It’s likely that every horror fan knows when the slasher subgenre became well-known, those glorious gory early, after Sean Cummingham’s Friday the 13th was released the onslaught started, the killers emerged from the woods, mine-shafts, alleyways and invading the high schools. While one should know that Sean’s flick wasn’t the first slasher of 1980, it did have the greatest success garnishing the most fans and biggest chunk of the box offices this new slaughtering mayhem occurring on the screen. Many of these flicks emerged in 1981 than 1980, having understood the very simple formula, one movie became lost in the shuffle, perhaps justified by some, and without one rising star, likely forgotten altogether, thanks to Jamie Lee Curtis who made two more horror films that same year The Fog  and Terror Train . Director Paul Lynch (Humongous ) original concept was not to set the film in a high school, rather – and this is strange to a movie, a psychotic gynecologist; however many producers and among others informed him that is distasteful concept. Therefore, Paul learned about William Gray, who had his film The Changeling  that he also wrote released a few months before this production and was looking too to cash in on Halloween  box office smashed, worked with the story from Robert Guza Jr. (Curtains ). While Paul’s film didn’t shatter any expectations, it was still considered a mild success, with a Canadian budget of $1.1-million dollar and earned worldwide gross of $14.7-million, from the initial release from AVCO Embassy Pictures and later earning a Blu-ray release in 2014 from Synapse Films.
A group of children who have their own bonds with each other, start the movie with an aggressive tag game, but something goes terribly wrong, as they engage in a mob mentality and “accidentally” killed Robin Hammond (Tammy Bourne), causing her to fall to her death, they then form secrecy pact. Several years later the group still united in friendship and keeping their secrets, are on the verge of their senior prom night, however someone knows of their crime and seeks revenge by using a very shinny axe. Meanwhile, Robin’s family still mourn her gruesome murder (a known child molester sentence for the death), yet the parents remained together, (Leslie Nielsen (Day of the Animals ) and Antoinette Bower) likely because of their other children Kim (Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween )); and brother Alex (Michael Tough (Day of Resurrection )). Here we have a standard basic killer nothing unusual about him, enjoys calling his victims and leaving a message – nothing like Black Christmas  obscene, and yes, he reaches them all before the prom, what luck he has on his side. It doesn’t take long to understand some the dynamics, as Kim takes time to decorate the school, she takes a break to work on her dance routine with her brother filling, it’s already been determined that she’s the Prom Queen, not everyone is happy, Wendy (Anne-Marie Martin (The Boogens ) is upset with her ex-boyfriend Nick (Casey Stevens), teams up with the obnoxious bully Lou (David Mucci), sounds a bit familiar. Then another friend from the original pact, Jude (Joy Thompson) finds a last-minute date “Slick” Crane (Sheldon Rybowski), while the last of the bunch Kelly (Mary Beth Rubens) is also joining in on the fun. For all those waiting for the killing spree, that sadly takes nearly an hour to occur, the film begins early on to lose tension, and to make up for this constant issue the filmmakers attempt bit of misdirection, lining-up possible people as the killer, such as incorporating an escape convict and even casting light onto the creepy janitor Mr. Sykes (Robert A. Silverman (Scanners ). Overall, when the killing started it goes fairly fast, balancing it with an extended disco dance routine, layering the cheesy acting with some excitement, that allows the viewer to see borrowing techniques from other slashers which proceeded it.
The first complaint is actually a double edge sword, and it’s the soundtrack, much of the music is of the disco era, noting the movie came out during in 1980, and thankfully that music died in 1979; the score is so close to copyright issue but somehow it skews just enough. The other half of this issue is the score is highly sought after, and in fact sold out within hours of release in June 2019. Aside from that, other problems filter in with scene shots highly resemble those found in Carrie  and Halloween , which honestly the movie does lift some plot points from those productions but never enhanced the fear or shock levels into Prom Night. Lastly, is something the killer did early on, calling his victims to warn them of the impending doom, however each time he calls he connects with his impending targets, never their parents answer the phone, or just no answer, common sense would dictate that the odds of hitting a perfect 100% for reaching each person right before senior prom is unlikely. I know I’m reading way too far into the scope but it’s the little thing, why not leave an element of surprise.
While the film does try to capture moments of tense situations and suspense it can never keep the momentum long enough to impact the audience’s emotional level; all the red-herrings masking the killer become quick dead-ends. Overall, it’s a quick fun ride to see Jamie in another horror vehicle that doesn’t contain Michael Myers directly, but the story feels as if he is going to appear at any minute. Nevertheless, there’s a few tidbits for the Prom Night franchise crowd first Hamilton High School is the setting or has a connection to the four primary films and the sentimental line that does sometimes occur at a real prom night, “It’s not who you come with, it’s who takes you home”, is uttered throughout the franchise, even though most of them don’t necessarily connect together with their individual storylines.
TAGLINES: (SOME OF THESE ARE FAR TOO LONG)
- These are the girls of Hamilton High. Tonight, they will be more beautiful than ever before in their lives. Because tonight is prom night… and someone has come to the prom alone. Just to watch them dance. To see them fall in love. To see them… die!
- Everyone in the senior class has a date for prom night. But someone has come to the prom alone. Someone who watches in the empty corridors. Someone who follows silent and unseen. Someone who waits until no one can help.
- There’s a special night in the lives of all of us. A night we can break all the rules and make our own: Prom Night. For some, it’s the end of innocence. For others, it’s The End!
- Jude is going to the prom. Wendy is going to the prom. Kelly is going to the prom. But for each of them, it’s going to be a night they will never live to forget.
- As children, they played a killer’s game. Now, it’s the killer’s turn to play with them.
- If you’re not back by midnight… you won’t be coming home.
- …Some will be crowned, others will lose their heads.
- The night someone came to the prom alone.
IMDb Rating: 5.4/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.0/10
Prom Night II (1987)
Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1990) (Video)
Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil (1991)
Prom Night (2008)