September 16, 2015 Prom Night Still Slashing 35 Years Later
“The coming back from the dead for revenge film” started at the end of 1980’s Friday the 13th. The same year, on August 15th, the Canadian horror film, Prom Night, was released with that premise. Prom Night, which celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2015, was directed by Paul Lynch (The Hard Part Begins 1973, Blood & Guts 1978) and produced by Peter and Richard Simpson (Melanie 1982, Prom Night III: The Last Kiss 1990), written by William Gray (The Changling 1980, Black Moon Rising 1986) from a story by Robert Guza Jr. for Avco Embassy Pictures.
Years after a game of The Killers are Coming goes tragically wrong, a group of teens get mysterious calls that Prom Night will be unforgettable. Now, Wendy (Eddie Benton: The Boogens 1981, Halloween II 1981), Jude (Joy Thompson: Alvin Rides Again, and Again! And Again! And Again! 1974, One Magic Christmas 1985), Kelly (MaryBeth Rubens: Firebird 2015 A.D. 1981, The Michelle Apts. 1995), and Nick (Casey Stevens: In Praise of Older Women 1978, Threshold 1981) are in a fight for their lives. Who could be hunting the kids? The dead child, someone looking to make things right. Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween 1978, The Fog 1980) stars as Kim, in only her third feature, and Leslie Nielsen (Airplane! 1980, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! 1988) co-stars as the school principal and her father.
Prom Night came about after director Paul Lynch had a chance meeting with Halloween producer, Irwin Yablans. He wanted to make a Horror movie, and asked how to go about doing it. He was told to center around something like a holiday, but Lynch got the idea to center it around another teenage coming of age occasion…prom night. Enter, writer friend Robert Guza Jr., who had already written a story about kids involved in an accident where the one wronged comes back to exact revenge. The story was modified, and Peter and Richard Simpson signed on to produce. However, it was not until Curtis signed on to the project that financing came through. The rest of the student body was cast by University of Toronto graduates with filming taking place in Toronto, Ontario, known for its economical film shooting. The film was shot over twenty-four days on a estimated $1.5 million budget.
Two main sets were used throughout the film, the Queen Street Provincial Asylum was used for the abandoned building from the beginning of the film, and Don Mills Collegiate Institute was the school. The sunny day juxtaposed to the isolation and rundown look of the abandoned building helps to show the skewed feel to the film while the school looks any other school in a way of misdirection to let the viewer breathe before the storm.
The kids at the beginning of the film act like the kids they are…if not a little over the top as was the trend of kid actors in the tween demographic tend to do. The grown up kids recently graduated university, but still their turn as teens is believable. Jamie Lee Curtis had her breakout role in Halloween as teenage babysitter, Laurie Strode. Three years later, Prom Night comes around, and again Curtis’ playing a teen again in Kim Hammond, sister to Robin, who was killed years before. As opposed to the doe-eyed Laurie in Halloween, Kim is a scarred teen; therefore, more mature to a point, which played well since Curtis was twenty when Prom Night lensed. Nielsen and Michael Tough (The Phantom Kid 1977, Skullduggery 1983) played the equally scarred father and brother, respectively, well.
Lynch used the killer’s (first used in 1960’s Peeping Tom) and the third person point of views to build tension whether it was the setup when the killer is calling the prey while either spying on them, or call while looking at them in yearbooks. The chases and setups for the killer’s point of views varied depending on the level of claustrophobia and intimacy of said chase or kill. The killer’s face was masked throughout the film, a technique first used in 1976’s The Town that Dreaded Sundown.
Prom Night grossed approximately $14.7 million on a $1.5 million budget. It received nominations at the 1981 Genie Awards for Best Achievement in Film Editing for Brian Ravok and Best Performance by a Foreign Actress for the California-born Curtis; although, Rotten Tomatoes gives it 37%, which deems it “rotten.” Nonetheless, the film spawned three sequels, and in 2008, Prom Night was remade with a totally different premise with Brittany Snow (The Pitch Perfect franchise 2012-2015) in the Jamie Lee character of sorts. Since Prom Night began the premise of a group of kids making a pact to hide a past transgression, movies like the I Know What You Did Last Summer franchise (1997-2006) followed to pay homage, which followed the premise to a T with 2000’s Scary Movie spoofing that film. Both were successful films.
Prom Night, itself, was not immune to getting satirized with Student Bodies (1981) and Wacko (1982). Also, the sitcoms, Full House and Step by Step in 1993 and 1994 respectively. Both were titled “Prom Night,” and in 1997’s Scream 2, Rand directly references Prom Night. The 1999 TV drama, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “The Prom” episode and the TV movie Fear, Panic & Censorship (2000) used the film as product placement. Even foreign film has paid homage to the film that prom night is a nightmare in the Portuguese Entrei em Pânico ao Saber o que Vocês Fizeram na Sexta-feira 13 do Verão Passado (2001) as well as being a central conversational piece in every Horror film documentary over the last thirty-five years, cementing that certain time of year into our consciousness forever.