Prom Night

Prom Night ★½

Prom Night is a post-Halloween, pre-Friday the 13th slasher that attempts to build some genuine suspense, but it ultimately fails. There is one effectively edited, creepy telephone call scene near the beginning of the film, some of the shots in the high school nicely utilize angles to create a bit of an ominous feeling, Jamie Lee Curtis delivers a solid performance, and some of the disco music is catchy, but other than that, the film is fairly boring.

The first hour of the film is very slow; we spend a lot of time with the victims at their high school, although most of them are pretty one-dimensional. Also, the filmmakers set up not just one, but two red herrings. One of the red herrings, an escaped, burned schizophrenic who has been wrongly blamed for the death of the little girl from the film's opening, never factors into the events of the film, and yet we get multiple scenes of a detective attempting to track him down. Maybe this would have kept audiences in 1980 on the edge of their seats, but any modern viewer who is even remotely familiar with slasher conventions will be able to instantly figure out he's not the killer, and as a result, all of the scenes setting him up just pad out the runtime.

And once the film stops attempting to build suspense and gets to killing off teenagers, it's pretty anticlimactic. Unlike Halloween, you don't care if the victims live or die, and unlike trashy 1980s slashers like The Prowler or My Bloody Valentine, the gore and violence are kept to a minimum. One of the victims puts up an admirable fight for his life, and the film's final kill is fun, but the rest of the kills are forgettable. The most memorable scene in the third act is an extended disco dance scene that Jamie Lee Curtis is in. This scene serves no purpose other than to pander to the Saturday Night Fever crowd, but its sheer randomness and the awkwardness of Jamie's dance moves make it entertaining, in a cheesy, unintentionally funny way.

Prom Night is worth a watch if you really love Jamie Lee Curtis, disco, and the late 1970s/early 1980s high school atmosphere that permeates so many horror films of that era, but don't go into it expecting either genuinely good horror or sleazy fun. The filmmaking is competent, but there are only a few bits that are noticeably above-average, too much time is wasted on bland high school drama and red herrings, and the last half hour is a letdown. And I almost forgot to mention; Leslie Nielsen gets top billing, but he's only in the film for around 5 minutes and doesn't do anything. What a waste.