Directed by: Paul Lynch
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielson
The original Prom Night was an obviously attempt to cash in on the success of Jamie Lee Curtis’ previous horror movie success Halloween. This film though was made before the slasher film formula was set in stone. It veers from the tropes in ways that please many fans and annoy others.
If you thought I Know What You Did Last Summer was some amazing new idea when it came to theaters you were, and are sadly mistaken. Prom Night is a case in point. In this film Curtis plays the upcoming Prom Queen trying to make the best of all the festivities while dealing with the anniversary of a sibling’s death six years earlier. As teen drama begins so do murders, and a man accused of the six year old murder has escaped incarceration. A hooded killer torments a group of teens, as he appears to know a ghastly secret that they too have been hiding for six years. Doesn’t all of this sound a little bit similar to I know What You Did Last Summer?
Sure Prom Night follows much of the serial killer model but the film also focuses a lot on motivations, character and pacing. All of this story focus makes the film’s pace slow down a bit, which you’ll either appreciate or hate. I like the slower pace because it so reminiscent of Italian Giallo, or mystery films made popular by director Dario Argento. Don’t get me wrong, an Argento film this is not but in a way the breathability of this film between acts of violence is a little refreshing especially when you consider what happened to this genre of film in the early 80’s.
The performances in this film are overall strong with Curtis carrying the bulk of the film. For fans of Night Patrol and the follow up Naked Gun films, or Airplane for that matter, it can be off putting to see Leslie Nielson in such a serious role but he’s serviceable. Prom Night mostly sticks with the Halloween approach to violence; basically keeping the actual violence to a minimum but make you feel like you’ve seen a lot more than you actually did. This trick works because the film has a touch of real world feel to it and the script and direction also left time to the characters to develop and matter. A modern example of how this works is the Australian film wolf Creek.
Prom Night is slow, but it’s supposed to be. If you need a death every 6 minutes in your slasher film then this one isn’t for you. If however you are open to a little experiment in story and character then give Prom Night a go. Also the disco heavy themes and setting add some unintentional humor and really make the film feel like a time capsule.
The 1.78:1 presentation is surprisingly solid for a film over thirty years old. Colors pop and blacks are inky dark for most of the film. Textures look great too even if the entire film features a layer of film grain and is a bit on the softer side. There are even some great instances of fine detail throughout the film. This is probably the best this film has looked since it was in theaters.
Like the video this presentation, a 5.1 DTS NA mix, is superlative. The mix isn’t full of whiz-bang and it shouldn’t be. We are dealing with a film that’s over thirty years old here. The mix is deep and immersive though with great separation of dialogue and atmospheric elements and score. The audio billows from all five channels making you feel a part of the action without a bunch of whooshing from one speaker to the other. This probably isn’t the film to demo a home theater with but it still sounds shockingly great.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
There’s nothing particularly special edition feeling about the box or art. The cover is a riff on original poster art and that’s fine, but it’s just fine, it’s not special. The box is a simple slim case too. As best as I can tell all of the bonus features are compiled from previous iterations of Prom Night on DVD. That’s not a bad thing though. There’s some great stuff here. The most important extra from a film history perspective is the commentary with the director and screenwriter. There are many great bits about the making of this film to be culled from the commentary.
The Horrors of Hamilton High is a near forty-two minute long featurette that delves into the making of the film, the successes and even the marketing of it through cast and crew interviews. The low point of this little documentary is that Jamie Lee Curtis is nowhere to be found. The high point is that some of the cast that does appear in the doc has props!
There are some outtakes that have no sound but they do offer an opportunity to see raw unedited footage of the film. This is a great way to see where the film started to compare it to the final product after editing. This footage really shows how much impact a good editor has on a film. There’s also a featurette focused on the eleven extra minutes of footage added to the film for the television broadcast with comments from the film’s original editor.
There’s a still gallery, radio spots, TV spots, and a trailer, all good stuff.
This is a really strong selection of supplements for an old horror film that doesn’t quite have the mass appeal of something like Halloween or Friday the 13th.
Prom Night may fall into more of the cult classic zone but it deserves attention for striving to be more than a cookie cutter slasher flick.