Sony // 2008 // 89 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // August 19th, 2008
A Night to Die For.
Spawning three sequels, it was inevitable that Eighties slasher movie Prom Night would eventually get the remake treatment. Unfortunately, it seems someone involved felt slasher movies suffered from a little too much "slash."
Prom Night tells the age-old tale of a teacher who becomes obsessed with one of his female students. She's not so keen on his ideas of extra "tutoring" so, one night, he visits her home and brutally slaughters her family while she hides in fear under the bed, perfectly positioned to see her mother's corpse hit the floor. Thankfully, although too late to save the family, the police show up to lock the teacher and part-time psycho away.
Three years later, and the girl is now living with her aunt and uncle. Though understandably suffering nightmares about the massacre, she witnessed, she's moving on with her life and preparing for her high school prom. The only fly in the ointment is that her whackjob teacher has escaped from the institution he was being held in and is on his way to the hotel where her prom is being held.
My love of the horror genre is truly a double-edged sword. A fair portion of my DVD collection is set aside for movies filled with psychos, the undead, and ghostly goings on, and yet, perhaps more so than any other genre, it continually lets me down. For every A Nightmare on Elm Street, there's a Boogeyman, for every Evil Dead a Ghost Ship. It can be enough to make even the most devout horror junkie lose faith, sometimes. Were it not for my blind optimism and a resounding faith in filmmakers' ability to disturb me, I'd have given up on horror movies a long time ago.
Although it starred one of Hollywood's more celebrated "scream queens," Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween), I have still yet to see the original Prom Night, but my understanding is this remake is related in name and basic plot only. Regardless of its remake status, this limp release truly comes close to being the nadir of the horror genre. More so than any other horror movie I've come across in recent memory, Prom Night is a film desperately searching for a purpose. As a horror, it's far too toothless to pass muster. Ignore the "Unrated Version" nonsense that adorns the Blu-Ray packaging; this is strictly a PG-13 affair, with any brutality taking place off-screen. While copious amounts of gore are not a prerequisite of a successful horror movie, it is a fairly important factor when it comes to slasher movies, the genre Prom Night masquerades as. Had I not known better, I'd have assumed Disney or Nickelodeon were behind this release; it could easily be marketed as a "my first horror movie." Indeed, everything about this production, from the wafer-thin characters to the uninspired plotting, reeks of a film lacking a soul. I can only assume Hollywood studios have a quota of films to release each year, and Prom Night was a cheap and quick option to keep the numbers up.
Director Nelson McCormick, who has directed episodes of some of TV's more celebrated shows, including ER, The West Wing, and Nip/Tuck, as well as Pamela Anderson vehicle V.I.P.; apparently lacks the chops to instill his film with any sense of threat. Writer J.S. Cardone, whose previous dabble in the horror pool was the risible The Covenant, turns in a depressingly bland screenplay, but McCormick seems to lack the know-how to execute even one memorable moment.
Brittany Snow, who was so delightfully catty in Hairspray, is achingly dull here. Her character, Donna, is the archetypical "survivor girl," and such a goody-two-shoes that I was rather ambivalent towards her survival. Like Snow, Dana Davies has shown herself to be a far more assured actress, most recently in her role as Monica Dawson in the second season of Heroes. Here, partnered with Collins Pennie, Davies is insultingly cast as one half of the film's token black couple; something that I would have hoped Hollywood would have gotten past by now; the only saving grace is that Pennie wasn't given the indignity of uttering the lines "Damn," "S***!" and "That is whack!"
The final nail in the coffin is the complete lack of screen presence possessed by Johnathon Schaech (Road House 2: The Last Call) as the films bogeyman, Richard Fenton. I've not seen much of Mr. Schaech's work, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt here and suggest the undercooked character work and the fact that he's only given two things to do in the entire film -- either stare menacingly or dive at people with a knife -- is perhaps too fragile a framework for any actor to carve out any semblance of a memorable character from.
The disc's 2.40:1 transfer is, technically at least, very good. Sadly, the film's cinematography is so bland that the advantages of the Blu-Ray format are almost rendered mute. The 5.1 TrueHD soundtrack is a similar story. While everything is done well, your sound system is hardly going to be pushed.
A commentary, which brings together the films' lead, director, and writer, shows a stubborn unwillingness on everyone's part to acknowledge the turgid mess they contributed to. Understandable perhaps, but it's just good manners to admit to, and apologize for, your sins. An alternate ending that really isn't worth the 35 seconds that it runs for and six deleted scenes are joined by four short behind-the-scenes featurettes. Those with a profile 1.1 Blu-Ray player can enjoy a storyboard comparison PiP track. Why anyone would want to view this, I couldn't say. Finally, for anyone lucky enough to own a profile 2.0 Blu-Ray player (i.e. everyone smart enough to pick up a PS3 or hold out for one of the more recent players), Prom Night is BD Live enabled. Once connected, viewers can download trailers and vote on the best place to hide a body. What a wonderfully inventive use of technology.
Lacking any imagination and ultimately brought down by a drawn-out ending that will test even the most patient of viewers, Prom Night is a total dud without a single redeeming feature.
This one is destined to leave the prom alone. Guilty.
Review content copyright © 2008 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Deleted Scenes
* Alternative Ending
* Gag Reel
* Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
* Director and Cast Commentary
* Picture-in-Picture Storyboard Track
* Official Site