- Movie Rating -

Prom Night (1980)

| July 18, 1980

I think somewhere in their hearts every critic who championed John Carpenter’s Halloween knew what was to follow.  Success breeds imitators, and none quite so bold as the massive post-Halloween overstock of hack-strung slasher pictures made on a tiny budget by every two-bit producer hoping for a sleeper hit.

The most interesting, for me, are those set at particular events or holidays.  Why does a mad-dog killer have to wait until a particular event date to strike?  Maybe because such events as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Mother’s Day, birthdays, proms and costume balls are happy occasions were no one would suspect that a killer is lurking about.  If you’re going to murder a group of people one by one at a gathering, might as well spoil the party in the meantime.

Prom Night is one of the lamest of the Death-by-Celebration slasher offerings, a tiny micro-budgeted picture produced in Canada and borrowing very heavily from Halloween, given it has a plot about a kid who comes back years after a childhood trauma to wreak havoc on a night that is supposed to be loaded with fun and magic.

Actually the incident that kicks off the blood fest might have made for the start of a better movie: a group of kids are playing hide-and-seek inside an abandoned school and decide to play a prank on one of the scrawnier kids.  Well, he dies, and six years later those kids are now teens looking forward to the high school prom, little-knowing that a killer is waiting just around the corner.

I would like to think that Prom Night might have made for a better movie.  Borrowing the better parts of Halloween, writers Paul Gray and Robert Guza frontload the picture with a lot of character stuff, getting us involved in those who will fall victim to the killer – or, at least, there’s enough character stuff.  We don’t have fully realized souls here but we do have enough of character to make us care about them.  Unfortunately, the back half of the movie has a lot of chases and murders without a lot of the tension that made Halloween work.  So desperate is this film to imitate that earlier success that it even stars Jamie Lee Curtis who ends up being the one running around with the killer for the final battle.

I liked Prom Night a bit more than I expected.  Yeah, it’s got all the skidmarks that have plagued the post-Halloween imitators but I give the filmmakers points for trying.  If you’re going to steal from a successful film, at least try and steal what made that film work in the first place.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1980) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized