Review: Prom Night [2008]

Dir. Nelson McCormick

Cast: Brittany Snow, Scott Porter, Jessica Stroup, Dana Davis, Collins Pennie, Kelly Blatz, Idris Elba, Johnathon Schaech

For any genre film to achieve a status of mere competence all it requires is a sympathetic protagonist, some marginally alluring victims, a tenacious killer, some kind of suspense imbued buildup, and (most pivotally) lashings and lashings of gore. Unfortunately this 2008 version of Prom Night lacks on four of the five counts, making it banal by any measure of the genre. Despite having the same title and bearing a passing resemblance to the 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis classic (high school kids getting butchered on prom night), this is not... read that again... NOT a remake. In fact, it bears a greater similarity to One Tree Hill albeit with a bloodless body count.

The movie opens with a plausibly commodious preamble as high-schooler, Donna (Snow), returns from the movies only to discover her father and brother butchered, and the killer still in the house. Scrabbling to conceal herself under her bed, she makes it just in time to witness the murderer (Schaech) terminate her mother. It soon becomes apparent that the psycho is a former teacher with an almighty infatuation with the "as yet unplowed" Donna and he concludes in his deranged, misguided way that the only method to win her affection is to eradicate her family. There's a great moment in which the covert Donna and her prostrated mother lock eyes just before her mothers obligatory demise, unfortunately, this is the first and last time in this film we come close to something special.

We then rejoin the story three years later, Donna has almost shaken off the nihility of that night and she's preparing for her senior prom, accessorized by her hunky beau, Bobby (Porter). Unfortunately for Donna and her new friends, the maniacal killer has just gotten away from the maximum security mental asylum where he was being stowed. Even more calamitously for the high school senior year, his pursuer is "the world's most ineffectual" detective named Winn (Elba). who happens to have the entire police department behind him, he's on the scene, and he still can't curtail a massacre by a guy who doesn't even possess a gun!

So, the first issue I have with this movie is the fact that for some reason, only known to the distributor, the movie has been targeted for the PG-13 audience, which means that the murders aren't even graphic.... now I am the first person to acknowledge you can take a PG-13 movie and still produce an effective horror movie, all it takes is a little aptitude and sagaciousness. Prom Night, however is neither apt nor sagacious, there is very little suspense, as we know from the beginning pretty much who is destined to die, so the entire film is an exercise in checklist ticking. This is definitely a case study for filmmaking incompetence, director Nelson McCormack is so bad that he fails to even elicit one single effective scare - one of those things that even the worst horror movies seem to get right.

Why did slasher movies become so legendary during the '80s? Blood, guts, and T&A, these were the constituents that kept Michael, Jason and Freddy coming back recurrently. Take them away and what are you left with? Prom Night.


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