Friday, October 17, 2014

31 Days of Fright Goes on a Slasher Friday Date with PROM NIGHT (1980)

Funny story... I ended up marrying the girl who turned me down for the prom. I ended up not going, which left me feeling unqualified when it came to evaluating the authenticity of the 1980 slasher PROM NIGHT. Truth be told, I've always found the flick to be a bit of a bore, but maybe I'm just prejudiced. Luckily, Chuck Francisco was up to the task of picking up PROM NIGHT and taking it out for a spin on another Slasher Friday.

Prom Night – that whimsical evening where meaty chemical beakers, filled to spillage with hormones, pour themselves into the most absurd fashionable predilections of the day, practically guaranteeing cringeworthy corsaged portraits, that will only be good for a laugh looking back through time's rear view mirror. This magical evening also serves as the perfect window of vengeance for somehow slighted madmen, hellbent on grisly comeuppance. It's also the name of the middle movie in Jamie Lee Curtis's main slasher repertoire, before she punched the eject button to avoid typecasting (and ignoring her stint as Hitch in the excellent Aussie flick, ROAD GAMES – not precisely a slasher, per se).

PROM NIGHT is an example of what happens when wicked kids are left to their own devious whims in an abandoned convent. When hide and seek becomes so boring that it needs to be beefed up to include pretend killer and victims, perhaps the time has come to purchase little Johnny that Atari 2600 he so desperately craves. Once poor little Robin Hammond is scared backward out of a broken window and onward toward a grisly landing, the fates are all but aligned for mysterious revenge once these killer girls become nubile audience fodder. And so, flashing forward six years to high school prom night, it should shock no one when the four accidental OJ Simpsons receive ominous phone calls foreshadowing their certain doom.

MacGuffins multiply faster than bunnies at a carrot cocktail bar, in what may be PROM NIGHT's strongest feature – the mystery. The secret Santa slasher isn't obvious; there are several contenders for the crown. Could it be the escaped mental patient rapist, who was wrongly accused of Robin's murder, and horribly burned in the crash that resulted from the police pursuit? Could it be the Danny Zucco-flavored high school tough who has been kicked out of school by Principal Leslie Nielsen? Could it be Jamie Lee Curtis' Kim Hammond, because wouldn't that be novel? The killer-go-round is an entertaining endeavor punctuated by perforated teen flesh and a disco dance number.

PROM NIGHT belongs in the standard slasher tool belt among the tricks of the trade. Releases of the film have been plagued with muddy visuals and picture quality little better than VHS presentation levels (which was fine for the VHS release, but unacceptable thereafter). Synapse Films has worked tremendously hard to bring horror junkies a brand new 2k high definition transfer from the original camera negative that does this sleazy slasher proud. The picture quality isn't one hundred pristine, but that's very likely a fault of the condition of the materials available. (And honestly, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA this ain't.) Audio options include both a 5.1 surround mix created specifically for this Blu-ray, and the original mono for PROM NIGHT purists (if such beasts exist).

A bevy of special features have been included to sate the formal wear appointed lust of PROM NIGHT devotees (Prom Nighters?). The audio commentary track is an informational limo ride with director Paul Lynch and screenwriter William Grey. On tap for the after party is featurette THE HORRORS OF HAMILTON HIGH: The Making of PROM NIGHT, and a collection of extra scenes that were added for the TV broadcast. Exclusive to Synapse's Blu-Ray release are a sequence of never before seen outtakes, the original radio spots, and a motion still gallery.

Unlike many jockey football player prom dates, this PROM NIGHT special edition Blu-ray is the real deal, backing up its bravado with bona fide depth and bloody sincerity. It's easy to fall in love with this prom date – any horror fan would be proud to show it off.

Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for, writing the Shock-O-Rama column. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. An avid beer brewer, rock climber, and video gamer, you can hear him drop nerd knowledge on the weekly podcast You've Got Geek, and follow him on twitter @CyanideRush. He recently wrote about Nazi Zombies, Spaghetti Westerns and American Hippies – just to name a few – in Exploitation Retrospect #52 (available from our website).

PROM NIGHT is available from Amazon.

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