Prom Night (1980) Review

Given four sequels and a loose remake in 2008 the original Prom Night released in 1980 is a sensational slasher that finally gets the Blu-ray release it deserves thanks to 101 Films.

Seen by many as highly influential this Canadian made movie is scripted by the man behind The Changeling William Gray from a story by Robert Guza Jr. and opens in 1974 where a group of kids are playing a sick version of hide and seek in an abandoned convent called “Killers are coming.”

Determined to join in a younger girl rushes in to the broken down building only to be harassed and bullied by the bunch who scare her so badly she falls out of a window to her death. Swearing never to talk about the accident again the gang scarper and we re-join them 6 years later on the eve of their prom at Hamilton High School.

Excited and preoccupied with the usual teen troubles from relationship to jealousy to losing their virginity to performing a dance at the evening’s ceremony the four seniors start their morning receiving a mysterious and menacing call from an unknown male voice who seems to know all about their past sins.

Meanwhile the police are desperately searching for a sex offender who was incorrectly accused of the young girl’s death all that time ago and has escaped the psychiatric facility he was locked up in. Deformed and deranged this rage filled maniac has been warped by the years of wrongful imprisonment and now stalks the night searching for the ones who truly deserve to pay.

Prom Night has all the elements you would expect from a slasher post Halloween unexpectedly including one of the masterpieces stars Jamie Lee Curtis herself as the central character Kimberly the sister of the sadly deceased child at the start. Dating Drew (Jeff Wincott) one of the targeted teens and ex-beau of mean girl Wendy (Anne-Marie Martin) who was also involved, Kimberly finds herself caught between a killer and a bitch both of which seem to want her and her friends punished.

As always Curtis is brilliant embodying the audience and taking us through the exhilarating experience as our eyes which are filled with fear and questions on the chaos that continues to creep into the safety of her school. As a beautiful bonus Prom Night also contains a wonderful disco dancing sequence where Curtis goes full on Saturday Night Fever performing a riveting routine with her boyfriend showing she is as skilful at shimmying as she is at screaming.

As its 1980 disco is still king and the soundtrack features a fantastic set of tracks from composer Paul Zaza who pops up on the special features to talk all about the music. Alongside this is a making of, commentaries, featurettes, additional scenes added for television broadcast and best of all a brand new documentary on the “Final Girl” in horror movies and commentary with FrightFest’s Paul McEvoy and filmmaker Jake West digging deeper into the film.

The cast are all watchable but surprising viewers only aware of his comedic work Naked Gun star Leslie Nielsen plays Kimberly’s dad who is also the principle of Hamilton High and does great in such a dramatic role giving some gravitas to the tragedy that started this cycle of slayings.

Opting for tension and suspense rather than gratuitous gore Prom Night builds slowly showing very little until its excellent climax at the prom where the murders start to mount up. Far better shot and more stylish than many other slashers of this period which just cashed in on the concept, credit is due to director Paul Lynch especially on the innovative editing exemplified by the introduction of the teens during the killers phone calls which are cut with footage from the past. These brief flashes of days gone by pop up throughout the story showing the angst experienced by the teens that have been holding onto such a heavy burden for so long.

If you a slasher fan like myself Prom Night is an essential purchase and for anyone wanting to broaden their pallet of the period further than the famous franchises it’s a great entry to the myriad of stalk and kill movies on offer during the golden age of the genre.

Movie Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Trailer:

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