Prom Night (1980)

Day 15 of my #31DaysOfHorror has be pulling from my private collection. There aren’t many that I own, and haven’t seen, but this one has been sitting on the shelf for awhile. Sometimes you see a title you recognize, for a price you can’t say no to, and you wind up with a few flicks you’ve never seen. Anyways, play along with me on Instagram with the tag #BarleyDoesHorror (not that anyone … actually has, but I feel compelled to keep saying it)

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So, lets talk about this 1980 slasher, Prom Night!

A masked killer stalks four teenagers, responsible for the accidental death of a little girl six years earlier, at their high school’s senior prom.

This is another one of those stories we’ve heard time and time (and time!) again, but it’s important to remember that this is one of those places that it started. Even the ‘adults playing teenagers’ thing is present here in this movie. Jamie Lee Curtis was in her 20s, playing a high school senior, for example. That being said, some of the wardrobe choices, particularly for Curtis seemed really bizarre and not exactly age-appropriate. That said though, Curtis only continues to prove her status as Queen Of Horror. Especially in the 70s and 80s, with her roles in hugely iconic movies.

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I would argue this one isn’t her most iconic, but then it’s kind of hard to make that comparison with movies like Halloween. That said, Curtis is a pro, and always delivers a solid performance, this being no exception. Also, we have the fantastic Leslie Neilsen, and I can honestly say I didn’t know he appeared in horror films other than the first Creepshow film, so it was a pleasant surprise throwing this one on. The rest of the cast is fine, but not especially recognizable (at least to me, I’m sure someone out there is more knowledgeable of 70s & 80s horror than I am, and can correct me). The child actors in the beginning are… pretty hilariously silly, the game they play in the abandoned hospital is inexplicable and terrifying when you really think about it. Plus, who the hell lets their children play in abandoned hospitals? It’s no surprise when tragedy strikes.

I would also like to reiterate that I don’t understand the wardrobe choices for Jamie Lee Curtis in this movie… seriously, what the hell is going on? Moving on.

The entire film has this sort of … soft-haze filter on it, which hasn’t really allowed it to age very well and really might make it harder for those of you used to the slick-and-sleek horror film of the 2000s to enjoy. However, it really is worth checking out, just like I said about The Town That Dreaded Sundown, to get a better idea of where all of these tropes and cliches come from. The story does kind of take a long time to get going, with the exception of the death of the young girl at the beginning, it still takes nearly an hour for much more death to happen, and 50 minutes for them to even arrive at the titular prom. The time spent building up isn’t really gripping, so it might feel longer than it really is.

That said, it’s so well worth the wait to see Leslie Nielsen’s dance scene…so, take it for what it is.

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Although, it does kind of turn into a dance movie for a minute, really inexplicably, really starts to move away from the slasher thing, and into a …Grease thing, and the song that they dance too is about Prom, it all just feels really goofy and stupid. I could have done with more death and mayhem, but hey, that’s what I like in my slashers. When the killing does actually get started, well… they’re actually pretty dull. They happen in relatively rapid succession, but they don’t offer a whole lot. Though, there is a pretty awesome, if not a little over-the-top, van explosion. A real issue with the deaths is that there’s not much in the way of sound design, the killings don’t need to be graphic, but a few sound effects can really go a long way.

So, all in all, this movie is fine, but not really as exciting as I had hoped it would be, it might be worth checking out for you slasher historians, but other than that it’s just so so.

FINAL GRADE : C

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