US (dir. Nelson McCormick)
Cast: Andrew Fiscella, Brianne Davis, Brittany Snow, Dana Davis, Debbie Entin, Idris Elba, Jana Kramer, Jessalyn Gilsig, Jessica Stroup, Johnathon Schaech, Joshua Leonard, Kellan Lutz, Kelly Blatz, Rachel Specter, Scott Porter
Synopsis: Donna’s senior prom is supposed to be the best night of her life. After surviving a horrible tragedy, she has finally moved on and is enjoying her last year of high school. Surrounded by her best friends, she should be safe from the horrors of her past. But when the night turns deadly, there is only one person who could be responsible–a man she thought was gone forever. Now, Donna and her friends must find a way to escape the sadistic rampage of an obsessed killer, and survive a night “to die for.”
Review: It’s definitely hard for me to say that the “Prom Night” remake is better or worse than the original because, let’s face it, 1980s “Prom Night” (starring the scream queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis) is by no means fantastic. The original “Prom Night” was a disco infused mess of a slasher that wasn’t exactly thrilling to sit through beyond the first 15 minutes and maybe the last 20 minutes. However, there were plenty of horror fans out there who cried foul when the remake was put out and we saw the finish product (myself included). Now I’m all for remaking slightly crappy horror movies from the past to make some much needed improvements, but when all you are borrowing from the original movie is the title, the general idea, and maybe the location of some of the events, then why even bother calling it a remake? Just because there existed in 1980, a movie where a killer stalked teenagers at a prom doesn’t mean that a movie from 2008 where a killer stalked teenagers at a prom needs to be considered a remake. That’s almost like labeling “Scream” as a remake of “Halloween”.
2008’s “Prom Night” is truly one of those “in name only” remakes that always leaves me perplexed as to why they even give it the same title as the original at all, because I’m certain it has nothing to do with the “established” franchise of the “Prom Night” films when you look at who the target audience for the film is. I’m betting it’s just because they wanted to jump on the horror movie remake bandwagon and churn out this lovely turd so that they could rake in as much money as possible by pushing the “it’s a remake!” point when marketing the film. The PG-13 rating, the cast full of teenage hotties, and the remake factor all contribute to “Prom Night” being prime fodder for the 13-18 age group. However I wonder if, had it been made better, could it have been easily (and successfully) sold to an older, more discerning audience? I think so.
Actually, that brings me to my next question. Who is this movie intended for? The PG-13 rating, the actors and the high school prom setting are definitely a draw for teenagers, but I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt and think that even they would find this to be sub-par or boring (or both). The fact that it’s not rated R, has a generally low body count, and is fairly anemic when it comes to bloodshed, gore and (most importantly) an interesting story, makes me think someone around my age (let’s say the 20-30 year old age group) wouldn’t even want to watch it either, so I’m not convinced this movie works well for teenagers, 20-somethings, or people who for some bizarre reason are huge fans of 1980s “Prom Night”. On a side note, the movie poster is pretty fucking awesome. It deserves an A+ for sure, sadly a rating you will never see attached to the actual movie itself.
One of the numerous, and most obvious changes from the original to the remake is the killer’s disguise. The original “Prom Night” had the unknown killer wearing a cool ski mask, while the new killer just sort of plays it low key with his… uhhh…. black baseball cap.
Now you may argue that it is because we as the audience know who the killer is already that there isn’t a need to disguise him, but he’s at a prom for the students of the high school he used to work at before being sent to jail for obsessing over a female student (Donna) and murdering her entire family. He seriously didn’t think anyone, not even a student or former co-worker would recognize him beneath that baseball cap? I guess the plus side of the lack of a clever disguise for the killer is the fact that we know right off the bat who the killer is and who exactly it is he is looking for anyways, so really there’s no foreseeable room for any twists or surprises. Plus it makes for an easy Halloween costume. Slap on the black baseball cap and, hey, you’re the killer from “Prom Night”! Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded some mystery behind the killer’s identity or maybe even a few red herrings. I would have even liked to see the boyfriend end up being the killer, maybe as some sort of revenge plot because the teacher who was sent to prison was the boyfriend’s dad or uncle or older brother or something. However, maybe that’s a little too “Scream”-ish. I’ll try to stop re-writing the movie now (lol!)
The whole teacher-student obsession thing was a bit disturbing to me, mainly because the obsession was alleged to have peaked right around the time Donna entered high school, thus putting her age at roughly 14 at the time (ew!). So to have a grown man obsess over a (possibly) 14 year old girl fresh out of elementary school (or junior high or whatever it is they have in the States), then come back for her three years later after staging one of the easiest looking prison escapes ever really makes you wonder how fucking psycho this guy really is, and what his main goal is anyways (rape? murder-suicide? forcible confinement?). At the same time, you may think to yourself that it is pretty outlandish for this teacher to go through all of this just to get with a student, but you hear about stuff like this in the news a lot, so it’s really not a far stretch by any means.
The cops in this movie were, for the most part, pretty on the ball for the whole movie – setting up roadblocks, alerting Donna’s guardians about the teacher’s prison escape, sending extra security to the school, etc.. However, because they weren’t informed of the teacher’s escape for three days, they were a few steps behind. They were definitely better than 90% of the bumbling cops you see in horror movies that either refuse to believe there is any danger or ending up getting killed off almost too easily. The cops even look like actual cops too, except for the Detective Nash character who looks like a prom attendee himself.
See, I think that’s why “Prom Night” is getting the odd, favorable review. I think the realism factor contributes to people’s appreciation for the film. The killer isn’t invincible, the story is plausible, the high schoolers all look like high schoolers, the killer is goal-oriented and doesn’t go into overkill mode, the cops are efficient at what they do, and the ending gives you closure (no last minute revelations or setups for a sequel).
However, I’m not going to praise it any more than that because the film still seems boring to me, and there are a handful of flaws (mainly just minor annoyances) that diminish the viewing experience. For one, the big finale isn’t so grand at all. Yes, the finale is where that realism comes into play in a big way, but do we really need to feel like we are watching a dramatization of a true crime, like something you would watch on TLC or A&E? Also, the finale doesn’t even take place at the prom, it all goes down at Donna’s boring house (no crazy architectural features or maze like hallways). There’s also a part where Donna falls asleep next to her boyfriend, then scares herself when she wakes up and he’s sitting next to her (duh!).
I also didn’t like how the character development was lacking. It wasn’t completely absent by any means, but I would have liked to know more about Donna or the goodie-two-shoes boyfriend (Bobby) besides what colleges they were going to and how much of a brown-nosing pushover Bobby is. Either Bobby was just brown-nosing his way into some post-prom night sex or he was just that much of a pussy, but I found he spent most of the movie catering to Donna’s needs. She even directs him to call a friend she could easily call herself, then directs him to a house phone to call that friend’s hotel room when he doesn’t get an answer the first time. Bossy much?
They also could have put Jamie Lee Curtis in the movie as like, one of the teachers or something, and I would have totally ignored (or bitched less about) how boring the movie is. Like, come on, she was the big name in the original and it would have been a nice touch to have her in the remake. Well at least we get Kellan Lutz.
Now “Prom Night” is not the worst remake imaginable, but it’s nothing special at all. I’d probably re-watch the original, even without fast-forwarding through the filler disco scenes, before I’d ever consider re-watching this “remake” again.