Halloween bred scores of imitators, mostly low-budget and low-quality, yet exerting some strange hold on legions of mostly-teenage fans. This 1980 production birthed three sequels and the obligatory remake, due to hit theaters April 11. It also, arguably, established the fact of contemporary slasher as a genre.1

Cast and Crew

Director: Paul Lynch
Writers: William Gray and Robert Guza, Jr..

Jamie Lee Curtis as Kim Hammond
Leslie Nielsen as Raymond Hammond
Anne-Marie Martin/Eddie Benton as Wendy Richards
Casey Stevens as Nick McBride
David Mucci as Lou Farmer
Michael Tough as Alex Hammond
Mary Beth Reubens as Kelly Lynch
David Bolt as Monty Weller
Beth Amos as Maude
George Touliatos as Lt. Darryl McBride
Joy Thompson as Jude Cunningham
Jeff Wincott as Drew Shinnock
Brock Simpson as Young Nick McBride2

Full cast and crew information may be found here.

Available at Amazon

Premise

This should be familiar. Long ago, Something BadTM happened in town and, years later, it casts a shadow on the overaged teens at the local high school.

High Point

The opening sequence, a sort of macabre hide-and-seek, works. Viewers might reasonably expect an inventive low-budget horror movie will follow. The performances by the kids may not be polished, but they have a power and authenticity of their own. The ending of the scene is badly written and, regrettably, the rest of Prom Night will more frequently resemble it rather than the scene’s earlier portion.

Low Point

Too much of this film gets bogged down in teen soap opera, which should serve the purpose of making us care about the characters. Alas, neither the acting nor the writing is adequate to achieve that end. If anything, it may make some viewers long for certain characters’ early demise.

The Review

Originality: 2/6. This is Halloween with echoes of Carrie and Saturday Night Fever. The best one can say is that it’s less derivative than what followed. The explanation for the killing spree has a real-world resonance lacking in most films of the genre.

Effects: 3/6. We do see one gratuitous exploding car and a problematic rolling head.

Story 4/6. While I don’t hold out much hope for the remake, for once I grasp the interest in remaking a mediocre film from years earlier. The premise actually holds a fair bit of potential that this film (generally) wastes.

Acting 4/6 The acting is uneven, with some fairly good performances and others best left unremarked. The Creepy Gardener provides some laughs.

Production 4/6. At this point in cinematic history, “big budget slasher film” was an oxymoronic phrase.

Emotional Response 3/6 The movie will interest fans of the genre (especially if they don’t need to see the levels of gore found in more recent films), and some of the scenes create a credible sense of menace. Overall, however, it failed to hold my interest for its 89-minute running time.

Overall 4/6. If you like your old-school slasher pics with goofy 70s clothing, a van, a gratuitous exploding vehicle, and disco, you may find this worth watching.

In total, Prom Night receives 24/42.

Notes

1. I’m stretching the point, however: Halloween drew on earlier sources, but it represents the debut of the modern slasher genre. It came out in 1978 and set the pattern, though it’s superior to what followed. Some would note that Tourist Trap appeared in 1979, but it was hardly a huge success and it gets into the supernatural angle which was not yet a part of the genre. It’s more of a conventional low-budget horror movie. Friday the 13 in May, 1980, was the first really successful imitator. Prom Night was released in September of 1980, and as the third to hit it big it arguably establishes for mainstream audiences that the genre exists.

2. Simpson appears briefly in the opening with a handful of other child actors who play the various teen characters as children. He receives special mention because he will became the only actor to appear in every installment of the series—though not as the same character.