April 12, 2008

Movie Review: Prom Night (2008)

Dull. Bland. Uninspired. Dumb. Unnecessary. All of these are words that accurately reflect Prom Night. There are a lot more that can be used, but they are not very nice. Being a remake, Prom Night already has a big strike against it. How many remakes need to be made? Doesn't Hollywood have any original ideas? Why remake films that aren't all that old to begin with? All of these questions are valid. It seems like you cannot turn around without bumping into another remake. I do not believe that the fact remakes are being made is so much the problem. The real problem is that many of them are being used as commodities without any actual effort for artistic credit, of course not all of them fall under this theory, but many do. Prom Night is one of those remakes that is more commodity than art, therefore it lacks any true merit outside of making some money for the studio. And, speaking of studios, is it ironic that one of the movies production companies is called "Original Film"?

The story began way back in 1978, Jamie Lee Curtis was hot off her star making turn in John Carpenter's slasher classic Halloween (remade in 2007). In that film Curtis proved that she could scream and run from a killer like nobody's business. With that success, she became a big name in horror circles, landing roles in three horror films that came out in 1980, Prom Night was sandwiched in between The Fog (another Carpenter film, remade in 2005) and Terror Train (remake coming out later this year, notice a trend?). Prom Night was a moderate hit at theaters prior to becoming a bigger hit on home video. I guess it was enough to spark the remake talks (I am beginning to think that now The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is being remade, nothing is safe).

The first thing you will notice is that it is more of an "inspired by" than a straight up remake. The original film's story is more closely related to I Know What You Did Last Summer, as the friends of the 1980 film accidentally kill someone as twelve year-olds and cover it up, however a witness chooses to exact revenge during the kids prom some years later. Three unrelated sequels followed it, the middle two of which contain more supernatural elements. Now, this remake takes the prom night setting and delivers a story that is much more personal to the central character.

As we begin, the kids are getting ready for their prom, getting their hair done, their dresses on, and hoping in the limo. Of course, this follows an opening with the first scare, you know, we have have the scare seal broken early so that it will work later (well, something like that). As the story goes, Donna (Brittany Snow) suffered the tragedy of watching her mother murdered right in front of her. To make it even better, the killer was one of Donna's teachers who had grown an unnatural attraction to the teen, with books of pictures of her in his home. Now, a few years later, he has escaped from a high security mental hospital and is on his way to get the girl that he believes belongs to him.

So, here we go. Three couples, including Donna and her boyfriend Bobby (Friday Night Lights' Scott Porter), arrive at the big bash and proceed to engage in your stereotypical high school behavior, petty arguments and goofy talk. We then learn that the escaped killer could be headed their way. In short order he arrives and the bodies start to pile up, with Donna viewed as the ultimate prize in the sick mind of our killer.

Prom Night proves very early on to not be a very good film. One of the filmmakers' goals appears to have been the runtime, keep it as short as possible. To reach that goal, anything resembling character development or story has been cut, leaving the barest outlines behind. There is not much left for the actors to work with, so their bad performances could be attributed to the learn script from JS Cardone.

As for the direction? Boring and typical. When faced with a story that is as thin as this, you need to have a strong visual style, and Nelson McCormick just does not have it. The film is rather ugly to watch, with its drab set design, dim lighting, and lack of pop. There are no interesting angles or sequences to point to, either.

Then we have the content. Being a PG-13 film, there is going to be a lack of blood, and this movie delivers. All of those dispatched are done off-screen and in bloodless fashion. In some cases all we get are shirts with stains on them, not even puncture holes. There is no tension build; all of the scares are completely reliant on the overused jump scare. The biggest plot issue is when the fire alarm sounds and everyone stands around dumbfounded, and the reason a key character uses to remain in the building. Are these people complete idiots?

Bottomline. I am not one to right off remakes as immediately unnecessary or guaranteed to be bad, but this one turned out to be both. There is no reason for it to exist other than to dupe those who choose to see it out of their ticket money. I cannot think of a way to defend the film, but I guess it is not really my place now that they already have my money. It is just poorly written and executed. Still, I would rather watch this than One Missed Call (2008) again.

Not Recommended.


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