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Anchor Bay presents
"Lieutenant, I think it would be wiser to keep quiet about this for now."
DVD ReviewI can see the Hollywood pitch session now. "This Halloween slasher thing, it made a huge amount of money. It's got some kid who kills some people and then escapes from the mental institution and kills some more. This Carrie movie, it's about horror at the prom, with a plot to embarrass the heroine who's elected the prom queen. It made a killing, I tell you. Now, what are we pitching? Both in one! Escaped maniac slasher, and horror at the prom! And we got this whatyacaller, Jamie Lee Curtis, that was in Halloween too! I tell ya, C.B., this can't miss!!"
Apparently they were right, since this relatively awful film spawned three sequels. Some one must have bought into this notion. Prom Night is a cross of elements from both of those classic 70's horror films, mixed into an unappetizing stew that doesn't deliver on its promises and which leaves plot holes large enough for Jason to drive a truck through.
The film opens with a lengthy prologue set in 1974, where four youngsters (Wendy, Nick, Jude and Kelly), while playing a macabre game, push young Robin Hammond to her death from a window in an abandoned convent. They swear each other to secrecy. Back to the present of 1980, where Robin's big sister Kim (Jamie Lee Curtis) is preparing to be queen of the prom, with a mostly grown-up Nick (Casey Stevens). Wendy, dumped by Nick, is jealous and plots against Kim, setting up a scheme to humiliate Kim at the prom. Meanwhile, Leonard Murch, the disfigured sex offender who was sent to a mental institution for Robin's murder, happens to escape and leaves the dead body of a nurse in that still-abandoned convent. Oh, and it just happens to be the anniversary of Robin's death. The police, knuckle-headed as usual in such films, agree that it's better not to mention that there's an escaped maniac on the loose in town, and hush this little fact up so the prom festivities can go on unobstructed.
Soon it's prom time, and before you know it, the adult versions of the guilty kids are being slaughtered in one unimaginative manner after another. The effects budget must have been pretty slim; most of the murders occur offscreen, so even gorehounds will be disappointed. There is a severed head that bounces out onto the dance floor, thereby providing a modicum of amusement, but the homicides are pretty tedious fare.
On the positive side, the script works hard to give us additional suspects for the masked murderer. Is it the escaped maniac? Or is it the mentally defective and creepy school janitor? Or Robin's obviously deranged mother? Or Robin's father, the school principal (a mostly wasted Leslie Nielsen, who sleepwalks through his role) that happens to disappear at opportune moments? Or is it someone else? Frankly, by the end of the film I didn't much care.
There is a certain entertainment factor to seeing 25-year-olds pretending to be high school students, dressed in leisure suits and dancing to really bad disco (as opposed to the usual bad disco). Paul Zaza is the culprit behind the disco score, which other than the ironic use of Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive, is really awful. The highlight is the solo dance of Kim and Nick; I have to admit I enjoyed watching Jamie Lee dance provocatively in her slinky prom dress, a foreshadowing of her mind-numbing striptease in True Lies. One wonders exactly when the two of them decided to elaborately choreograph this number, though.
According to the IMDB, the U.S. theatrical running time was only 87 minutes, so there seems to be some additional footage here.
There are good slasher films and there are bad ones. This is definitely a bad one. Watch it only for the cheese factor.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: D
Image Transfer Review: It's interesting to look back only two short years, to when Anchor Bay thought that the presentation on this disc was acceptable. How far they've come! The non-anamorphic picture is awful throughout. The transfer is incredibly soft and smeary (although this might have been intentional to allow these old actors to pretend to be high school age). There is heavy grain and significant artifacting and pixelation. There is plenty of aliasing, the blacks are at best grey, and skin tones are highly unstable, vibrating into the green range on occasion.
Apparently Eastmancolor stock was used, because the colors have badly faded. In a few scenes, obvious color correction has been used (the scenes with grass actually have some green in them), but this just highlights the pathetic quality of other sequences which are only shades of pink. Oddly enough, frame damage is minimal, limited to a few speckles and several red blotches toward the end of the first chapter.
Image Transfer Grade: D
Audio Transfer Review: The audio is a little better than the video, but not much. The stereo score does have some directionality, although not a great deal. Dialogue is often muffled, and the foley mix is far too forward: telephone rings and tapping pencils are much louder than they ought to be, especially when you turn the volume up to try to hear the dialogue. The music is acceptable but somewhat on the tinny side. There is a substantial amount of hiss throughout the film.
Audio Transfer Grade: C-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 9 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: The sole extra is a theatrical trailer, which automatically plays at the end of the film. It is in acceptable condition.
The chaptering is completely inadequate, with about one chapter per ten minutes of film. The one positive point is that the menu begins playing a windowboxed version of the chapter when you move the cursor onto the chapter title.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsLet us count our blessings on how good Anchor Bay has become after this godawful beginning. Bad video transfer, bad audio transfer, both go well with a bad movie. Avoid this disc, unless you're after cheesy disco or want to see Jamie Lee's dance number. Just be prepared to watch it through a murky haze.
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