Prom Night Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Synapse Films
Directed by Paul Lynch
Written by William Gray
1980, Region A, 93 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on September 9th, 2014
Jamie Lee Curtis as Kim
Leslie Nielsen as Mr. Hammond
Casey Stevens as Nick
Michael Tough as Alex
Eddie Benton as Wendy
Marybeth Rubens as Kelly
Joy Thompson as Jude
David Mucci as Lou
Jeff Wincott as Drew
Antoinette Bower as Mrs. Hammond
Pita Oliver as Vicki
Six years ago, a group of young friends made a solemn promise to keep a secret following a game that ended with the death of a child. Soon after, a local sex offender was arrested and charged with the crime and taken into custody. Now, Nick, Wendy, Jude and Kelly, the four guilty kids, are preparing for their senior prom, but someone knows their secret and is determined to get revenge. Threatening phone calls lead to confrontations with a masked killer armed with a grudge – and an axe.
Prom Night is one of the better whodunnit entries in the golden era of slasher films (1974-1984). Released only two months after the original Friday the 13th (1980), there is a familiarity to the structure of teens going about their business unaware of an anonymous figure lurking nearby with murderous intent. The script by William Gray (Humongous), based on a story by Robert Guza Jr (Curtains), follows the popular formula of the day but offers stronger character development than lesser installments in the subgenre. Despite taking an hour to get to the bloodshed, Director Paul Lynch (Bullies) displays a strong talent behind the camera as he keeps building the suspense. There is a dreamlike quality to the picture thanks to the inventive cinematography of Robert New (Night of the Creeps), and Paul Zaza's soundtrack is filled with disco hit knock-offs that help keep the energy level high.
Jamie Lee Curtis was quickly building a name for herself in the industry working with John Carpenter on Halloween (1978) and The Fog (1979). The following year she made back-to-back Canadian slashers Prom Night and Terror Train, and while all four films have similar elements, her characters could not be more different. In this movie, she displays a confidence absent from some of her other roles and it is nice to see Curtis as a well-adjusted teen. That being said, there is a point during the climax where she figures out what is going on, and the moment is chilling. Curtis was quickly labeled horror's reigning “scream queen”, but after making Halloween II and Road Games (both 1981) she left the genre behind for almost twenty years, yet remains a fan favorite.
Prom Night follows the trend of pairing Curtis with a seasoned vet like Donald Pleasance (Halloween) or Ben Johnson (Terror Train), this time with Leslie Nielsen (Creepshow). He plays Curtis' father, the school principal, and it is fun to see his serious side just before Airplane! (1980) erased his dramatic career. While always a welcome face, Nielsen really has little to do here, though the footage included in the deleted scenes section suggests that he was a suspect at one point. As for the supporting cast of disco dancers, Casey Stevens (Threshold) and Eddie Benton (The Boogens) are the standouts as Nick and Wendy respectively. Stevens fills his character with a guilt that motivates his actions and appears to sincerely regret his past, while Benton owns every scene she is in. Her prom night revenge is more straightforward than Nancy Allen's resourceful character in Carrie (1976), but she is every bit the awesome bitch this picture needs.
As is the case with most slasher flicks, the subplot involving the police, the creepy greenskeeper or other authority figures is a dead end, but Prom Night skillfully balances the down time of teenage life with the possible threat of an outside intruder. Not everything works, as supporting cast members frequently disappear, but the human interaction here is far more natural than anything you will find in something like Graduation Day (1981). Genre fans are more than likely familiar with Curtis' horror heyday, and while nothing comes close to the quality of Halloween, this film gives her enough screen time to develop a character that audiences will root for. One comment about the ending: the timing is perfect in that the filmmakers are confident enough to close the picture without forcing a final jump scare that became the norm in the wake of Carrie and the results are both powerful and satisfying.
Video and Audio:
Prom Night is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and features an all new 2K Hi-definition transfer of a frequently tricky picture. There is a strong dreamlike quality to the white levels in this film, whether it is morning fog or flaring halos around lights. While all of this is by design and adds to the atmosphere of the feature, earlier video releases appeared milky. Synapse has done another fantastic job here restoring the elements to proper levels and it is safe to say this is the best the title has ever looked. Colors are strong, flesh tones remain natural throughout and there is a stunning level of clarity in small object detail like clothing fabrics and hair.
An all new DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix really opens up the soundtrack, enhancing both the musical score as well as directional sound effects. Dialogue is clear and remains free from distortion and purists will be happy to note the original 2.0 mono track is also included. English subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
Synapse Films continues to impress with their undying support of genre films. For years, Prom Night has received releases that were either bare-bones or included only a pair of trailers. Now things are about to get special.
The audio commentary from Lynch and Gray is a long overdue treat and worth the wait. Lynch is clearly proud of the film and everyone who helped work on it. The conversation is full of anecdotes that range from the original story idea, the forced police subplot and general tales from the set. Lynch appears quite gracious and at one point praises Wes Craven's Scream for thoughtfully mentioning his film. He also has some funny things to say about the director of Terror Train for casting Curtis on the heels of this film!
The centerpiece of this disc is the featurette The Horrors of Hamilton High: The Making of Prom Night (41 minutes). Members of the cast and crew assemble to share their memories of the classic slasher film and while this sort of piece has become fairly standard for contemporary titles, it is a real treat to see a catalog title receive the special edition treatment longtime fans have craved.
A collection of alternate scenes that appeared in the television version in lieu of violence or nudity are included here and primarily offer more screen time to the supporting characters like parents, doctors and the principal's secretary. There is a brief intro from Michael Maclaverty, who edited the material into the broadcast version, and he explains why it was substituted. The piece runs 11 minutes with the introduction.
When Synapse received the source materials for this new transfer, they opted to offer fans a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the moments before and after the scene was shot. A series of “outtakes” are actually a peek at the actors and locations just before the director calls “Action”. The footage is silent but set to the film's disco soundtrack.
A motion photo gallery (6 minutes) displays production stills and promotional material in a slide show format, also featuring musical highlights for your dancing pleasure.
The original theatrical trailer, TV spots and radio ads reveal the marketing campaign for the film and are definitely worth checking out.
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