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Prom Night

Prom Night

franchisebannerI’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.


Prom Night 2008

franchisebannerI have to admit – it’s nice that this one is back to focusing on prom night itself.The preparation and just the anticipation, it’s really what this series should all be about. Nothing stylised like number four was, it’s very much a back to basics type of movie – it probably would’ve actually been a lot more at home in the late 90s during the Scream and I know what you did last summer phase. Plot wise, that’s really all you need to know – we have a knife wielding killer stalking kids at a prom. It’s no more high concept than that. Still, in there it’s returning to its roots and this may actually be a purer sequel then any of the others that came before. That’s not the simply a statement of quality, but of intent and tone.
I’ve seen The final girl’s shrink before on television, and she’s just a little bit too familiar for me to be comfortable. Then again in 2009 she probably was a little bit less well-known… I’m not sure.

Is it wrong that I like the pop music that bops around this film? I know it’s common and repackaged, but it feels fun – and I think if you have no real conception of the original, that this would be a very fun time. Of course that’s the big difference between remakes in 2007 as opposed to remakes in say, 1980 (read the thing, or the fly) The original film  is readily available, and it renders the remake somewhat unnecessary.

I dig the detective here – He reminds me a lot of Jesse L Martin, who played detectives on both the flash and law and order. It’s a good solid performance and the proper feel to the stereotypical copper role. At the end of the day, I find myself rooting for him far more than any of our teenage protagonists – he may just be the most interesting character in the film. Looking at him – I thought he looked awful lot like Idris Alba… Wait a minute that IS Idris Alba! What is he doing slumming it in this movie?? I wonder if they realized how lucky they were to have that kind of performance! Truth is, I can’t really fault a lot of performances in this film/ They’re fresh faces, with a trendy modern look. It’s keeps it from being a timeless movie, but it’s a remake… It’s not meant to be timeless. It’s meant to appeal to a younger audience.

I think that may be the problem with this movie – it was made and designed for younger audience, but with a name like prom night that’s really only going to attract those of us that are horror hounds, and we don’t like it when you remake one of our classics. In addition, it commits the preventable sin of being mediocre. It’s not bad, but it plays on predictable tropes and familiar beats… it’s the sort of thing we would forgive in a no name generic horror release, but to give us a remake with nothing particular original is to invite criticism.

I would’ve been far more accepting of this actually had been billed as a sequel without a number rather than a remake… Call it prom night 2008 or something like that. In fact, I may just start doing that.
Of course now that I’m done with all this Sequals – it’s time for me to move on to the main event. You see, I’ve never seen the original – and it’s up next!


Prom Night 4

franchisebannerOkay, serious question – why did they keep making these movies? I mean, I find it difficult to believe that there was there a rabid audience clamoring for more prom night films every year in the way they were for Freddy and Jason movies. I have a very difficult time even imagining there are those remote groups of diehard devotees for this particular franchise the way there are with hellraiser and phantasm fans. I mean, there is no central figure or premise for someone to latch onto.  Prom Night 4 follows the established tradition of each film having basically nothing to do with the previous.  Indeed, in this film our group of protagonists don’t even make it to the prom. Their destination is a weekend alone at an old house – one that used to be a monastery.

This film is another straightforward story about a catholic priest turned avenging angel – slicing and dicing that which he considers “unholy “.  I’d bristle if the trope wasn’t so common.

Someone’s picked up those night of the Demons references again by the way – we have a swooping racing crane shot through abandon hallways. We have a slow push in to frame. Even that large cavernous living room they hunker down and feels much like the one we saw in Night of the Demons – perhaps it’s just a standard look. You could just as easily be Collinwood from Dark Shadows, but I really feel like this film makers are pulling cues from those films. This one feels just a tad more watered down – almost like a TV film, but with just enough edge to push into direct video territory. I miss the blood and gore of the previous movies, but it’s understandable – this movie was filmed during that period we were entering where the MPAA was seriously cracking down on blood in films – we’d have fairly dry horror for the next 10 years. I also miss the supernatural element, though I have to admit – it’s to their credit that they tried to get the series back to Its stalker/slasher roots. The flick is made particularly interesting by the inclusion of Nicole Debor as our final girl- I of course remember her best to ask the actress to replace Terry Farrell as Dax on the last season of Deep Space 9. My familiarity with the actress, actually makes me want to root for her more! There is a real punch the air moment with bug spray that I genuinely felt myself cheering for her. Nevertheless, she is still betraying the innocent and optimistic adorable kind of character she always does… It’s even present when I watch her in Cube. She’s definitely got a type.  I’m still trying to decide whether I think she’s cuter with long hair or short.

