Welcome back, horror fiends, for another edition of Late to the Party, where iHorror writers finally get around to watching the classic films we somehow haven’t seen yet. This week, I watched the cult classic 1980 slasher, Prom Night. What did I think? Well goodness gracious, I shall tell you!
I do have to start by saying, bless the early 80s (or at that point, mid-70s, because flashback) when kids would run rampant in a hazardous and abandoned school with zero concern from their parents. You couldn’t have this plot scenario set up without the reckless and carefree flexibility of retro parenting and barrier-free condemned buildings.
One thing I didn’t know about Prom Night until I had done a little bit of research (as I am prone to do) is that – while set in the US – it’s a Canadian film.
Canadian slasher movies often feature an isolated victim base (for example, with My Bloody Valentine it’s a small mining town, in Black Christmas it’s a sorority house) and a killer with a personal vendetta (often vengeance-based). Victims aren’t chosen at random, they’re carefully selected to gratify a specific need.
Prom Night fits that mold perfectly, but it doesn’t feel tired or stale. Perhaps it’s the heavy injection of disco music and weirdly lengthy dance sequences (this is prom night, after all… of course there’s dancing). Like its star, the iconic Jamie Lee Curtis, this film is light on its feet.
I do have to talk about this dance scene though. Really. I was stunned at first, mouth agape, not 100% sure if this was really happening, and then it kept going. For a long time.
Three whole unbroken minutes of choreographed dance to a rambunctious disco tune. In the middle of a horror film. It’s… baffling and amazing and I fell in love with the pure ambitious absurdity of it.
I should add that this dance scene does, of course, serve a purpose. It allows the audience – and the teen victims – to break from the building action. We let our guard down and have that appropriate party time to reconnect with the characters immediately before their world falls apart.
Also, if it weren’t self aware enough, the disco song’s lyrics heavily include the phrase “it’s prom night”. How on-the-nose.
Prom Night is not only a cheeky cult classic, it’s actually very well shot with clever cuts, satisfying framing, and a luxuriously bright color palette. The prom scenes are all so lush and vibrant that it perfectly captures the feel of early 80s American glamor.
You would think that all the disco-bright lens flare and soft focus would be frustrating, but somehow – against all logic – you would be wrong.
Not only is Prom Night visually fulfilling, but the pacing is tight. The scenes have a natural flow – nothing feels rushed, nothing drags.
It stars Leslie Nielsen and the aforementioned Jamie Lee Curtis, which – to be honest – was enough to reel me in. The supporting cast of David Mucci as Lou and Sheldon Rybowski as Slick surprisingly steal their scenes – they are such caricatures of high school archetypes that it’s somehow captivating whenever they’re on screen.
I have to give Slick special mention for his absurdly well-stocked van. There were many scenes in Prom Night that made me do a double-take, and the reveal of his textbook with an outrageous number of pre-rolled joints was one of them. He seems like a generous lover.
Prom Night is certainly not a wholly original concept (it’s basically Carrie meets Halloween), nor is it particularly action-packed (aside from an incredible scene with a hilariously explosive van). That being said, if you’re in the mood for a simple and classic slasher that offers something a bit lighter than your average stalking serial killer, you simply cannot go wrong with this film.
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