Friday, December 18, 2009

Worst. Prom. Ever. (Except for the ones in the sequels.)

Prom Night (1980)
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens, Michael Tough, Anne-Marie Martin, Mary-Beth Rubens, Joy Thompson, George Touliatos, Pita Oliver and Sheldon Rybowski
Director: Paul Lynch
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

A masked killer targets four teens (Stevens, Martin, Rubens, and Tompson) who covered up their involvement in the accidental death of a playmate six years prior. It's their senior prom, and, conincidentally, the older sister of the dead girl (Curtis) is the queen of the prom and one of the intended victims is the king. Will she become a victim herself, or will she stop the murderer dead in his tracks? What tragedies will play out on this prom night to remember.

"Prom Night" is a nicely done slasher-flick that is the direct antecedent of "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and similar "dark secret" high school slasher flicks where a murderer bent on avenging a hidden crime on prom night, graduation day, homecoming or some other event that's standard on the annual calendar of American high schools. It starts out promising and presents viewers with the standard mix of Kids We Like and Kids We Hate, with even a few we feel okay in rooting for, or hoping they escape the murderer's sharp weapons of death.

The actors all give acceptable performances, but no one stands out in particular. Jamie Lee Curtis plays the "Survivor Girl" character that we've see her play in "Halloween" and "Terror Train", but she doesn't quite rise to the level of the performances she gave in those films. She, like every other cast member gives a satisfactory performance but there's nothing remarkable about it. She, Leslie Neilsen, and everyone else is good enough but not spectacular.

If average acting was the weakest part of "Prom Night", it could have ended up at the high end of average. Unfortunately, the film is done in either by a sloppy script, or by sloppy post-production hackjob editing. Because of poor attention to story development and details, the various red herrings surrounding the killer start stinking like they've been left in the sun for three days by the third act, and the climactic moments of the film don't quite come together because of too many loose ends and inexplicably missing characters. (I can't say who isn't around for the film's climax without spoiling the true identity of the killer, it's an absense that needed to be explained instead of the character just vanishing halfway through the movie. Similarly, the absense of the killer while he was out stalking victims should have been noted by someone at the dance, because he definately would have been missed.)

"Prom Night" is a film that's interesting from a historical perspective as it was the first true example of the "teen slasher" subgenre that ultimately led to a revival of the slasher flicks that hasn't run its course yet.