I’m pretty sure the prom night is one of those movies that would’ve been a heavy rotation on the UHF channels during Halloween, but somehow I never managed to catch it. I realize it is considered a classic, though I’ve never quite understood how it could spawn such diverse and bizarre sequels. The first hurdle for me to tackle is dealing with Leslie Nielsen in a straight role. I know he has a long career as a heavy before the Naked Gun, but man, I’m so used to him being goofy and funny and it’s always a little jarring when I see him in something like Day of the Animals where he’s playing obnoxious tough guy. It’s no different here. His role is minimal, but still he’s dead serious and feel out of place to me – of course that admittedly that would not of been the case at the time.
Jamie Lee Curtis is a pleasant surprise here… I’ve never been real enamored of her as a scream queen – her performance in Halloween as always left me a little cold, and it’s amazing to see what a year so will do – she gives a much more nuanced and layered performance here, and I actually believe the character far more this time around.
Still, it’s a slow movie. Obviously somebody here was trying to make horror MOVIE, as opposed to a HORROR movie. There is more care given here, with some false starts, misleads and rivalries. There is characterization here that we’re not used to seeing in the typical slasher where they use stereotypes to connect you to characters instead of storytelling. But man does it drag. You’d think attempting to create atmosphere is going to be as simple as a few obscene phone calls – presumably made by the killer to set the tone. We don’t really get to any mayhem until about an hour in – although once the killing starts it’s fast and furious. I think in the future I’d be inclined to start this right of the third act and just watch that.
The thing is, this isn’t really a proper slasher. I’d absolutely consider this a Giallo. We have black gloves, a mystery murderer, and overly violent and bloody kills. It’s got a couple of the slasher tropes – the victim discovering the cash of murdered bodies for instance, but for the most part it really does feel like one of those Italian murder mysteries… and sadly, I don’t dig those.
It’s the set pieces – the head rolling onto the dance floor, with emotional reveal at the end that really marks this as a cult classic. I’m glad I finally hit it, though I doubt I’ll be back.