Prom Night (1980)
By: Michael Helms on July 8. 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
MRA (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 2.0. 89 minutes
The Movie
Director: Paul Lynch
Starring: Leslie Nielson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Casey Stevens, Eddie Benton, Antionette Bower, Michael Tough, Robert Silverman, Jeff Wincott
Screenplay:William Gray, Robert Guza Jr., (uncredited: John Hunter)
Music:Carl Zittrer, Paul Zaza
Tagline: If You're Not Back By Midnight...You Won't Be Coming Home!
Country: Canada
By 1979 the slasher boom was in full swing and when expatriate British graphic artist/filmmaker Paul Lynch, who had been residing in Canada, couldn't attract the financing for his film about a killer gynaecolgist, he just peered out his hotel window one night on a trip to L.A and copped a billboard advertising suit hire for Prom Night and a franchise was born.

Several primary school age children are playing chasey in an abandoned building having a great time running around chanting, "the killers are coming." They're joined by another girl whose two siblings apparently walk off. The gang of four eventually chase their new play pal off the top floor of the building and she lands on her back on another window frame and dies. The four friends, three girls and a boy, make a vow not to tell anyone about their involvement in the death. Someone's shadow passes over the girl's body and Leslie Nielson, the local high school principal, appears in an upstairs window mumbling about the girl being a victim of sexual molestation. Fast forward six years and after a quick shot of the grave site we cut to Jamie Lee Curtis hassling her brother about getting a date for the prom. Later at school, Leslie Nielson, her dad, informs Jamie Lee that the new school gardener has checked out okay. A mystery phone caller starts harassing the friends. Meanwhile, Leonard Murch, the man who had been jailed for the death in the prologue, a disfigured, catatonic (?), schizophrenic who had been institutionalized, has escaped. One cop describes him as, "Bad". More phone calls from the mysterious male caller are received. A doctor visits the police and advises them not to freak out over Leonard. A body is discovered. Jamie Lee checks out the school's dance floor. Her jealous rival catches her out and gets catty. "It's not who you go with, it's who takes you home". Someone is tearing out pictures from the school year book. A guy in a balaclava hassles Jamie in the school cafeteria. Two guys end up in Leslie Nielson's office. Lou who conspires with Jamie Lee's rich blonde rival is suspended while Alex who is Leslie Nielson's son gets off. A cop is earnestly working on the new murder case. Alex and Jamie Lee chill out by the beach. Back at school a girl flashes her butt at the gardener just before a shower scene. A two-way mirror is discovered in the locker room. Pictures from the yearbook start turning up in lockers. Rehearsal for the prom mainly means Jamie Lee dancing with Leslie Nielson. At the prom Jamie Lee burns up the dance floor with her partner Nick in an overly long dance sequence. By the end of the first hour the body count is two with one death occurring off-screen.

Behind the scenes at the prom things are happening in the ladies room. When Kelly can't get it on with her date in the cloakroom though he leaves and she's grabbed from behind and has her neck slashed in a non-graphic manner. Outside in a transit van a couple dick around before the killer attacks, garroting her and causing the guy to crash his wheels and go up in flames. Meanwhile, it's lights out in the ladies room as the killer grabs an axe. A girl in red gets a shock before getting the chop. The diligent cop gets information that the escaped psycho has just been picked up 50 miles away. The gardener turns up drunk. Backstage at the prom just before Jamie and Nick are crowned King and Queen, the axe makes an appearance. At the crowning moment the suspended Lou loses his head as it rolls down the walkway. The masked killer trips over some cables before struggling with Jamie as they stagger down the same walkway. The crowd has dispersed but the music and light show plays on. Jamie finally swings the final axe blow after recognising the killer who we all do when the balaclava is removed.
Except for a few kooky camera angles and the use of reflective surfaces there's not too much going on with Prom Night to make it look exceptional. In fact, if anything the transfer of this hardly pristine print gives it a dull sheen that could've been tweaked to far greater effect but hasn't.
The stereo reproduction of the second rate disco music soundtrack is far from exceptional too. Even those of you who hanker for the throb of sounds that used to pack out plastic dance floors lit from below, are sure to be disappointed. By the time we get round to the soulful ballad, "Fade To Black," with admittedly bizarre lyrics that plays under the end credits, and which is sung by Gordene Simpson (who was probably a relation of the producer), you will have forgotten what you've just heard. The more traditional horror and sub-Halloween tinklings of Carl Zittrer are what makes Prom Night sound good.
Extra Features
The Verdict
Prom Night which really just grafts a Carrie scenario (minus the telekinesis) onto a poor excuse for a revenge drama, was relatively anemic before at least a minute went missing for the initial Australian release. Now, with up to three minutes gone, you might wonder what's the point and that'd be a pertinent question. It's adherents cite innovation and characterisation but I for one find it hard to find any elements that might raise this film out of the mire that most body count epics dwell in. Prom Night takes way too long getting around to any action, instead crafting a series of pointless sub-plots that lead nowhere. It's also hard getting around the fact that Jamie Lee Curtis, in only her third role, has one of the oldest teenage faces to ever grace any sort of screen. It wasn't until the first sequel seven years later that the producers were forced to try anything out of the ordinary, a factor which conversely makes the sequels better than the title that spawned them.
Movie Score
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