On Second Thought: “Prom Night (1980)”

This series will focus heavily on films I’ve already seen, more likely than not, multiple times, but definitely at least once. Some films may also overlap in the being “older” and less recent category.

This classic horror slasher film released by Avco Embassy Pictures in 1980, stars Jamie Lee Curtis (“Halloween”, “The Fog”) and was directed by Paul Lynch.

What makes a classic? I don’t know. What I do know is that a film from long ago may not be what it once was.

This idea is especially true when it comes to horror.

Whatever audiences saw as scary at the time of the films release, just doesn’t work now. Film audiences have seen so much and going back to these films, for something scary, is tough. What was once original is now boring and standard. The timing itself, could be why this film offers no scares; even for those that are first time viewers.

Take, for instance, the chase scene at the end of the film; arguably the best part. When the killer was stalking Wendy for quite a while, I was bored. It was dull. It pushes you into something mildly thrilling only to yank you out with boring waiting. You’re wondering, hopefully, and thinking, will the killer catch her?

Mind you, that was also after an hour of the film, in which you watched dull people do boring things in their lives. Cutting back and forth between people, without much logical reasoning for doing so. Just a bunch of picking and choosing of random scenes. Instead of setting up moments that are tense and leave you on edge, like “Halloween” managed to do, this unspooled mostly nothing. You simply don’t care. The people don’t matter.

Maybe I’m just a bit impatient. It could be all these modern horror films, which usually fail to be all that scary, that deliver things at a somewhat quicker pace. That being said, that may very well be why a lot of horror today just doesn’t cut it. They breeze through so much, with no tense lead up, then still hope to scare you with tactics that go way back to the films that, today, no longer seem to hold up. A conundrum of sorts.

Surprisingly the acting isn’t bad. Nothing stellar, but you don’t cringe when someone comes on screen.

The area where this film succeeded most was with the score. While the score wasn’t perfect, it provided a decent level of creepy. When the killer was taunting everyone, was where the score really stood out. Perhaps the fault lies in the composers. If this had been a John Carpenter flick, the score would’ve changed the entire mood of the film.

Then, of course, there’s the ending. To top off a slow moving, not that long of a film, it just ends. Yes, films should end, but it did so in a rather lackluster way. Thankfully the film wasn’t good to begin with, and the expectation needn’t be high. But it could’ve redeemed itself with a more satisfying ending. Something more suspenseful might have saved this poorly made film.

However, when thinking further, it isn’t just “Prom Night” that has this similar slow burn for the last act. Other, notable films, such as, “Halloween”, “Friday the 13th”, “My Bloody Valentine” and many others, each get to the point where you just follow the killer around as he does his thing. No surprises, you see it coming. The excitement, or surprise, comes from the manner in which each person is offed. Yet, audiences watch them anyway, and in most cases, love them.

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