If you’re not bored by midnight…
“A night to die for.”
Director: Nelson McCormick / Writer: J.S. Cardone / Cast: Brittany Snow, Johnathon Schaech, Idris Elba, Scott Porter, Jessica Stroup, Dana Davis, Collins Pennie, Kelly Blatz, James Ransone, Brianne Davis.
Body Count: 14
After it was name-checked by loveable horror geek Randy in Scream, rumours of a Prom Night remake circulated for a while before the film finally materialised in 2008. However, the phrase “PG-13″ had already reared its unwelcome head, a total no-no for any worthwhile slasher flick.
In spite of the name, this is hardly a remake at all and should have been called Prom Night V if not something totally different altogether. There’s more common ground with the hit and miss remake of When A Stranger Calls from 2006, in that both films are heavily geared towards an audience comprised of teenage girls who talk all the way through the film, punctuating screams with “oh my God, look at her dress!” and “she’s such a bitch, just like Stacey…you know Stacey? Oh wait, I’ve got a text!”
Prom Night redux isn’t an entirely awful experience, more of a forgetable one. It’s a visit to a theme park that has no good rollercoasters or a zoo with only domestic animals. It’s a day out – just a really bland one you can’t be arsed to tell anyone about. The story is as simplistic as they come: teenager Donna comes home from a night out to find her ex-teacher murdering her family. She gets away and, three years later, her prom looms. Alas, Mr Fenton – who had an unexplained obsession with Donna – has broken out of his asylum and is on his way to claim her as his own.
Donna and her pals are already at the dance by the time the local cops learn of Fenton’s escape and he, seemingly dressed as Forrest Gump, is already on scene at the Pacific Grand Hotel where the prom is being held. Well…is it a prom? Why is there a red carpet and paparazzi outside for a school dance? Why is everyone from Bridgeport High so uniformally beautiful and in their 20s? Amidst the girl characters bitching about who should be prom queen, during which the characters prove themselves incapable of exclaiming little more effective than “totally” and “oh my God” and wondering if they’ll ever see each other again (mwa-ha-haaaa), people keep going up to their suite and not coming back, or, in one case, Donna’s friend Lisa realises she saw Mr Fenton and runs off to tell her friend, not bothering to tell her boyfriend where she’s going or taking him with her… Guess what happens to her.
Eventually, stalker and stalkee come face to face before she is saved by Elba’s one-note detective and they all go back for a dull finale back at Donna’s house and I wondered to myself why Fenton was ever so transfixed with her in the first place… Brittany Snow may be a pretty actress, no more so than bouncy gal-pals Davis and Stroup but essentially she’s a bit…boring. Even her jockstrap boyfriend Bobby is a cardboard cut out. This is one of many scripting errors made here, although it’s nothing compared to the casting faux pas of placing hunky Schaech to play the psycho. Mr Fenton, once shaven headed and faced, is probably the best looking maniac in horror history. Screw Donna, I’ll run away with the guy!
The fact that we know who the killer is from five minutes in also sucks. The paperthin mystery of the original Prom Night made for a fun diversion that’s entirely absent here. In fact there are no twists anywhere in sight. The producers have gone for the most inoffensive garb they can get away with calling a horror flick, although it’s hardly that, with victims who, when stabbed a dozen or so times, bleed approximately enough to fill a shot glass and then cease. Considering the bodycount skyrockets to almost thrice as many as the original, save for a blood spatter or two, the film is as dry as a piece of sandpaper stuck to a cactus in the desert.
An inexplicable box office success, Prom Night is so commercially crass that it could well be included in a box set of ‘Essential Sleepover Movies’ featuring a free hairbrush and a Zac Efron poster. Worse still, its cash-catching mits assured the writer/director duo took on a remake of The Stepfather next and then, quite possibly, a PG-13 remake of Hell Night. Dark times.
Blurbs-of-interest: scribe J.S. Cardone directed 1981 quasi-nasty The Slayer; Jessica Stroup was in The Hills Have Eyes II and Pray for Morning. Schaech had a small role in Laid to Rest and its sequel.