Prom Night (2008)
WRITER: J.S. Cardone
DIRECTOR: Nelson McCormick
STARRING: Brittany Snow as Donna Keppel
Scott Porter as Bobby
Jessica Stroup as Claire
Dana Davis as Lisa Hines
Collins Pennie as Ronnie Heflin
Kelly Blatz as Michael
James Ransome as Detective Nash
Johnathon Schaech as Richard Fenton
Idris Elba as Detective Winn
Jessalyn Gilsig as Aunt Karen Turner
Linden Ashby as Uncle Jack Turner
QUICK CUT: After three years, a teacher obsessed with one of his students escapes to continue his quest to be with her, and everyone in the way be damned. Oh, and it all happens at the most lavish prom ever.
Donna - Our lead character, who was the victim of stalking and brutal attacks three years ago. She's your average high school student, although still suffering some trauma after the attacks and the death of her family.
Richard Fenton - The teacher who became obsessed with Donna, stalked her, killed her family, and went to jail forever...until this movie needed a plot so he escaped.
Detective Winn - Our hero, Idris Elba, and the lead detective on the case three years ago, and drawn back into things when Fenton escapes. Dedicated, determined, and caring.
THE GUTS: It's May, so that means it is time for prom again, and we are once again visiting Prom Night...but this time going to the 2008 class reunion remake. Why not one of the earlier sequels? Uhh, because I forgot those existed, my bad. But anyways...I said this wasn't gonna exactly be a classic, but how will it compare to the April Fool's Day remake from the very same year?
We start right out of the gate with Donna coming home and finding her father and brother are already dead, and when she hears a commotion, the girl ducks under her bed and watches as the killer takes out her mother right in front of her.
Now, the killer keeps asking where Donna is, obsessed with her, but somehow missed the car that dropped her off and her calling out in the house for dad when she got home, and any number of noises a person makes when they enter their home. The house isn't THAT big. He should at least be aware she's in the building.
And then she snaps back to the present and IT WAS ALL A DR...no wait, she's just relating a dream to her therapist, played by Ming Na Wen in an awfully minimal role. Sure, the events we just watched were a dream, but they're also what really happened to Donna three years ago, or close enough to actual events, so I'll allow it.
We get told the killer, an old teacher of Donna's, has been put away and will never hurt her again. Aaaand cue his escape in 3, 2...
After we meet Donna's friends Claire and Lisa and Bobby the boyfriend, we are off to prom! At least we're not wasting any time. We're not really bothering with much characterisation, but we are getting down to business. The core group are all generally nice people, but besides that, they're pretty light on anything unique.
Meanwhile, there's the requisite police subplot, where Detective Wynn gets informed that Fenton has escaped several days ago. We also get some more flashbacks fleshing out events from three years ago, and Fenton's obsession.
The three couples we care about, barely, arrive at the hotel the prom is being held at, and man is it lavish. They try and brush this aside by saying the president of the prom committee went WAY over-budget with a "Hollywood" theme, but man, proms just are not like this. The creators try to get this to work by saying that this is supposed to be representative of the way we all thought proms were, or proms should be, but that just means they acknowledge this is nowhere near reality, so...
Oh, and Fenton is lurking in the hotel already, keeping an eye on them. When Ronnie slides over to the front desk to pick up the room keys, Fenton gets one on the same floor to stalk Donna more easily. We also meet said president of the prom committee, and she's pretty much straight out of the 'stuck up bitch' characterisation.
The girls head up to the room almost immediately so we can establish the location...er, I mean, so they can freshen up. I dunno, it seems rather forced to head into the prom, dance, then leave, but hey.
After Fenton follows them up, he calls over a maid for some fresh towels and extra murder, and he stashes her body in his room, while swiping her master keycard.
Wynn shows up to let Sheriff Stilinski know that Fenton is on the loose and hunting his niece, keeping the procedural side of things going, and yeah, still more of no one being happy that it took so long for the word to get out.
Back at Hotel Prom, Fenton and the ladies have returned to the event. He sticks to the shadows and watches while relationship drama between Claire and her boyfriend unfold about her going to college. It's a pretty standard attempt at stuffing conflict into the plot.
Donna ducks *back* out of the prom to head upstairs. Yep, it's one of those back and forth plots between two locations again. It must be time to get Donna alone to spook things up a bit and add some tension!
