Make a Date With The Original Prom Night

Following the slasher-lite renaissance that capitalized on the success of Wes Craven’s Scream, major studios soon opted to re-visit the ‘Golden Era’ of the slasher. The 2000’s witnessed major and minor titles alike get the remake treatment. It was quite a sight to see some films that once provoked enough public outrage to warrant a ‘Video Nasties’ list inevitably get remade with no ensuing controversy.

In fact, some of the slasher remakes of the 2000’s turned out to be remarkably tame. Some studious and filmmakers forgot about the ‘slashing’ part in their zeal to corner the CW Network youth market. At least that was the problem that seemed to plague the 2008 remake of Prom Night. Released to theatres 28 years ago, the original Canadian slasher Prom Night proved to be a minor hit and marked another horror outing for ‘Scream Queen’ Jamie Lee Curtis. For this edition of Re-Animated, I mark Prom Night’s anniversary by comparing it to the 2008 remake.

Prom Night (1980) Makes for a Fun Date

While not one of the three major slasher franchises of the 1980’s, Prom Night was among one of the better B-level slashers. Directed by Paul Lynch (Humongous), Prom Night is a near perfect synthesis of the major slasher film tropes.

At the film’s start, a ‘Terrible Past Incident’ unfolds as a children’s game ends in tragedy. Years later, the now grown children begin receiving anonymous threats as they get ready for their ‘Prom Night.’ While a known rapist was wrongly convicted for their crime, someone knows what they did. Is it the same rapist who has now escaped custody? Or is someone else out for revenge?

At its best, Prom Night exudes enough idiosyncratic charm to rank alongside other minor slasher classics including the superior Canadian offering, My Bloody Valentine. The film’s opening, with its odd children’s game of tag in an abandoned warehouse, offers a suitable level of strange tension. It’s also arguably one of the more compelling backstories driving a slasher film. A few of the death scenes still stand out enough to make Prom Night memorable including the ‘van scene’. During the crowing of Prom king and queen, one character ‘loses his head’, giving Prom Night the second best prom moment in horror film history (sorry, but the honour still belongs to Carrie).

It’s worth noting that most horror fans would like agree that the original Prom Night isn’t necessarily ‘scary’. Aside from the opening scene, Prom Night delivers one genuinely suspenseful chase sequence. Seasoned horror fans aren’t likely to find many jumps. There also isn’t much of a body count of which to speak, with most of the deaths failing to reach the gross heights of the better slasher films from the era.

At its worst, one wouldn’t be wrong to call out Prom Night for being an overly derivative slasher film with a weak story. Red herrings are introduced and dropped with little or no follow up. Leslie Nielsen’s grieving father character just disappears all together from the film at around the midpoint. The masked killer doesn’t really make much of an impression. Perhaps the strangest part of Prom Night is the inexplicably extended disco dance sequence that preceded the climax.

It’s a minor classic from the ‘Golden Era’ of the slasher film.

The original Prom Night isn’t original but what it does, it does well enough to make it good horror comfort food. And like it’s odd, memorable beginning, Prom Night’s final reveal is surprisingly melancholy and excuses some of the film’s familiarity. It’s still a minor classic from the ‘Golden Era’ of the slasher film.

You’ll Wish You Stood Up This Prom Night (2008)

How did this happen to Idris Elba?

The original Prom Night was no classic, but the remake makes it look like The Shawshank Redemption. It’s a truly awful movie that has not one redeeming quality. First and foremost, it’s an updated slasher film that has not one genuinely scary moment or jump scare. There’s also an almost bizarre lack of actual lack of ‘slashing’ in this tame, bloodless remake. Horror films can certainly be PG-13, but if you’re remaking a slasher film where a decapitated head rolls across a stage, you better deliver some bloodletting. I’m not certain that it’s even possible for cut throats to bleed as little at they do in this Prom Night.

This is utterly lazy filmmaking at its worst. Aside from Idris Elba, not one single actor registers with the audience. Its young cast of beautiful television stars are almost indistinguishable from one another. I couldn’t even remember the name of Brittany Snow’s character, and she’s the film’s ‘Final Girl.’ Johnathon Schaech’s obsessed stalker may be the most boring and generic antagonist in slasher film history. The storytelling is generic and predictable. One gets the distinct impression that director Nelson McCormick – who also directed the equally awful Stepfather remake – knew he had a giant turd on his hands because Prom Night ends rather abruptly.

This is utterly lazy filmmaking at its worst.

What’s truly bizarre are about this insipid remake is how long it feels. Technically, Prom Night clocks in at just under 90 minutes, but it ‘feels’ like the longest awkward dinner date.

Another Dreadful 2000’s Slasher Remake

I’m not sure how well the original Prom Night would connect with younger audiences, but it’s fondly remembered by most older horror fans. The remake isn’t much different than looking up an ex on Facebook – very disappointing and unnecessary. It suffers the same problem as several of the 2000’s slasher remakes. Everything about it feels like a cynical and lazy attempt to cash in on name recognition. However, it’s worst crime is wasting Idris Elba. If you’re look for a good horror date, stick with the original Prom Night.

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Author: Andrew Welsh

I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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