Prom Night (2008)
Reviewed by Nomad
Starring Brittany Snow, Dana Davis, Johnathon Schaech and Idris Elba
Directed by Nelson McCormick
It is the age of the remake. Why bother having an original thought when you can option a cult classic and make it your own? Even better, why not buy a “could have been” film and mold it into box office gold?! This is the plight of Prom Night 2008. Think of this film as the clumsy, awkward, unskilled nephew hired to work with his house-building uncle. He shows up 20 minutes early every day and shows a lot of hustle, but five times a day he trips going up the stairs, knocks over paint cans, puts his hammer through the drywall, smacks people upside the head as he turns a corner with the ladder, and blows out the electricity when his soda explodes all over the fuse box. You could see this boy tried hard, but he’s just a train wreck, and any attempt to cover that up won’t last long.
Prom Night is the story of Donna (Snow) who returns home one night to find her psycho stalking teacher (Schaech) has cut a swath through her family. She even gets a front row seat as he stabs her mother several times as she watches, clutching her mouth, from under a bed. She survives the ordeal, and Mr. Richard Fenton, super freak, is caught. Flash forward some time. Donna still has nightmares about her ordeal but she’s coping. It’s prom night and she’s set to party with her boy friend and two other couples. Unfortunately, Mr. Fenton has escaped!! (dun dun duuuuun) Now it’s a race against time to find Fenton before he finds Donna … and the rest of her graduating class.
My first comment will be that this is a remake, but it isn’t a remake. All Prom Night shares with its 1980’s brother is a name. That said, I begin my rant.
Prom Night seems to be suffering an identity crisis. At times, it seemed to want to be a Scream/ I Know What You Did Last Summer sort of sexy, glossy film with quick cuts, blaring music from today’s hottest bands setting a tone for a cast of pretty little people. Other times, it adapts the slow stalking, violent tone of a classic slasher film. This mix works badly together. The pieces are so different from each other that it’s almost as if two different directors put their spin on the script and neither of them understands what makes for a successful horror film. When I say that, I’m well aware that some bloodless PG-13 jump fests have raked in plenty of cash in the past, so I’m absolutely including those in my assessment, quantifying success as being both a GOOD film and a monetarily positive one. Prom Night is poorly written, ill conceived, and executed with the excitement of a children’s cough medicine commercial. Actually, in the commercial, I usually feel bad for the kid.
It is very hard to bash the actors in this film, as it seems they were given nothing to work with. Brittany Snow slips from mock teenage giggling girl to sobbing horror heroine fairly well, though I couldn’t help feeling her performance was a bit over the top at times, reminding me of what a particularly dramatic moment in a soap opera might look like. Sadly, she’s the stand out as the rest of the cast, save one other, may as well have been giant paper dolls or mannequin place holders cast in white with bar codes on their heads indicating their roles: the supportive friend, the needy friend, super white awesome boyfriend, dedicated police officer, etc., etc. To add a bit of hilarity, the cops are given unfortunate names like Stryker, Hicks, and Nash.
I mentioned a second stand out before, and that would be Johnathon Schaech. The odd thing would be that his teary eyed close-ups cause you to feel a bit sorry for his character … as he longingly stares at his teenage obsession. For me, anything that causes an inner conflict like that is good stuff! It means the actor took me in a direction I didn’t expect to go. Unfortunately, I’m not supposed to go there! Did the director really hope for us to feel bad for the pedophilic homicidal maniac? I think not. I find it hysterical that we are meant to feel so much for this killer while we are given zero insight into any other character in the film, making us not care for their lives even for a second. We’ve got one friend who is obsessed with beating a snotty, rich girl for the prom queen title, her sex starved boyfriend, another friend who cries her way through half the movie, and her man whose signature look is flustered. Donna’s boyfriend punctuates his sentences with a Ryan Seacrest-esque toothy smile while Detective Winn, our hero, mugs his way through the determined hard-boiled cop routine. Yeah … go ahead. Kill them all.
Prom Night is shot with the artistic eye someone gives while finely crafting a Lifetime original film. You know the one. This October, Lifetime takes a break from the courageous tale of a woman surviving (insert disease name here) to tell the somewhat creepy tale of a woman pursued by a stalker ex-boyfriend. It’s dramatic … it’s sappy … it’s immensely dull. It does nothing to further a genre, tell an original story, or strive for ANY sort of newness. Prom Night shares this plight. Watching the killer poke holes in his victims, we sit silently as they slump to the floor with not a drop of blood spilled. It occurred to me that this was the cleanest killer in movie history.
Our director is working with a fairly good-looking killer so he is forced to pour on the camera angles to make him appear creepier. Think about Matthew McConaughey coming at you with a knife. You’d probably go … “OH! Good lookin guy is going to kill me? Naaaa.” Not scary even for a second, so the director throws Schaech into shadows and over the shoulder in the mirror. This mirror shot is repeated to the point of sickness as it practically becomes a fetish of the creator. You’ll get 15 jump scares (Creepy asked me to count!) in this film, 2 of which made my date jump (I might mention she is afraid of EVERYTHING). I’d also mention she decided to take a nap halfway through the film and at one point threatened to leave me.
As if this film were not disjointed enough, it appears to be cut to shreds. I’m not saying it looks like key points were left on the cutting room floor as the crew scrambled to salvage some semblance of a horror film; I’m saying as the film moves from scene to scene, you often get a jarring jump. This is the kind of thing you’d expect when a film catches fire and a projectionist is forced to splice ends together, cross his fingers, and hope for the best. The editor should be shot.
With a plot you can pack into two sentences, one stray spray of blood, an emo killer, and the tension of a very special episode of “Silver Spoons”, we’re left with no reason to support horror this weekend … at least on the big screen. In fact, this is the sort of film that should be punished. Is it really that hard to make a scary movie? Was this crew even aware they were making a horror film??!! A complete waste of my time and yours. I bit the bullet to get you this review. Don’t let my sacrifice be in vain. DON’T GO INTO THE MOVIE!!!
1/2 out of 5
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