BY MACK VELTMAN
SPOILER WARNING! I’m discussing key plot elements from the film. If you haven’t seen this movie, go watch it, and then come back and read my review. All settled? Let’s go.
Prom Night, a 1980 Canadian slasher flick about a killer stalking and murdering a group of teens at their high school prom, kicks off with four children–Wendy, Jude, Kelly and Nick– playing a game of hide-and-seek in an abandoned convent, chanting “kill, kill, kill” over…and over…and over again. They’re eventually joined by ill-fated 10 year-old, Robin Hammond, and any viewer and horror movie buff should know that if you’re not in the core group, it won’t end well for you (actually—it doesn’t really end well for anyone, but we’ll get to that). Poor Robin ends up falling out of a window, and the kids pull a pre-I Know What You Did Last Summer and vow never to speak of the incident again. Unfortunately for them, someone knows their secret, and they’re out for blood.
Horror movie kids really do suck, don’t they?
Six years later, the doomed foursome are preparing for their high school prom when they start receiving mysterious calls from a breathy and whispery creep (“Wendy…do you still like to play games?”). The teens think nothing of it, and continue with their daily routines of stressing about homework, fighting about who’s taking who to the prom, and planning sexy escapades after (and during!) the prom. We also meet Robin’s two siblings, fraternal twins Alex (Michael Tough) and Kim (scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis). There’s a subplot involving a escaped, severely burnt child rapist who the public believes is behind the death of Robin, but he really just serves as a red herring and the plot goes nowhere except to lock the promgoers in the high school along with the actual killer during the main event (for their own safety, of course).
The main teens are actually pretty likable, and Jamie Lee Curtis shines in the role of headstrong and funny Kim, who juggles her duties of prom queen and her grief over her younger sister’s death six years prior. For the most part, the characters had great chemistry together–except for school bully Lou Farmer, who’s death at the end of the film left me cheering. I found myself especially rooting for the adorable couple of Slick and Jude, who I secretly hoped would survive the film to smoke pot another day, but alas, this is a slasher movie, and the chances of more than one character making it to the finale intact are pretty slim. Earlier in the movie, it’s established that Kim and Wendy harbor animosity towards one another, as Wendy’s ex- boyfriend Nick is currently dating Kim. While Wendy initially channels some serious Chris Hargensen energy, she’s not overly mean, and her threats never extend to physical violence.
It takes awhile for the kills to start, but the movie more than makes up for it with the strength of the main cast, and once the bodies do start piling up, it’s thrilling. Jude and Slick’s deaths were especially noteworthy. As the young couple smokes weed in Slick’s van, the killer accosts them in a truly brutal moment, stabbing Jude in the throat and causing Slick to crash his van off a cliff in a fiery explosion (although the explosion itself was a little over-the-top and unrealistic, but hey–I’ll never say no to a decent explosion). Wendy also gets a pretty great chase scene as the killer pursues her around the school, first in the bathroom in which she narrowly avoids an axe swing to the neck and then through the hallways and eventually into a storage closet, where she discovers the body of Kelly, and in a moment of panic, she screams, leading to the killer finding her and killing her offscreen. I usually hate offscreen deaths (because….it’s a horror movie. Come on, show us some kills!) but I enjoyed the chase so much, I’ll give this one a slide.
Meanwhile, Kim and Nick are preparing for their coronation as prom king and queen, but Lou, hoping to prank the heck out of the school, attacks Nick, ties him up and takes his crown. The killer mistakes Lou for Nick and decapitates the school bully with the axe (Surprise, dude–the joke’s on you!) leaving his head spiraling around on the dance floor. Everyone panics and flees and Kim finds Nick and frees him, but before they can escape, they are attacked by the killer. The brawl was pretty intense, backlit by the many colors of the disco ball, but Kim being the badass she is (Seriously, she’s going on my next Final Girls List, FYI) hits the killer’s head with an axe. She realizes too late the killer is none other than her brother Alex (who wanted revenge for death of Robin), and he dies on the steps of the school in her arms.
I really enjoyed Prom Night. It wasn’t a perfect movie; the contrived plotline with initial suspect Leonard Murch goes nowhere, and it felt like filler to pad the story. The film also contained some weird voice-over scenes curtesy of the town sheriff, who initially seemed to be a major player in the story until he faded into the background by the third act. Some of the dialogue was wooden, but the classic 80s slasher vibe, the performances– including a supporting role from Leslie Nielson (Scary Movie, Naked Gun, Creepshow, Airplane!) , and the gruesome kills and decent gore effects all combined to make an enjoyable viewing experience. Jamie Lee Curtis, while not being in the core group of hunted teenagers, really carried the film and her wit, charm and killer dance moves all deserve praise. It’s interesting to note that Prom Night introduced several slasher movie tropes that would become so overused later in the genre, including the childhood prank gone wrong, the bloodthirsty hunt of a revenge driven killer
Let me know what you think of Prom Night and if the sequel and remake deserve reviews of their own. Make sure to like and share my content if you enjoy my work, and as always, stay nerdy!
Prom Night was directed by Paul Lynch and written by William Gray and Robert Guza Jr. The film stars Leslie Nielsen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Casey Stevens, Anne-Marie Martin, Antoinette Bower, Michael Tough, and Mary Beth Rubens.