Friday, March 11, 2011

#217. Prom Night (1980)

Directed By: Paul Lynch

Starring: Leslie Nielsen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Casey Stevens

Tag line: "If you're not back by midnight... you won't be coming home"

Trivia:  Brock Simpson is the only actor who appeared in all four Prom Night movies

From 1978 to 1981, Jamie Lee Curtis appeared in five horror films, beginning with Halloween (for which she was paid $8,000) and ending with Halloween II (for which she was paid $100,000). As a result, Ms. Curtis was affectionately dubbed “The Scream Queen” by fans everywhere, but in 1980's Prom Night, the actress was given a chance to do much more than just scream. 

As the movie opens, a group of kids are playing hide and seek in an abandoned warehouse. When a young girl named Robin (Tammy Bourne) interrupts the game, the others begin to taunt and tease her.  As Robin's trying to get away, she climbs onto a window ledge and accidentally plummets to her death. The kids responsible for Robin's death, fearing the consequences, make a pact never to reveal what really happened. Six years later, these same kids are on their way to the Senior Prom, but what they don't know is someone else was there the day Robin was killed, and this mysterious person is going to make them pay for their silence. 

Prom Night proved a good vehicle for Jamie Lee Curtis, mostly because it gave her more to do than just run around screaming for her life. Prom Night unfolds it's story of bloody revenge slowly, almost methodically, and as a result the film's young performers are given ample opportunity to fine-tune their characters. Curtis plays Kim, the sister of the young girl who dies in the opening scene. Unbeknownst to Kim, her prom date, Nick (Casey Stevens), was one of the four kids responsible for her sister's death, which leads to some interesting scenes between the two (Nick, whose obviously in love with Kim, nearly reveals his secret to her on several occasions). Along with the drama, we also get to see Jamie Lee dance in Prom Night, and she is very, very good (there's an extended dance scene at the Prom, where the camera spends most of it's time watching Curtis tear up the dance floor). It takes a while for Prom Night to kick in with the horror, but thanks to Jamie Lee Curtis and the rest of the young cast, there's plenty of story early on to keep our attention. 

In an interview, Jamie Lee Curtis once stated that she was not a fan of horror films, and rarely, if ever, watched them. For some, this may seem like a case of an actress turning on the genre that made her a star.  But as she showed us in Prom Night, Jamie Lee Curtis is a multi-talented performer, one whose continued success stems more from her own natural ability than any appearance in a string of films. 

Sure, the horror genre has been good to Jamie Lee Curtis, but she's been good to the genre as well.


Anonymous said...

Scary poster & if Jamie Lee is in this I am going to get it Doctor Shock. That is weird that Jamie Lee doesn't like horror movies since she is such a staple because of her role in Halloween.

Waiting on Episode 8 only a few days to go...Leila

Dave Becker said...

Leila: Thanks for stopping by.

Jamie Lee Curtis certainly does shine in this film. Again, it takes a while for the horror to kick in, but Jamie Lee is talented enough to keep things rolling along.

Ep. 8 has been recorded, and will be available on Sunday. All signs point to it being an awesome episode!

Thanks for the comment, and for listening to Planet Macabre.

Ian said...

Big difference of opinion here, Dave. I recently rewatched this & had a hard time getting through it. It hasn't aged well (I thought the dance sequence was painful) and in my opinion it's the least of the horror films Jamie Lee Curtis made in the late-70s/early-80s.

One that I think has been overlooked (perhaps because it's never been remade) is TERROR TRAIN. Ever seen it?

Dave Becker said...

Ian: As a horror film, I'll agree that this may be the 'least' of Jamie Lee's string from the late 70's and early 80's, but she brought enough to the movie to keep my interest (and we do have a difference of opinion on the dance sequences. I thought Jamie Lee was exceptional in those scenes, and, despite the whole disco ambiance, she made them come alive in a big, big way).

I've just recently watched TERROR TRAIN again. You're right, it does get overlooked, and that's a real shame because it's a terrific movie. Jamie Lee was very good, but I also liked Ben Johnson as the conductor (and who'd have though David Copperfield would be so good?). Aside form the performances, I loved how tense the movie got at times. Even though there was never really any doubt as to who the killer was, TERROR TRAIN still managed to build up suspense.

I'll no doubt be covering TERROR TRAIN at some point, as well as all of Jamie Lee's horror films.