And boy, does this movie love certain kinds of shots. They overuse the 'camera in the closet' shot a lot, and there is a ton of shots of the camera watching Donna from a distance, almost a firstperson view, but NOT. It's almost effective, but ends up just being overused. These are like the only two tricks the movie knows. On the other hand, it does give a singular sort of style and vision.
We get thrown a pretty cheap jump scare when the loneliness of the room starts to get to Donna, questioning every little sound, and then when she goes to the door and opens it, BOOM there's Claire who decided to follow her upstairs. It's pretty much the definition of a jump scare, when she opens the door and everybody screams loudly.
But at least once Claire is left alone, you're pretty sure where this is going. It's not long before Fenton appears from behind a doorway and starts the brutal slaughter of girls at their prom.
And that's when Winn decides it's time to show up at the hotel and ask around, so we're not keeping our plots too separate. Which is good.
We return to the prom and high school drama to pad things out, and I just can NOT get worked up over their concerns over whether their relationships will survive graduation and moving far away. Kids, your relationships ain't gonna survive the *night* with Fenton running around.
Claire's boyfriend notices she's missing and heads up to the suite, where Fenton is just kinda hanging out with her corpse in the bathroom and flicking through her camera roll..
The kid pours his heart out to try and patch things up, which is really just a long scene of him talking out loud to no one 'apologising' to his girlfriend, while the movie's stalkercam slowly watches him from every possible rear angle.
He finally gets into the bathroom and finds...nothing! Seriously, um, how did Fenton A) move the body that fast and B) that quietly in a hotel suite? I could actually live with those two things, but then there's C) AND NOT GET HER BLOOD EVERYWHERE?? Fenton stabbed her like a dozen times. And there is NOT A DROP. I can roll with moving and hiding the body quickly, but not the utter lack of blood from a body stabbed that much and just laying there.
The guy checks the closet, because this movie loves closets, and Fenton somehow hid SO deeply inside that he's completely engulfed by darkness until he tilts up his baseball cap, lunging and stabbing the kid. The good news is, we're not just gonna be killing girls, which it started to slide dangerously close to.
Oh, but you know what we need right now! Let's go back to the prom and worry about who will be crowned king and queen!! Yeah, fine, I will be over *here* wondering who's gonna live and who's gonna die.
The hotel finally notices they're missing a housekeeper, and sends one of the hotel minions to find her. And Fenton makes short work of him too.
Okay, okay, so that was actually Mike that did that in Blair Witch, but SOMEone needs to pay for it, and Josh is here and dying.
But now it's time for Lisa and Ronnie to head up to the suite for their own fun, and see if Claire and whatever his name was are dead or not. Along the way Lisa bumps right into Fenton in the elevator, and the wheels start to turn as she recognises him but can't place it.
Lisa soon realises while they're making out, that she just ran into Fenton and bolts out of the suite to find Donna and let her know what the movie's all about nearly an hour into this thing.
She might have even pulled it off if she hadn't decided to randomly take the stairs and slip in her heels, falling down nearly an entire flight. And somehow stumble right into a creepy section of the hotel being renovated, complete with creepy hanging plastic to make things creepy.
We get treated to a pretty decent chase through the darkened corridors, though. Complete with startled birds jump scare!
Everyone's busy worrying about the whole prom queen thing and wondering where Lisa is, but where she is, is getting crowned corpse queen somewhere upstairs.
Meanwhile, the cops are discovering the car of a missing person, with that missing person in the trunk, and that there's a room registered to the dead guy. The procedural plot is actually moving along pretty well.
Detective Luther heads up to the room and finds the maid's body, so at least we know where SOMEone ended up in this. It also puts the plot into a different gear, as there's a sense of urgency, real danger, as he sends another cop to try and find Donna.
Just then, Winn pulls the fire alarm to try and evacuate the building safely. No! Now how will I ever know who prom king and queen are?! The most important plot will go unanswered!!
Meanwhile, Donna's still wandering around trying to find Claire and Lisa and ANYone, and even in the midst of an evacuation and fire drill, she decides to head upstairs to find her shawl. Because the plot demands it, damnit.
So we go BACK up to the suite, but at least the plot finally has Donna realise her life is in danger and has her come face to face with Fenton. With 20 minutes left. Yes, that's right, it took over an hour of the movie to finally have our protagonist realise she's in a movie.
We get the usual chase around the room, and she locks him out in the hall. But fortunately he has a fire extinguisher to bash down the REALLY CHEAP DOOR. I've stayed in some pretty low rent hotels and motels before, and their doors are heavier than lead weights. How the heck did he smash through it so easily here? Not to mention, what happened to his key?
