REVIEW: Prom Night [2008]

“Should I be worried?”

After a Halloween season of watching some pretty good horror films, mostly high concept, visually interesting ones, I decided I needed to take a break and check out one of the tween travesties released every year to huge box office numbers. So, in comes the 2008 remake of Prom Night—you don’t get much lower on the drivel scale than this one folks. Pretty much all the killing is done off-screen, the prom in question looks as though it cost a million dollars in order to appear like a Hollywood movie premiere, (were those parents behind the ropes taking photos and being waved to by their children doing their best movie star entrance?), and it takes place in a hotel where these 18-year olds are allowed to get rooms for the night. Talk about a liberal school, the prom favors were probably monogrammed condoms with the date and song on them. Everything that happens is beyond convenient and the premise is laughable at best. However, it did do the trick, putting a smile on my face at its absurdity and allowing me to leave my brain far, far away.

The senior in the middle of it all is Brittany Snow’s Donna Keppel, a girl who witnessed her mother getting murdered after coming home to find the rest of her family dead at the hands of an ex-teacher who took an unhealthy obsession to her. Trust me, if someone looking for me killed my entire family, I would not go live with my aunt and uncle down the street and go to the same school while the homicidal maniac sat in a mental institution. I’d get the hell out of Dodge and try and start a new life, maybe change my name and go witness protection even. But not this girl, she is too strong for that and decides to stay with her friends and get her life back to normal. It’s three years later, she has come “a long way”, and prom is upon her. However, her spidey-sense kicks in and the nightmares she had so long ago, (can less than three years be considered long?), crop back into her psyche just at the time her stalker escapes from maximum security—with the weirdest cut scene to show how, that really doesn’t make sense, but is too quick to care.

The night they’ll never forget begins as the limo picks up the three couples and takes them to the event. The dance seems unnecessary as everyone just wants to go to their rooms and play rabbits for the rest of the evening, but wait, we need to see who wins prom king and queen don’t we? For a crowning that is made to appear so important to the lives of these youngsters, you’d think they’d be a little more worried about being at the party to go on stage and accept the prize. But, hey, someone has to wander into harm’s way to be killed. It would be a pretty horrible slasher flick if there wasn’t at least one death every twenty minutes or so. That means characters will go against how they are written to service the plot and become pawns in the film’s game, filling up the space until the villain finally confronts the person he came to get in the first place, something he could have easily done about thirty minutes into the story. And, of course, while all that is happening we have Idris Elba’s Detective Winn on the case, coming so close to catching the guy he thought he put away with a death sentence, but always just missing. Not quite the bumbling cop, he is in fact capable, his failures again service the script. You have to love conveniences.

I did actually enjoy some of the performances. Both Dana Davis and Jessica Stroup play the high schooler well, especially after my having seen both play college-aged girls previously. With small arcs in “Heroes” and “Reaper” respectively, I’d hope to see more of these two in the future, they play it naturally and genuinely appear to be having fun. As for Snow, I feel she just plays it too young. Maybe that goes into the whole psychological thing and what she has gone through, but she becomes the child amongst adults when with her clique. She is the waif heroine, though, so there needs to be a little bit of helplessness. This isn’t Laurie Strode getting ready to hold her own against a maniac, no Donna Keppel is a cheerleading, accepted to Brown kind of delicate flower; she needs a savoir to get her through it all. It’s just too bad that the price has to be those she holds near and dear. Watching everyone she loves die around her in a short three years can’t be a fun experience. I wouldn’t be surprised if Prom Night 2 comes out and she is the badass killer. But then she did say the prom meant that it might be the last time any of them see each other again. Bet she didn’t know how true those sentiments were.

It’s not all bad though. Despite the clichéd horror film moments that make up this PG-13 sub-genre—I really don’t think a horror film should exist without being R-rated, you need the ability to go a bit further than teenage sterility—one shining moment comes in the killer himself. Crazed and sadistic, Mr. Fenton is the epitome of escaped patient, with his mute voice, deliberate actions, lack of compassion, and Charles Manson hair before his incarceration. I thought Johnathon Schaech looked like a homicidal psychopath in That Thing You Do!, so he was pitch perfect for me here. A total creep, his sneer will put a chill into anyone standing across the room. I think a career of villainy should suit him well. Hopefully he’ll choose his projects with a little more care, but as long as he’s having fun, (and receiving that paycheck), I can’t really blame him too much.

Prom Night 3/10 | ★

[1] (L to R) Collins Pennie, Dana Davis, Scott Porter, Brittany Snow, Kelly Blatz and Jessica Stroup star in Screen Gems’ thriller PROM NIGHT. Photo by: Suzanne Tenner. ©2008 Screen Gems, Inc. and Miramax Film Corp. All Rights Reserved.
[2] Dana Davis stars in Screen Gems’ thriller PROM NIGHT. Photo by: Suzanne Tenner. ©2008 Screen Gems, Inc. and Miramax Film Corp. All Rights Reserved.


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