This film feels like a great missed opportunity.  Once again the whole prom night been is pushed to the background – almost making me wonder if the script wasn’t written first and then adapted into the franchise. But it seems to me like a great deal of catholic mysticism and religious horror could have been injected into this film making it far more interesting then The by the numbers slasher we end up with.

Unlike the second and third films, which are endlessly rewatchable, this one is utterly forgettable. AND LONG. One of the good things about the rest of these films is that the mercifully short – so whose idea was it to make this one two hours? Repeated sequels should definitely not be longer than Star Wars. I

There’s many films that would be improved by trying to stand on their own – but this is not one of them… Even without The prom night name, this would have absolutely been a forgotten VHS rental for me back in the day. One watch and never thought of again. You can probably skip this one, and It’s probably a good thing that the series ended here.

Or did it?


Prom Night 3

franchisebannerThe thing about prom night three, is that it feels like this director watched 1988’s Night of the Demons, and decided to do a version of it grafted onto the prom night series. Mary Lou is back but it’s a much less convoluted story – more of a very straightforward slasher rather than the slow possession that we got from the previous film. It’s a very stylized looking to me, but then again that’s what we come to expect – each entry in the series seems to have its own unique look and feel.

In Prom Night 3, Mary Lou is a ghost who is attached to a young man – trying to do things to help him. Helpful acts like murdering the guidance counselor or changing his GPA. I’m not entirely clear as to how this helps her, it doesn’t seem like her goal this time around is to return to life but rather merely a infatuation with this boy. Nevertheless, the bloodbath ensues and we get treated to some fun and inventive kills ask the story unfolds. If this movie wasn’t direct to video, it really should have been. In most ways it doesn’t feel like it continues the narrative  in any significant way. Indeed, the prom itself is clearly a minor component of this film – just a happenstance background for the final act .

That’s not to say it’s a bad film, I actually really liked it – I just don’t know what it’s doing using the name “prom night ” or “Mary Lou Maloney “. I’m definately inclined to pull this out again though in the future – particularly if I ever watch any of these films again, or even if I were to take another look at the Night of the Demons series… This would make a great number four


Prom Night 2

I remember the ads for prom night 2 – this particular poster was plastered everywhere, I believe it was even in some of my comic books back in the day. One of the things that makes Prom Night 2 a much stronger film is that it’s its own thing – you have the recognition of the name with the classic film but it really has an individual sense of identity and is a quintessentially 80s slasher film.

This is a slow burn, a gradual possession flick with a very stereotypical blonde, innocent, catholic final girl at its core. We get some slimy greasy FX towards the end, although the gore is actually surprisingly subdued here.

Still, it’s not really the same kind of film that the original wires – it’s not the 70s gritty cult classic type. That’s okay, because it’s more of an 80s slasher classic type and honestly it still stands that test of time – as well as standing on its own as an individual film. The only thing holding this film back from true cult status, is the lack of a truly charismatic villain. Mary Lou Maloney is adequate, but she lacks the panache of the Freddie or Jason or even a Night of the Demons Angela. Still, this movie is definitely a recommend – it’s a good time and a nice fun slasher that belongs in your collection


Focus on Prom Night

franchisebannerFor the next few weeks we are going to be focusing on the Prom Night franchise. I chose this one because I’ve actually only seen one of these films – and it’s the second one. That may seem like a strange place to begin, but prom night two was released in the late 80s and targeted firmly at my generation, whether they knew the source material or not! It’s the one I remember commercials for, it’s the one that I think at first. The Prom Night series is particularly important because it solidifies Jamie Lee Curtis has a scream queen; perhaps even the first modern scream queen (One could arguably contest that the earliest scream queen was in fact, her mother Janet Leigh). That original prom night film is one of those cult classics that I feel guilty for not having seen – it’s one of those I certainly should have, and I don’t have any excuse. Back in the UHF days, channel 43 played it every Halloween. The thing is, I was too busy watching Nightmare on Elm Street to bother with  A slasher about a prom queen. Time I rectified that.

Looking over IMDb, I noticed there is are actually five of these! I never would’ve guessed that. A direct to video part three doesn’t surprise me, but I’ve never even heard of part four. The poster for the remake hung in my library for a short while, and I’m particularly interested in seeing how that one stacks up.

Here’s the thing though, we’re going to approach this one just a little differently. I’m saving the original, which I’ve never seen, for last. I want to watch all the sequels first, with only the reputation of the original to judge them against, and then will conclude by saying if that original film lives up to its own reputation, and it’s progeny.

So join me for exploration of the prom night films – I suspect this is going to be an interesting ride