Prom Night
By: Joe Lewis on April 13, 2008  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share

Director: Nelson McCormick
Starring: Brittany Snow, Scott Porter, Jessica Stroup, Dana Davis, Johnathon Schaeach
Screenplay: JS Cardone
Country: USA
Distributor: Sony
Running Time: 88 minutes
OFLC Rating: M (Moderate violence)

I really should've known.

I should've been wary of a remake anyway, and a remake of an eighties slasher at the cycle's most cretinous at that. But alarm bells should've really sounded when Nelson McCormick's Prom Night redux was awarded a PG-13 certification in the States, a veritable sign of cheap shocks and sanitised violence. And I just should've gotten the fuck out of there when the line into the screening cinema was occupied almost entirely by more thirteen year old girls than a MySpace cam-whore convention.

But I didn't. And I certainly suffered for it. But now there's no excuse for you, dear reader, to make the same blunders as your misguided reviewer. 

A remake of Paul Lynch's subpar 1980 effort that starred screen queen Jamie Lee Curtis, Prom Night mixes it up a bit, insofar as JS Cardone's bumble-fuck script has the intellectual capacity to. Like the original, McCormick's Prom Night is set on the titular zenith of a high schooler's social life – the evening of their graduation. The film begins with a jarring (actually, it's not jarring, it's fucking lame) prologue in which we are introduced to our protagonist Donna Keppel, played by the quasi-ghoulishly made-up Brittany Snow. Donna is being stalked by an infatuated ex-teacher Richard Fenton (Johnathon Schaech) who, at the pinnacle of his psychopathy, audaciously stages a home invasion and murders Donna's MILF of a mother in front of her. Richard, who I'll refer to as 'Dick' herein, skips the death penalty and gets a one-way ticket to a maximum-security-but-highly-escapable mental asylum. Fast-forward a bit, and the only real lasting effects that the event seems to have smeared Donna with are bad dreams, for which she sees a psychiatrist. Her shrink ensures the soon-to-be-graduate that eventually these nightmares will pass, and life does indeed look good – she lives with her doting father and aunt (yep, you guessed it – a MILF) and Donna has a date with Bobby for the prom, a pretty-boy (read: pussy) who you just know will be worth tits when it comes to defending his girl against a knife-wielding nutjob.

And the opportunity for Bobby to look like a loser does arise. Three days before prom night, Dick escapes from his abode in Fruity Land. The cops only find out on prom night (probably the only slice of decent nostalgia in this is police ineptitude) and race against time to protect Donna and her clique from Dick's evil wrath.

Australia was lucky enough to experience Prom Night in cinemas before the rest of the world, but don't go off feeling too special yet – this cinematic abortion exemplifies malconceived horror operating at its nadir. Foremost, the film is absolutely appallingly acted. I don't think I can express the kind of effect this had on the overall picture, because it was truly profound – Brittany Snow, who showed at least some degree of up-and-comingness in her past canon, is on abysmal form here. Really, the only performance that even ranks is Schaech's Dick, but his lame, teary stalker shtick quickly becomes tiresome.

JS Cardone tries his best not to fashion a blueprint of the original, but his screenplay is inherently incompetent nonetheless. Cardone, who scribed such projects as Sniper 3 and the vampire flick The Forsaken, pelts cliché after cliché at the audience, all of whom should know better. But intelligence comes secondary, or tertiary, or lower still when you find yourself seated amongst Prom Night's primary demographic, in which the average IQ is equal to the film's running time. McCormick helms Prom Night as heavy-handedly as one can expect, executing all of the appropriate jump scares and cheap shots designed to appease the appropriate crowd. The gore, violence and sleaze all correlate with the PG-13 (M in Australia) classification – that is, it's non-existent – but it wouldn't have helped make this entertaining anyway. 

Lynch's Prom Night was released in a period when the slasher film was quickly becoming a tired concept, and it wasn't a particularly good picture anyway – at least, it certainly could have been improved upon. As far as remakes are concerned, I tend to avoid entering them with the puritanical 'This will be garbage' attitude – Nipsel's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a very enjoyable film and Aja's The Hills Have Eyes was, at risk of being run out of town, on par with Craven's revered original. Contrarily, Nelson McCormick's addition into the glut of horror rehashes is unremittingly lazy and echoes the glossy and vapidly sexy output of the nineties slasher revival, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend et cetera, in which teen flicks were spliced with horror pictures of the lowest denominator. The performances are insipid to the very core and Cardone's screenplay isn't worth the paper it was printed on. Every self-respecting moviegoer (except perhaps the aforementioned teeny boppers, who shrilled 'Oh my God!' and piercingly screamed during a remedial mirror-closes-and-killer-is-behind scare) should be able to see this steaming pile of cinematic tripe for the uninspired garbage it actually is.

At the time of writing, this abomination is yet to hit the US box office, but hype is unsurprisingly hysterical, and it's looking to make number one in its opening weekend. I've seen few films with no redeeming features whatsoever, but Prom Night is certainly one of them. Someone should pay. Shotgun mouthwash all 'round.
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