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TapeHead Reviews: Prom Night

One Third of the Jamie Lee Horror Trilogy

Okay, I'll admit that I liked I Know What You Did Last Summer. While a lot of horror purists lambaste the "new" slasher movie trend, Iíve been waiting for it to come back for years. Why? Maybe it has something to do with my age at the time of the first slasher wave (ah, "The Golden Age of Gore"). I was old enough to be extremely interested, but not old enough to attend. The Burning was my Holy Grail; Halloween was my Golden Fleece . . . And I guess Prom Night is directly responsible for my leniency when it came to IKWYDLS (well, that and Jennifer Love Hewittís . . . acting).

While not the most famous of the 80s slasher flicks, Prom Night has the distinction of being one of the first films to directly capitalize on an apparent trend. Friday the 13th and Halloween were flukish money makers, and teen kill movies being low-budget concepts, tons of independent producers began to fill the theaters with holiday-themed cut Ďem ups. Of which Prom Night was one of the first.

To tell the truth, Prom Night is a pretty crappy film. Poor acting. Dull pacing. Characters so unengaging that you donít even care if they get killed. The entire film looks like the A.C. sneezed on the lens and they never bothered to clean it up . . .

. . . And yet I found myself unable to resist when I saw Elite Entertainmentís widescreen, re-mastered laser disc. The geniuses at Elite wisely went to the original print ad for their packaging rather than use the cheesy "Jamie Lee With Ax and Crown" cover that the video version sports. The glossy black sleeve with the glass shard and murderous eyes caught my attention, but it was the tag line - "If you arenít home by midnight, you wonít be coming home at all" - that forced me to purchase. And I canít say that I regret it in the least, despite the fact that itís not a great film.

For the uninitiated, Prom Night was the crucial third leg in the Jamie Lee Curtis "Scream Queen Triumvirate" (which also included Halloween and Terror Train). Itís prom night, 1980 and a group of the worldís oldest-looking high school seniors are in for the night of their lives; a night of luxurious customized vans, joint-smoking, premarital sex, disco dancing, and MURDER! See, it all stems from a lengthy prologue in which Jamie Leeís little sister is accidentally killed by a group of her classmates. Now, 12 years later, somebody is planning an elaborate revenge. Is it Dad/Principal Leslie Nielsen? Is it the drooling custodian? The John Travolta in "Carrie" bully? The escaped, severely scarred lunatic? And who cares? Anybody with half a brain will have the whole thing figured out despite the ludicrous number of red herrings throughout. Except maybe for the idiotic, brown raincoat-wearing detective who goes to the prom when he hears about an escaped lunatic, but ends up gawking at satin tube tops while several kids are killed in the very building. The killer is kind of a wussy. Jamie Lee doesnít get naked (come to think of it, nobody does). The death scenarios are functional at best. The disco is . . . well, Disco.

So Prom Night is a stupid movie. But I still have a sweet spot for it. When Jamie Lee and her boyfriend hit the dance floor in an atrociously-choreographed disco seizure - I mean, dance - to the tune of "Prom night . . . everything is all right," I canít help but to smile. The whole Carrie subplot about ruining the prom crowning ceremony is . . . worthless. Re-reading this review, I canít believe that Iím not totally disgusted with myself for having bought this film. But Iím not. I think it can be explained by the "archeology" theory: Indiana Jones hears about the Holy Grail. It takes him years of research, a lot of danger, and the violent death of hundreds of baddies. When Indy FINALLY gets his hands on the Grail, it turns out to be some chipped, crud-covered hunk of brittle clay. But the historical (and personal) significance of the whole thing leaves him satisfied, anyway.

If youíre a fan of Scream and I Know What You Did . . . and havenít seen Prom Night, you should be ashamed of yourself. But donít worry, because now itís easier to find (and easier on the eyes) in its new edition. Video Treasures, as usual, has released the tape version for a measly $13.99 or so, so youíve got no excuse (other than the fact that I gave it a bad review).

-Punky McScrubb

Elite Entertainment

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