Do I like Prom Night (1980)? I really don't know. I've seen it enough times that you'd think I do. I watched it again today, though, and it just...I can't...I wanna...it didn't...well, I guess I was left wondering why I've seen it so many times.
The film is laid out like your archetypical slasher: we open with a flashback sequence which provides the killer with a reason to kill.
Some kids are playing hide and seek in an abandoned convent- except instead of just hiding and seeking, the person who's "it" is "the killer". So while searching for everyone who hides, the kid yells "The killer is coming!". If someone is found, instead of just being out of the game, they, too, become a killer. Kids play the darndest things!
Little Kim, Alex, and Robin are on their way to school and hear the others playing in the abandoned building. Kim runs home to get a forgotten textbook like a good little nerd, Alex heads to school, and Robin decides to check out the game. She should know that older kids never want to play with younger kids, though- but she has to find out the hard way. All the other kids gang up on poor Robin and chase her throughout the building, yelling "The killers are coming!" in her face. Robin is clearly terrified, but the little punkasses keep coming at her, backing her up against a window and shouting "KILL! KILL! KILL!" at her until they force her out the window. She falls a few storeys to the ground and dies. The "killers" (Nick, Wendy, Jude, and Kelly) decide NOT to go for help, but rather to swear never to tell a soul. They hop on their bikes and ride off. Children are truly heaven's gifts to us here on Earth, and I do believe they are the future.
We move up to the here and now, and everyone is six years older and getting ready for the prom. Grown up Kim (Jamie Lee Curtis) and grown up Nick (Casey Stevens) are prom queen and king and so totally in love! Grown up Wendy (Eddie Benton) is Nick's ex-who-won't-let-go and is all bitch and attitude as she rides around in her orange Corvette. The other girls, Jude and Kelly, are The Nerd Who Will Do "It" and The Nerd Who Says She'll Do "It" But Then Will Change Her Mind At The Last Second And Really Piss Off Her Boyfriend, respectively. Each of the "killers" gets a phone call from someone who intones in a raspy voice things like "See you at the prom!", "Tonight it's my turn!", and "Do you still like to play games?". Guess it's payback time! Not that anyone really gets the hint- no one seems to feel particularly threatened, and the calls get chalked up as simply unobscene obscene phone calls. Personally, I think the calls would have been more effective if the Prom Whisperer had said "The killer is coming!"- at least someone would catch on, maybe. As an audience member, I find it decidedly unscary when the killer crosses names off of his "to do" list after he calls them. There's just something mundane about it- like on one page he has written NICK, KELLY, JUDE etc, but then what- BUY SCOOP AWAY AND BACON on the next page? Chores, chores, chores. And let's talk practicalities, here- keeping a list of your intended victims is probably not a good idea. I realize, though, that this is 1980- the days before CSI taught America and the rest of the television viewing world what NOT to do when trying to commit the perfect crime.
And now, the night of every child's dreams...the prom. Being made in 1980, Prom Night is fully- and I mean fully- entrenched in the disco era. From the moment the prom starts until the end credits, the disco music is virtually non-stop. At times this is fun: there's a song called Prom Night ("Prom night! Everything is all right!"), to which Kim and Nick do an elaborate choreographed dance while the rest of the promgoers stand in a Clapping Circle. That's right, if you've ever wanted to see Jamie Lee Curtis get down on a lit-up floor, this movie is for you. At times, however, the music is not fun. It goes on SO LONG that at one point I was considering putting lit matches in my ears just to make the music stop. Then I found the 'mute' button on my remote and I was saved.
During the festivities, various main characters go off to various places to have sex...or in the case of Kelly, come thisclose to having sex. And now, finally, the killer makes his appearance. Yes, besides poor defenestrated Robin, no one gets killed in this movie in the first hour. This is fine if the buildup to murder and mayhem is filled with tension and dread, as in Halloween. In Prom Night, however, the buildup is filled with disco music ad nauseum. Anyway, yes, the killer is coming! Dressed in black with a matching ski cap, he chases people around and offs them in a generally inept fashion. For example, he takes a swing at Wendy with an axe, and when he misses, she runs off. He runs after her, but comes back right away because he forgot his axe. Heat of the moment, I guess. At least he remembered before he got her cornered, though, and found himself weaponless: "Uhh..hey, wait right here a minute! I'll be right back! Err...don't run away, please.".
After Jude, Wendy, and Kelly are dead (as well as a few unlucky others who got in the way), it's Nick's turn- but Kim ain't havin' none-a that! Ain't no one gonna kill her man! Not at the prom, beeyatches! Don't worry, it only turned into an episode of Jenny Jones in my head for a second. Nick and the killer struggle on the dance floor...the killer loses his axe...Kim grabs the axe, and when she has a clear shot, she takes it! Wham! She whacks the killer in the head with his own weapon. Jamie Lee Curtis is once again a kickass final girl. She has saved the day, but...she and the killer lock eyes for a moment, and she realizes with horror that the man in black is her brother Alex! Nooooo! But yeeees, it's him. He tells her with his dying breath that he saw what happened to Robin all those years ago at the abandoned convent and he had to make them all pay! Pay! Paaaaaay! He's not so wordy, though- it's more like "Robin! They did it! Shmlehhhhhh...." and he dies in Kim's arms. Lucky Kim- she gets to spend the rest of her days musing on the fact that her friends killed her sister when they were young, that her brother killed her friends when they were older, and that she killed her brother at the prom. Hmm. Maybe it IS all a little Jenny Jones.
The most terrifying thing about Prom Night is the ruthless children at the beginning yelling KILL! KILL! KILL!. Little bastards. Other than that, it's not scary and is ultimately pretty forgettable. Maybe that's why I've seen it so many times. I'll probably watch it again in a few months, then ask myself why I keep watching it. Well, there's always Jamie Lee on the light-up dance floor. I give it 6 out of 10 smoove mooves.