Donna hides under the bed, again, and it almost works. Until she sees that's where he somehow stashed Claire's body, and she lets out a gasp.
Fenton pokes around and finally finds her under the bed. Although, maybe she wasn't under the bed, because Donna somehow manages to stand STRAIGHT UP which you would think would be difficult with a mattress and bed frame in the way. But whatever. That's the movie's smallest offense.
Anyways, she runs out of the room and straight into the waiting arms of Winn who shoos her off so he can be the hero. Donna tells them about Claire's body, and when they search the room, Winn looks under the bed...and there's nothing. AGAIN. HOW AGAIN. Not to mention at this point, WHY. The game is up, they know he's stabbing.
But Fenton's nowhere to be seen, and Donna and her boyfriend are rushed back to her aunt and uncle's place, because that should be safe. SHOULD be.
The police search the hotel top to bottom and only find dead bodies, and no killer. But all the exits were covered! How could he possibly have escaped??
It all feels weirdly anticlimactic to have this big to-do at the prom, and then JUST as things get interesting and Donna gets dragged into the movie at long last...let's end the prom and send everyone home! I suppose they're going for something more personal, at home sort of conclusion, but it feels like the movie has already ended and is winding down too much. And padding things out with extra scenes.
They finally find Lisa's body and poor Ronnie finally finds out his girlfriend died half an hour ago. Meanwhile, the cops are still baffled by how he escaped, and now there's blood dripping from the ceiling. What is this, a Stephen King hotel all of a sudden??
Anyways, after dragging it out with a sloooow look around the vents, Josh's body finally falls out of the ceiling, and we see that Fenton snuck out by wearing the bellhop's uniform.
Meanwhile, back at Donna's, she's wandering around slowly, heads to the bathroom, and they pull the open the medicine cabinet trick AGAIN and BOOM there he is in the mirror when she closes it. Fenton smashes her head into the mirror and...
IT WAS ALL A DREAM! Well, the last few minutes since she went to the bathroom. Seriously, at this point, we should be rocketing towards a conclusion, not sending everyone home, going to bed, having dream sequences, doing long mysteries of where did he go, how did he escape?? This is just spinning wheels at this point.
This is not the time for Donna to be all, "Oooh, Bobby, are you sleeping? I'm going to the bathroom. Okay?" Gaaah, get ON with it already.
And on TOP of that, the movie slowly goes through everything from her dream again, because now she's freaked out by the echoes to the dream we just saw.
But then he doesn't pop up in the mirror again but GASP there's a rustling, and the bathroom window is open! Let's close it! This is the stuff YOU START YOUR FILM WITH. Not have the plot GRIND TO A HALT as the heroine plods around very slowly and cautiously.
Winn arrives on the scene and finds Detective Nash died while no one was looking. Upstairs, Donna still can't sleep and nudges her boyfriend, who oops, got his throat slashed and rolled onto the gash without her noticing. I'll blame her medication for that, but damn. Rather than the slow sneaking around the house to be quiet while everyone's sleeping, and having a repetitive dream sequence, maybe if we saw people being killed...
She ducks into a closet, because this movie loves closets still, and it is probably a little too similar to Halloween. But hey, if you're gonna homage, might as well homage the best.
Donna watches from inside the closet and sees Winn approach, just in time for Fenton to pounce out from the back of the closet and grabs her before she can say anything.
Winn is JUST about to open the door and END THIS MOVIE when Donna's aunt lets out a scream so he rushes away to investigate. *sobs* Just end this already, stop dragging it out.
Oh, she screamed because there's a dead officer in the backyard. Because we needed to keep this movie going JUST a little bit longer and reach 90 minutes, rather than just have Winn find the killer and end it.
Back in the closet, Donna bites Fenton's hand and scrambles across the floor to escape, bringing us up to that classic point in these sorts of stories. This is the moment where the woman, who was damaged years ago, comes face to face with her attacker, faces her darkest fears, her worst moments ever, kicks them square in the face, and stops the killer, as a symbol of triumph and beating her fears.
And utterly ruins the entire idea of a character arc by doing so. Winn hears screaming, comes running BACK to the bedroom, and shoots Fenton dead before Donna can do much of anything. Rather than have her defeat her demons, she is instead reduced to a blubbering mess who has to be saved by a minor character in her own movie.
Screw you, movie. This was not Winn's story. This was not a mystery. This was not a cop show. This was not Winn finally catching the bad guy that got away all those years ago. This is *Donna's* story, and you utterly missed the point of your own damned movie. This is the most epicly monumental failure of storytelling since Death Bed.
