANY clue what was going on. Fare thee well, Slick. We hardly knew ye.
Wendy's about ready to put her own revenge plans into action, and ducks away to make sure her makeup is good before hand. The killer arrives, turns off the lights, and tries to go all Lizzie Borden on things, but misses.
The girl runs for it, and we get treated to a lengthy chase through the school, with lots of tugging on locked doors and hiding behind desks. Part of me says the chase scene is overly long, but it does hold your attention.
Wendy almost would have gotten away, if she didn't just so happen to hide in the supply closet where the killer stashed Kelly, making her scream and give up her location.
Oh yeah! Remember that little plot point about the guy falsely accused for killing Robin? Yeah, forget about him, they caught him off camera, in a town 50 miles away. Oops, sorry about the red herring, folks!
And while we're checking off red herrings, the cops come by and arrest a drunken Top Dollar, raving about some dude who can't be killed with a pet bird, and drag him off to the drunk tank to sleep it off.
Back in the gym, they're getting ready to announce the king and queen, and Kim's dad has gone missing. But, surely he's not the killer! Well, he's not.
And don't call him Shirley.
Lou decides not to wait for Wendy to show up, and goes ahead with their revenge. They grab Nick and knock him out backstage, which should make him easy pickings after Wendy. Which I'm sure the killer will be relieved about after that long chase.
However, it's bad news for Lou, who has the misfortune of cramming his body into Nick's tux, and being mistaken for Nick in the darkness of backstage by the killer. That may be one of the best goofs ever.
Kim finds Nick, while the killer shakes off his minor electructional they got backstage trying to axe Lou. A fight breaks out on the gym floor, which cleared out when everyone saw Lou succumb to a quickening.
The axe goes flying, and Kim grabs it while the other two roll around the dance floor, giving birth to breakdancing.
Kim gets the killer with the blunt edge of the axe, SIGH, and their eyes meet. She clearly recognises the person, but before they can do the big reveal, the person stumbles out into the waiting cop cars pulling into the parking lot.
The killer falls to the ground and Kim pulls off the mask, revealing her brother, and apparently the credits. And so, everyone lives happily ever after, except for all the ones who died. Yes, they abruptly ended it right there.
Video: It looks okay, but something about the transfer bugged me. It's a little washed out, a little blocky than I'd like, but it's certainly not terrible. Just something that feels like it could have been better for something generally well regarded
Audio: Much like the video, it's okay, but leaves just a little to be desired.
Sound Bite: "It's not who you go with, honey. It's who takes you home." or takes you out, in this movie.
1 - At a mere 6:45, poor Robin takes a tumble out a window and lands on some more windows, falling to her doom.
2 - Poor Random McOffcamera dies supposedly by Merch's hands at the old abandoned building.
3 - With a piece of mirror, Kelly gets her throat cut.
4 - Jude has a night she will remember for the rest of her life, which is about ten seconds longer as the killer arrives and stabs her through the neck.
5 - Slick blows up good with his van.
6 - After one of the longest chases in film history, Wendy finally gets an axe in her head.
7 - Heads roll when the killer meets Lou.
8 - And the killer himself probably dies when Alex falls dead after a deadly allergy to the side of an axe.
Best Corpse: How do I *not* go with a beheaded neanderthal??
Blood Type - C+: Most of those points go for Lou's severed head. But there's some decent bits of blood with all the mirror shard related slashings. Also, a bonus point for an exploding van.
Sex Appeal: Just a little bit here and there with the ladies.
Drink Up! Every time you realise the plot has crashed to a halt and you've been watching people dance, or smoke, or have sex for far too long.
Movie Review: It's easy to see why this is a minor classic of the genre. It really does arguably create the subgenre of the hidden death leading to brutal revenge some time later, that so many flicks would pick up on in the 90s. The cast is solid enough, it's well made, but geeze, is it ever hurt by the plot slowing down for high school hijinks. It never quite becomes too much, and is done interestingly enough, but you can feel that plot stretching out as best it can. But it's otherwise decent enough for something from this time period, and pretty watchable. Four out of five severed heads.
Entertainment Value: This is where the plot stalling really hurts the movie. If the pace was kept up, and not quite so padded, the movie would be so much more entertaining. The strentgh lies in the plot, and the deaths, and okay, a lot of entertainment can be had by the overuse of disco in its final days. I don't have to tell you that Jamie Lee Curtis is the star of this flick, and brings a lot to the table. Without her, this movie would go nowhere slowly. Three out of five shards of mirror.