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Original Vs. Remake: Prom Night

04.08.2015by: Mike Catalano
The majority did agree with the winner of our last Original Vs. Remake which actually had The Ring's remake taking top honors. Though some did praise the original for setting the ground work, many felt that the remake did a much better job conveying the frights. I just hope nobody died seven days after reading the article.

With Spring in the air, we've decided to base today's O vs. R on that oh-so-special ceremony during a high schooler's tenure that involves corsages, dresses, tuxes, underage drinking, sex in a hotel room, and sometimes suspension from graduation! Yes, it's the magical time of year when the Prom bids bloom. So, what better way to express my disdain for such an occasion than tearing through the 1980 and 2008 versions of Prom Night!

Story
A group of high school seniors are preparing for the night of their Prom which happens to fall on the anniversary of an accident that killed one of their friends six years prior. Little does the group know, but they are now being targeted one by one by an unknown whack-job bent on ruining the festivities! The disco ball's about to get bloody!
High school cutie Donna's family was brutally murdered by her teacher, Richard Fenton, who developed a rather unhealthy crush on her. Three years later, as she prepares to attend her senior prom, the psycho instructor escapes from custody and looks to terrorize Donna and her friends on her special night!
Special Effects
Thankfully once the kills kick in, we are treated to plenty of nicely practical blood and gore. Whether it's a stabbing sharp point or the swing of an axe, the red stuff flows freely! We also get a pretty sweet van explosion, but the "kill de résistance" belongs to a sweetly shocking beheading on the brightly bulb-flashing dance floor!
This is a classic example of why PG-13 horror remakes can suck. All the kills here are done off-screen and minimal blood is shown. For a movie like Prom Night, if you aren't going to go all in with fun, visceral kills, you're screwed. So, unless you want to call getting 20 year-olds to look like they're in high school a special effect, there's nothing else.
Acting
What helps Prom Night rise above its somewhat generic slasher premise is the fine acting on hand. Of course, there's Jaime Lee Curtis in the midst of her scream queen revolution delivering some amazing work. She definitely anchors the film. Plus, there's Leslie Nielson in a nicely serious role as Jaime's father and the high school's principal. The rest of the supporting cast shines as well, making for a perfect watching experience.
The majority of the actors on hand aren't too bad. What sucks is the majority of the dialogue they are given. Brittany Snow is fine as the main scream queen (though she doesn't come close to Curtis). The other bitchy girls do a fine job bitching it up. Genre staple Jonathan Schaech milks what he can from the crappy bad guy role. Lastly, there's the great Idris Elba in a smaller role before he got famous.
Intensity
Thankfully, this film was made in 1980 when true horror suspense was still something valued and cultivated. The score utilizes a collection of musical chords played throughout that provides a continuous spine tingling sense. It also helps that the killer remains unknown for most of the running time and speaks in a creepy whisper.
If you get freaked out by lame jump scares and even lamer false jump scares, then this remake is for you! There is nothing frightening about this film. The killer's scary cloak of deception? A baseball cap. Not the best means for inducing chills in viewers.
Hot Chicks
Oh yes, Prom Night is loaded with a bevy of hot early 80's beauties who are not averse to showing brief glimpses of skin. You have Jaime Lee in all her busty glory. I feel this film is what really set her on the path to becoming a major Hollywood hottie. Her cleavage is nicely supported by Anne-Marie Martin, Mary Beth Rubens, and Joy Thompson who are all super cute in their own 80's ways!
At least the remake did get a fair share of hotties on the dance card. Brittany Snow is super cute and sexy in an innocent sort of way. Jessica Stroup from The Following is also very easy on the eyes. Add to that the likes of Dana Davis, Mary Mara, and Jessalyn Gilsig and you have an adequate PG-13 hottie fest.
Directing
For an 80's slasher, Prom Night actually shows clears signs of skilled direction. The characters are well developed and make you care about their well being. The way the killer is kept in the shadows adds a nice feeling of suspense. There is a nicely choreographed fight at the end on the dance floor that is wonderfully entertaining. Lastly, the killer's death scene is smartly interspersed with the beginning, allowing all the proceedings to come full circle.
Director Nelson McCormick should never be allowed to touch a horror film ever again. He knows nothing about crafting proper emotion or suspense. Clearly, he was just going through the motions with this remake. How else can you explain the blatant rip off of a pivotal scene in Silence of the Lambs that allows the killer to elude authorities. It's an insult to the audience and horror films in general.
Prom Night (1980)
The votes have been cast and it appears that the original is the king of this Prom! Was anyone really that surprised? I mean, that remake was all sorts of f*cking awful! However, that's part of the reason why we do these O vs. R articles; to keep the greatness of classics like 1980's Prom Night alive and kicking! But someone, please bury an axe into the remake's head! And do tell me your thoughts on this battle by spitting them bullets below! And if you have any flicks you'd like to see in this column, give me a shout at mikecatalano@joblo.com.

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