Thursday, October 1, 2009

Film Review: PROM NIGHT (1980, Paul Lynch)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 90 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Leslie Nielsen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Robert A. Silverman (EXISTENZ, SCANNERS), Ann-Marie Martin (HALLOWEEN II).
Tag-line: "There's a special night in the lives of all of us. A night to be beautiful. To be desirable. A night we can break all the rules and make our own. Prom night."
Best one-liner: "It's not who you go with, honey. It's who takes you home."

More of a 'Canadian giallo' than an outright slasher flick, PROM NIGHT possesses many of the Mario Bava/Dario Argento hallmarks: an intricately crafted mystery, a raspily whispering killer, a creepy groundskeeper (here played by Cronenberg crony Robert A. Silverman), intense cops who say things like "there's home-icidal fruitcake on the loose," and childhood traumas which just might hold the key to everything.

Combined with elements from HALLOWEEN and CARRIE, some sweet disco sequences (the theme of the prom is 'Disco Madness') and an excellent performance by Jamie Lee Curtis, this has the foundations of an extremely solid flick.

But the truth is, it becomes bemired in a sea of red herrings. The impetus of the story becomes more obsessed with introducing new and confounding ways to throw you off the scent than with providing a sense of closure or a real payoff. Though Argento is a fan of the abrupt denouement, his finales usually have such a batshit crazy flavor to them that it doesn't matter. PROM NIGHT ends abruptly AND denies any of our characters a chance to come to terms with the twists of the plot; there are at least four or five different dramatic payoffs that the film blatantly witholds. And it somehow kinda has the feel of a 1970's British made-for-TV movie.

But there are several elements that push the film into distinct likability, such as Leslie Nielsen in a serious role that requires him to dance, the character 'Slick' and his schweet van

who seem like they'd be more at home in MIDNIGHT MADNESS, the revelation that Jamie Lee Curtis makes the same smarmy faces while disco dancing as she does while aerobicizing (as in PERFECT),
Duhm-du duhm-du dunnnh PROM NIGHT
Duhm-du duhm-du dunnnh NO MORE FEELIN' UPTIGHT
Duhm-du duhm-du dunnnh PROM NIGHT
Duhm-du duhm-du dunnnh EVERYTHING IS ALRIGHT

and the fact that a bunch of 10 year-olds have the detached cynicism to immediately fabricate a cover-up five seconds after the accidental death of one of their schoolmates.

Well, I guess you guys HAVE been watching a bunch of Italian movies. Three stars.

-Sean Gill


skeelo said...

Hahahah this one was fun despite its vast use of cliches.

One question, where DID leslie nielsen disappear to at the Prom? I think he visited the who-dunit workshop ?

Sean Gill said...

Yeah, it's pretty silly, and as I said, way more concerned with "Red Herring, Red Herring, Red Herring...BIG FINALE!" than any sort of normal narrative closure. As to where Leslie went- your guess is as good as mine.