PROM NIGHT (2008)
Director: Nelson McCormick
Year of release: 2008
Country of origin: USA/Canada
Running time: 89 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: Both
Tagline: "A night to die for".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: Upon coming home from an outing to the cinema with her friend Donna returns home to find her brother and father dead and an intruder in the house. She hides under a bed but is soon forced to watch her mother being killed in front of her after the killer drags her into the bedroom not realising Donna, the very person he is looking for is hiding so close. Donna manages to avoid detection and the killer is caught and confined to a mental institution. As it turns out he was an ex teacher of Donna's who had developed an unhealthy infatuation with her which cost him his job.
Going forward a few years Donna, though still struggling with the massacre of her family has built a new life for herself and is now living with her aunt and uncle. It is the time of the High School Prom which she will be attending with her boyfriend Bobby along with her friends Lisa and Claire and their respective partners. The event is extravagant and is being held at a classy city hotel. Coinciding with the night of the Prom though is the fact that the killer of Donna's family has escaped from his institution and is thought to perhaps be on the way to the Prom to finish what he started years before. Anticipating trouble the local police swoop down on to the hotel to keep an eye on things but will they do enough to stop the deranged psychopath?
Good points: *The whole thing looks great both in terms of direction and the way it is shot to the production values. Though they clearly don't spend much on special effects surrounding the kills as I'll touch on later everything else looks the part in particular the hotel itself which make for a very glamorous glitzy setting. No expense appears to have been spared when it came to the choosing of the hotel. In terms of how the whole thing looks visually it is streets ahead of a boatload of other slashers.
*The acting I thought was quite good for the most part and the characters quite likeable if a little bland. A bit unremarkable though they might be they're mostly a polite bunch so it's hard to dislike them. Idris Elba as Detective Winn brings name value to the project as well as being a secondary character to root for in addition to final girl Donna. I think he's really good in this and comes across as someone who's very earnest and genuine about trying to protect the kids.
*For me it felt a bit more realistic than many other slasher films in regards to how the police dealt with the situation. I know ultimately they failed to protect Donna and you could argue it was unrealistic they didn't just pull Donna out straight away or shut the whole Prom down but I think they did the next best thing in taking the threat seriously at least and doing their best to keep an eye on things and cover all the exits/entrances in the massive hotel. Also the SWAT team coming in towards the end was a nice touch. Much of the time in slashers the police are completely useless and either don't take things seriously at all or don't show up until the very end if at all but here they make a good fist of it from the start. It was only really because they didn't realise the killer had a master key and that Donna and her friends had a private room upstairs that they kept sneaking off to that things went awry for the police.
*I enjoyed two or three of the kills. I know too many of them were off camera and there was hardly any gore which was dissapointing but I thought Lisa's chase scene was well done and I felt that there was good tension for Rachel and Micheal's deaths respectively when they were attacked in the hotel room. Later on the use of shadow stood out for me as well as a good suspense building tactic in the climax.
The general consensus from most seems to be that the film lacks any tension or excitement whatsoever with the kills but I disagree and thought that those I've mentioned were pretty good. I've also read the criticism that you always know who's about to die and that's true but then that's also the case for so many slashers so I didn't find it an issue. One thing I will say about the kills though is that things could have benefited from there being a bit more variety in the murder weapon as they all seemed to be stabbings or throat cuts.
Bad Points: *One common fault people do find with the film that I can agree on is the age rating which I believe is PG13 in the States and a 15 over here in the UK which consequently means there is little to no gore or blood which does throw a wet blanket on things to some degree. For those that want nudity there is none of that either. I think this did do pretty well at the box office so I suppose the filmmakers would say it was the right decision to make it so tame as it meant more teenagers could go and see it at the cinema.
*The main thing for me that lets the film down a little bit is the killer as he doesn't come across as very menacing or scary in terms of his appearance. There is no disguise or costume to speak of and no mask which leaves him seeming rather bland and on top of that he is too good looking to take very seriously as a threat. Not to say that good looking people can't be dangerous of course but it did take away from the enjoyment here somewhat. There is no mystery for us to unravel either as we know who he is from the very start. It was a welcome diversion in the original Prom Night to try and guess who the killer was but this remake/re-imagining lacks that dimension. With most of this film taking place in a busy hotel though then I suppose it would have been too unrealistic for the killer to be prowling around in a mask. Still it would have been a nice touch for him to have thrown on a balaclava as a nod to the original for the finale at the house.
*It was odd how at the entrance to the hotel they had a red carpet with people lined up on either side taking pictures of the kids as they went in as if they were pop stars or something. Probably it was supposed to be set up to mimic the glitz of a Hollywood award show and the photographers were just the kids parents or reporters from the local paper. It struck me as a bit weird though and could have done with a bit more of an explanation. A very minor quibble though obviously.
*Going back to the killer again there is an issue concerning his hair. In a flashback of him escaping he appears to have short hair yet Detective Winn flashes a picture of him around to the hotel staff in which he has long hair. Why would he do that though as presumably from the flashback he cut his hair sometime prior to the escape so the staff probably wouldn't recognise him from the picture with such a different hair style? Unless they are trying to imply the killer cut it minutes before his escape so that none of the police are aware but that just sounds like me making excuses for the writers.
*This version of Prom Night has kind of a girly vibe to it a bit like an episode of Dawson's Creek or something similar which won't be to everyone's taste but it didn't bother me.
Verdict: I liked this one rather a lot and would rank it among some of the better of the slasher remakes. I know I'm in the minority in liking it so much as it seems to attract mainly very negative reviews even from die hard slasher fans but I thought it was really good despite being rather predictable. The lack of any kind of mask for the killer is a problem but other than that it's mostly smooth sailing. Definitely give it a chance at least if you haven't seen it and try not to be put off by the negativity surrounding it. As I was you may be pleasantly surprised.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Cleaning lady: Stabbed in hotel room.
2) Claire: Stabbed after being chased into hotel bathroom.
3) Michael: Stabbed after the killer surprises him by springing out of the wardrobe/closet.
4) Male staff worker: Strangled in hotel room.
5) Howard K Ramsay: Found dead in the boot of his car. Killer used his identity to book a room.
6) Lisa: Throat cut after a chase scene in part of the hotel closed for restoration work.
7) Detective Nash: Found in car with throat cut.
8) Bobby: Found by Donna in the bed next to her with throat wound.
9) Random policeman at Donna's house: Seen face down dead. Killed off camera.
10) Richard Fenton: Shot by Detective Winn multiple times in the chest.
Note: There possibly may have been an extra kill shown when Fenton escaped the institution but I wasn't too clear on what happened with that.