Prom Night (1980) Review: Disco Dancing Dud
“This year, prom night will be a scream”
Synopsis: At a high school senior prom, a masked killer stalks four teenagers who were responsible for the accidental death of a classmate six years previously.
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Without Jamie Lee Curtis‘ name attached, Prom Night probably would have been left in the dustbin of history. Even with the addition of Leslie Nielsen and some intense disco moves, it’s still forgettable at best.
Everything Prom Night does has been done better elsewhere. It was pretty well panned by critics at the time, but has somehow endured as a “classic.” Despite that, this trope-filled and unimaginative piece has little to recommend it. The plot is standard horror fare – a group of kids are involved in manslaughter, swear a secret pact, and then start getting bumped off by a revenge killer years later. The killer’s identity is an easy guess, leaving all of the attempted red herring subplots rather pointless. (Although I did enjoy the detective’s campy, over-the-top musings.) The special effects are restrained or nonexistent, and the murders are pretty generic.
For a film that relies so heavily on Jamie Lee Curtis’ status as a scream queen, she plays a fairly minor role in most of the movie and gets stuck in one of the worst prom dresses I’ve ever seen. There should be some kind of rule about this: if you get a babe to play a part in your movie, for goodness’ sake put her in something flattering.
Not only does Prom Night suffer from everything mentioned above, but the movie’s releases have also been dogged by quality issues. What was already underwhelming cinematography looks cringe-worthy in some versions, and the dark chase scenes are practically impossible to follow.
For a lot of fans (of both horror movies and the disco genre), the soundtrack for this movie helps hold everything together. I’ll leave a review of the music itself to those more passionate about the art form, but it did provide an interesting counterpoint to the standard tension-building background horror noises. Unfortunately, Prom Night is almost completely lacking in tension, and really could have used the help from a generic horror soundtrack instead of going full-on disco.
Every time I watch this movie, I come away shaking my head and wondering why I bothered. If you aren’t purposefully checking off boxes on a list of classics or Jamie Lee Curtis movies, you’re safe giving this generic slasher a pass.
Calamity Brains’ Rating: D
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