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'Prom Night': A Movie Review

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Rekindling my love of horror and thriller movies, television shows, and sharing my thoughts with whoever may read them.

The abandoned building where it all began.  'Prom Night' (1980)

The abandoned building where it all began. 'Prom Night' (1980)

Story Summary

The movie opens with a group of kids; Kelly, Wendy, Nick, and Jude playing a game similar to hide-and-seek in an abandoned building. As three of them hide, the fourth one chants, "the killer is coming, the killer is coming" while searching.

Siblings Kim, Robin, and Alex arrive at the building and see Nick walking along a ledge outside the upper-story windows. Kim realizes she forgot a book and Robin decides to join the group of friends in their game and tells Alex to go home.

Once inside, Robin searches for the others and runs into Nick. Rather than hiding together, Nick starts to shout, drawing the attention of the other girls. Once united, they all surround Robin, "kill, kill, kill", they chant as she slowly backs away. Robin backs up too far and falls through a window, landing on a pile of stacked glass. The others panic and agree that in order to avoid getting into any trouble and going to jail, they must all swear to never tell anyone what happened. After the group leaves, another window comes loose from the 2nd story and falls, landing on Robin.

Jude, Wendy, Nick and Kelly taunt Robin seconds before she falls to her death in 'Prom Night' (1980),

Jude, Wendy, Nick and Kelly taunt Robin seconds before she falls to her death in 'Prom Night' (1980),

Six years later. All of the kids in the group, along with Kim (Robin's older sister) and Alex (Robin's younger brother) are all busy planning their prom night. We get to see that Nick and Wendy were an item, but have recently broken up, although Wendy doesn't want to accept it. Nick now wants to take Kim to the prom instead. Jude meets a random guy on her way to school and they immediately become a couple and plan to attend the prom together. Kelly is dating a sex-crazed guy and most of her time is spent pushing him off of her and debating whether she should finally "go all the way".

Nick's father, the local police lieutenant who was working the day Robin fell to her death, had assumed that her death had occurred when a known sexual predator, Leonard Murch, lured her to the building and she fell out the window as she was trying to escape. Later, as the police were pursuing him, he wrecked his car and it burst into flames. He survived the fire and was institutionalized in the state hospital. Upon learning of his recent escape, his doctor describes him as a "catatonic schizophrenic who was disfigured and institutionalized after the murder". This gives us our first suspect for what's to come.

An unknown man reaches out to the group responsible for Robin's death in 'Prom Night' (1980).

An unknown man reaches out to the group responsible for Robin's death in 'Prom Night' (1980).

After Jude, Kelly, and Wendy all receive phone calls from a raspy-voiced male, they brush it off and continue their planning for the big dance. Meanwhile, Nick chooses not to answer the call.

At the school, we're introduced to Mr. Sykes, a visually creepy maintenance man using hedge trimmers. The way he watches Kim and Alex walk into the school is enough to give anyone the heebie-jeebies. This sets the groundwork for suspect number two.

Robert A. Silverman as Mr. Sykes in 'Prom Night' (1980)

Robert A. Silverman as Mr. Sykes in 'Prom Night' (1980)

Most of the movie is concentrated around the group as they prepare for the prom, their relationship issues, teenage sexual frustration, you know, the usual. But eventually, little things begin to set the stage for the murderous finale.

The story continuously leads you to believe that there is more than one potential killer.

Kim (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Nick (Casey Stevens) take the spotlight as king and queen of the prom in 'Prom Night' (1980).

Kim (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Nick (Casey Stevens) take the spotlight as king and queen of the prom in 'Prom Night' (1980).

Main Cast / Characters

Jamie Lee Curtis

Kim Hammond

Casey Stevens

Nick McBride

Eddie Benton (now Anne-Marie Martin)

Wendy Richards

Mary Beth Rubens

Kelly Lynch

Michael Tough

Alex Hammond

Leslie Nielsen

Mr. Hammond

George Touliatos

Lt. McBride

Tammy Bourne

Robin Hammond

Behind The Scenes

William Gray

Writer

Paul Lynch

Director

Peter R. Simpson

Producer

Richard Simpson

Producer

Brian Ravok

Editor

AVCO Embassy Pictures

Distributed by

Favorite Character

Jamie Lee Curtis as Kim in 'Prom Night' (1980).

Jamie Lee Curtis as Kim in 'Prom Night' (1980).

Overall, the acting in this movie is a little sub-par, but like the truly great performer that she is, Jamie Lee Curtis stood out for me. She's a horror movie queen these days, with a scream that other horror actresses strive to achieve, but back then, she was just an up and coming star on the big screen.

I'll admit, it was difficult for me to watch at times, knowing that she was pining over a guy who was partly responsible for her sister's death, wondering how differently she would feel if she knew the truth about her close circle of friends.

Memorable Quote

Edmonda Benton (now Anne-Marie Martin) as Wendy in 'Prom Night' (1980).

Edmonda Benton (now Anne-Marie Martin) as Wendy in 'Prom Night' (1980).

During the prom planning process, Wendy encounters Kim in the gym where she's to be crowned prom queen, Kim's dancing around. They have a heated discussion about the fact that Kim is now going to the prom with Nick and not the recently dumped Wendy, to which Wendy replies, "it's not who you go with, honey, it's who takes you home." Her little dig to let Kim know she fully expects to win Nick back.

Raves

  • I love that the movie gives us reason to believe that there is more than one suspect. Is it the recently escaped psychopath, Leonard Murch? Could it be the creepy maintenance man, Mr. Sykes? And what about the overly macho Leo who seems to have a beef with everyone he comes into contact with? Or is it someone else who knows the dirty little secret they've been hiding for the past six years?
  • I also like that the flashbacks were used to let us know which teen was the grown version of the young kids playing in the building. Some films just do a hard cut to the future, and without really knowing most of the characters as their younger selves, it takes longer than necessary to figure out who's who.
  • I applaud the fact that while being chased through the school by the killer, in high heels, Wendy is able to make it through the entire sequence without breaking a heel.
  • Another thing I love about revisiting older movies of any genre, is seeing all of the little things from my childhood that are considered relics today or are frowned upon; rotary phones attached to landlines, oversized wire-rim glasses, and let us not forget the fact that they're smoking everywhere, including inside the school without a care in the world. Another thing that actually made me laugh out loud was Lou's uni-brow. So unkempt, yet so normal for 1980.

Nitpick

David Mucci as Lou in 'Prom Night' (1980).

David Mucci as Lou in 'Prom Night' (1980).

  • One thing that always grates on my nerves is the overly acted "bad boy" in any movie or show. Lou's character was so over the top it wasn't believable. I usually find myself rolling my eyes during scenes with these types of characters, and this movie was no exception.
  • I know they draw the attention of the movie-goer, but I don't understand the need for most shower scenes, with or without nudity. I also had an issue when Kim and Kelly ran outside from the locker room and Kim's button-up shirt was completely undone, exposing her bra and cleavage. I literally shook my head, "who does that?"
  • Another little nitpick I have is the fact that when Nick gets knocked out, it looks and sounds more like a slap. I actually laughed because of how ridiculous it was.

Would I Recommend?

Overall, I enjoyed re-watching this movie. It isn't one that keeps you on the edge of your seat for very long, but it does have a good set-up and follow-through - eventually.

On my scale of Own/Theater/Rent/Netflix, maybe it's for the nostalgia factor, but I'd like to see this one in a theater, just once. After that, I'd leave it to Netflix.

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