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The Fashionably Late Review: Prom Night

June 28, 2009

(Ed. note: The Fashionably Late Review is a critique of a film released in the last two years — with spoilers, so it may be appropriately reviewed in its entirety. So be warned. If you really wanted to see the following movie, you’d have seen it by now anyway.)

Listen up. Because what I’m about to say may save your life. Or at least 89 minutes of it.

If you’re so inclined, feel free to read this entire review. With spoilers. Because I wouldn’t be a good friend to you if I actually let you sit down and watch this steamer yourself. In fact, if you did, I’d likely think less of you. As you should of me, just for watching it. Let’s not make this awkward, though.

I’m not entirely sure what I expected from the 2008 horror Prom Night. I knew going in that it wasn’t a remake of the 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis version, at least at its core. Both films do, obviously, take place at proms, which makes them different from, say, horror flicks which take place on “Monte Carlo night,” or on “taco night.” And perhaps, in my retrospective goggles of positivity, I remember the 1980’s original as being a somewhat more solid horror film than it actually was. But even if I romaniticized the 80’s Prom Night infinitely and the adult me watched it only to realize it was absolutely terrible, I still can’t imagine it being as absolutely terrible as Prom Night (2008), which the adult me recently watched and still has the Roseville limo rentals scenes scarred in my memory.

I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll give you the quick rundown: Donna (Brittany Snow) lives with her aunt and uncle after, a few years before, a teacher obsessed with her killed her family. Now she’s a senior, ready for her senior prom, and it would seem extremely unlucky that the fellow who killed her family has sprung himself from prison and happens to still be obsessed with her.

I guess this would be as good a place as any to mention that the killer, Richard Fenton, is played by Jonathan Schaech. You may remember Jonathan Schaech from his role as the handsome lead singer in That Thing You Do. No? Well, how about Road House 2: Last Call, which he wrote himself and his production company produced, and in which he also occupies the lead role? Yes, I thought that might jog your memory. He also would appear to be a “young Peter Gallagher” impersonator. His Richard Fenton is a dastardly sort of fellow, the kind you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. You may wonder: what sorts of lurid methods does he use to terrify his prey? So glad you asked. He wears a super-scary sportcoat with an ultra-creepy baseball cap. Seriously. This is how he’s dressed through most of the movie, aside from a brief time where he’s dressed as a spine-chilling hotel employee. And he also uses a knife. A giant carving knife, you ask? No, pretty much just a regular old knife. Does he mutilate and dismember, you ask? No, he basically just stabs you. In a terrifying way? Again, no.

As Donna and her friends attend and enjoy the prom, Fenton shows up to find Donna, followed by Detective Winn (Idris Elba) and Winn’s ridiculously dorky partner, who might as well have a target painted on his face. One by one, Donna’s friends excuse themselves to find ways to head up to the hotel suite alone, where they’re killed gorelessly by Fenton in the dullest ways possible, until Winn decides to pull the fire alarm and evacuate the hotel in an effort to save Donna from her murderous paramour.

What I’m about to tell you should be forbidden by anyone who is attempting to legitimately review a movie, but I only tell you this because, well, I feel we’ve really become close over the last few paragraphs, and I want to be completely honest. By this point, at about the one hour mark, I decided that I couldn’t watch this movie anymore, which was upsetting to me because I’ll usually watch anything at all if it’s projected upon a screen of some sort. But I share the following because I feel it accurately describes how awful this movie truly is.

I clicked fast forward and watched the movie at twice the normal speed, without sound. And still, I fell asleep. No lie. In an effort to zoom ahead to at least see the film’s conclusion, I expedited the film — and even fast-forwarded, the movie was so terrible I couldn’t watch it.

What I saw (I couldn’t hear any of the dialogue) of the last thirty minutes, during the moments I was lucid, was precisely what I expected to see. Fenton trails Donna to her home, with Detective Winn close behind, where there is a giant climax and Detective Winn shoots Fenton. And you’ll be interested to know that this movie is so clueless about how a true horror movie should operate that it only takes one shot to kill him, and he stays dead. He doesn’t even jump up for one last scare. It’s that bad. They didn’t even get the one timeless cliche right.

You’re welcome. Now please, promise me you won’t ever watch this movie. I say this because I love you. Now promise me. Promise me you won’t watch it!

In the end, the film Prom Night isn’t too different from most actual high school proms — it’s marginally less fun than you hoped it would be, and it ends with the police shooting and killing someone in your kitchen.

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