The Horror Honeys: Why You Need To See Prom Night Immediately!

Why You Need To See Prom Night Immediately!

A Slasher Honey Review by Chassity

Prom Night (1980)

On Friday at the Horror Honeys, we put together our lists of films each of us feel are important in educating the younger generations of horror fans. If you ask any of us, we’d no doubt gladly complain to you about how difficult it was to narrow these choices down to JUST five. 

And it’s the truth. But for me, there was one film that I knew right away would be on my list. That film is Prom Night

In case you’ve never seen Prom Night, here’s what you need to know. During what has to have been the most creative variation on Tag, Hide and Seek, and Red Rover ever, a scared young girl (Robin) who doesn’t exactly seem to understand the rules tries to join in the game with the older kids, but falls to her death after they back her up against a window and continue to scare her until she falls out. Conveniently, a known rapist is on the loose and is blamed for Robin’s murder. 

Red Rover pretty much always ends in death. It's science.

Fast forward to six years later, and we meet the older version of Robin’s siblings, Alex and Kim. It’s the anniversary of her death, and it’s also prom time. All the kids responsible for Robin’s death (kids that her sister Kim also happens to be good friends with) start getting threatening phone calls and the like, which works out well for the killer since the man originally accused of Robin’s death has escaped from prison and is now lurking about. Of course, all the kids are killed off one by one on the actual night of the prom, and the movie ends with the reveal of the real killer, and Jamie Lee Curtis saving the day by stopping him from killing the last member of the group that was there the day of Robins’ death.

In the game of survival, Jamie Lee would always be on my team.
Prom Night is responsible for my obsession with the 80s revenge slasher. It’s the reason this is my favorite subgenre. And it’s an important film for someone learning the genre because it establishes a baseline for the revenge slasher plot formula. 

The film is a slow burn for its first half, and then becomes more and more intense once the deaths begin. There are many horror films that try to mimic the concept of establishing the characters’ lives before the bloodbath begins, but the problem is that most of these fall short and are so dull that the audience can’t help but lose interest by the time the murders actually begin. Prom Night movie is never, ever dull. It doesn’t rush its way through the setup and unlike with many other films, I never found myself screaming “Get on with it!” the first time I saw it. In a way, this is what sets it apart from other slashers and makes it a must-see for horror education. I didn’t even care that the murders weren’t yet happening; I actually wanted to know more about these characters. 

Not annoying teenagers? Madness!
Which brings me to another element that makes this movie a stand-out: tolerable teenage characters. Rare is the slasher film that gives us characters that are tolerable, let alone likable. My theory, as I’ve said before, is that this is done to make horror fans feel less guilty about rooting for characters’ deaths (or maybe a less altruistic reason is that people just have an extremely low opinion of teenagers). I wasn’t irritated by any of the group—not even Wendy, the mean girl and ringleader responsible for keeping the truth about Robin’s death a secret. 

I’m gonna go ahead and say it. When I think of Jamie Lee Curtis as a Scream Queen or a Final Girl,  Halloween is not the movie that comes to mind; Prom Night is. Because while the former is wildly popular, and while I like Laurie Strode, Laurie is dull compared to Kim Hammond. Kim is funny, a little sassy, strong and much more interesting. And this is all despite the fact that Kim was never really in any danger. 

Unlike this guy... who lost his head. Ba-dum-tis!
There is one other thing that makes Prom Night a stand out for me: the whodunit element. If you watch enough slasher films, you know this is not something that is easy to do well. Red herrings are generally obvious, the killer’s true identity is usually even more obvious, and attempts to hide the truth until the end are generally embarrassingly laughable. The reveal in Prom Night wasn’t predictable (I certainly didn’t see it coming, even though afterward I felt like maybe I should have) and the mystery and red herrings were amusing and at moments entertaining. In my experience, Prom Night is the only film prior to Scream that handled the whodunit/ mystery element with any drop of finesse and seriousness, if you can believe that. 

Ahhhhh, 80s bangs. Bless you.
In short, Prom Night is one of those films that every horror fan should have healthy knowledge of. It taught me how important and effective music can be when used cleverly in a film. It serves as a glimpse back in time for horror fans like me that weren’t even born when it came out. It is a lesson plan in taking the revenge slasher seriously and not just using it as genre to create a film that is basically a hate letter to teenagers. And if every aspiring horror filmmaker were to watch it, it would show them exactly how to make a slasher film to be proud of. It would also be a dose of reality in regards to what is wrong with most teen movies and horror films of the last fifteen years. 

Prom Night is available on Netflix DVD & blu-ray/DVD

Is Prom Night one of YOUR favorite slashers?
Let Chassity know on Twitter: @ChassMM