Donna wraps up the movie by blubbering on the floor, crying over her dead boyfriend, and sobbing on Winn's shoulder. All in the final 45 seconds between Fenton falling over dead and the credits rolling. I am insulted on almost every level.
Video: The look of the movie is the best part, really. But that's to be expected from a big budget movie in 2008.
Audio: Another good mix.
Sound Bite: "If he were any dumber, I'd have to water him." Chrissy about her chump of a boyfriend
Body Count: For what the movie lacks in character arcs and story telling, it at least makes up for it with a hefty body count. The only downside being that far too many happen off camera.
1 - Just short of four minutes in, we find a dead body, Donna's dead dad before the movie began.
2 - Her brother Joey is also dead upstairs in his room.
3 - And first on camera death happens at five minutes when X kills Donna's mom.
4 - Fenton stabbies a maid to get her keycard to all the rooms.
5 - Claire's the first prom date to die.
6 - When he tries to find her, Claire's boyfriend also meets the same Mister Stabby.
7 - A bellhop is sent up to find the maid, and adds to the body count.
8 - Lisa falls down a stairwell and into her murder.
9 - Detective Nash checks the phone lines, and soon the're not the only thing that's dead.
10 - Bobby got his throat slashed in his sleep. In everyone's sleep, apparently...
11 - Poor random cop killed in the backyard for plot reasons.
12 - And finally Fenton himself dies by the wrong person.
Best Corpse: Am I a bad person for saying Josh, just because it's a dead person from Blair Witch Project? Okay okay, Lisa's death was pretty cool and graphic, and one of the better chases here.
Blood Type - C: Okay, listen. There's some decent blood here and there. BUT. As I yelled about earlier, a lot of Fenton's antics are hidden far too easily simply because they never use a lot of blood. Claire should be swimming in a pool of blood after her death. But no. And the bonus insult to this being the Unrated Edition, which is largely wasted.
Sex Appeal: Girls in prom dresses is as good as it gets on that front.
Drink Up! Every time the camera sneaks around the backs of people's heads.
Video Nasties: Ugh. My program used to get clips decided to stop working, and I spent most of April 30th trying to find a program that worked. And then found out the one I used is playing the wrong audio, but ONLY when uploaded to YouTube. So I have to yell at that some more. Ugh. But here's the clip I put up, with the wrong audio, for now!
Movie Review: It's amazing to me that a very new movie, that's a big budget thriller, that's not the normal cheeseball fare I deal with, has to be one of the single most hated movies I've seen on this site. And as is the usual idea, there's a good idea here. I am so down for a movie about a girl having a traumatic experience, and years later having her nightmare come back to life, and overcoming it. And all set around the prom setting is fun. But...that is not what this movie does. It's like they had an idea and spun off into their own story about Winn in the last 30 minutes, and changed the game. They also say they researched proms and watched a lot of prom movies, just so they could get all the tropes down. It would have been nice if instead of just making sure they include all the tropes of the prom when it's a prom, if it was better incorporated into the horror side of the story too. The closest they come is when the kids go to the suite to have sex, but it all falls apart because of the main plot. And even that's pretty weak. This is instead more like Birdemic in that regard, in that here's the romance, and here's the horror, and never the twain shall meet. And oh yes, I just compared Prom Night 2008 to Birdemic. Still, as much as I dislike it, it's still well made, and the cast is *amazing*. The cast is way better than this movie deserves. The cast are in such small roles in some cases for their ability. For every point this movie gains from me, it quickly snatches it away. The plot is okay, then the execution fails. The cast is good, but so many are wasted. The prom stuff is too separate from the horror. Donna's a good character, but not even part of the story until the very end, and even then she doesn't have any sort of arc. This movie frustrates on every level. Two out of five prom dresses. And that is largely on the basis of Idris Elba, Brittany Snow, and Johnathon Schaech. Otherwise this would be a one.
Entertainment Value: And it's so bad it's just bad. I yell at the screen more out of frustration than "What the heck?!" value. The first half is a decent enough ride, competently told, with some good tension, decent scares, but then things fly off the rails the moment everyone goes home. The movie should be ending, but instead it winds down and grinds to a near halt, completely deflating any sense of urgency we SHOULD have. Any entertainment here is garnered by the quality of the movie, not any cheesiness, and the first half, and watching Idris Elba be cool (Even if he should NOT be the hero!) give it a two out of five limo rides.