July 18, 1980

With the runaway success of Friday The 13th, there was a lot of attention directed towards slasher films coming out in its wake. And Prom Night was no exception. I can still vividly remember watching the television spots for it and getting excited. This was definitely a film I had to go see on opening night.

I wasnít alone in my desires, either. My aunt, Melody, who was the head of an apartment complex maintenance crew (donít ask), was also quite taken with the trailers. So, we made plans to attend the opening night together. Little did I know, however, that she had invited her entire maintenance crew to come along with us. Not all of them showed up on that Friday night, but there were three of them there and they were quite the, uh, crew. Long-haired stoners were a dime-a-dozen in 1980, and this trio lived up to their image. Unfortunately, I didnít get stoned along with them. Melody supported an anti-drug persona, so I opted out. But Iíd swear you could smell that marijuana smoke on them. Ah...

The auditorium for Prom Night was packed. It was the same theater where Iíd seen Friday The 13th, and it equaled that film for attendance. However, there was a different atmosphere. When Friday The 13th was released, we didnít know what to expect. And certainly not the gory film we came to see. Prom Night, though, was expected to deliver the goods. It had to live up to Momma Voorhees, or it would fail. It was that simple. Weíd been witness to Tom Saviniís handiwork, so now it was this little film from Canadaís turn to bring its best to the table.

Of course, it was a starring vehicle for Jamie Lee Curtis. And that right there put a lot of expectations on Prom Nightís shoulders. Curtis was, of course, the Scream Queen. The poor girl had survived Michael Myers for crissakes! So everyone already knew she was going to be the final girl. There were no surprises there. Did she live up to her reputation? Oh, sure. She does a fine job in the film, and I was pleasantly pleased with her performance.

Now, what about the film itself? It delivered in spades. The audience ate the film up. From one of the best chase sequences in the sub-genre to David Mucciís decapitation, Prom Night gave the crowd what it was looking for. Of course, itís nowhere as graphic as Friday The 13th, but what it lacked there it made up for in suspense. The aforementioned chase scene is a prime example of such an incident.

I will admit that the disco scenes were a little embarrassing. During the time of this filmís release, disco was slowly becoming extinct. So, it was a little strange to see it displayed so prominently within the film. Years later, Iíve come to cherish those scenes (especially the sequence between Curtis and Casey Stevens), and absolutely adore the soundtrack. And thatís another thing. If youíve never been privy to owning the album, pick up the Prom Night soundtrack. You wonít be sorry.

When the film was over, and the audience was leaving the theater, talk about the movie began to circulate. Earlier in the year, Friday The 13th had been the hot topic. It was nothing to overhear people discussing Kevin Baconís death. But after the release of Prom Night, everybody began to talk about the van scene. Though itís lost some of its footing in the sub-genre over the years, Iíll never forget fans being enamored with that kill. Whenever I revisit the film, I always get a bit excited for it. I can still remember how beloved it was in 1980.

So, did Melody and the maintenance crew enjoy the film? Melody certainly did. She was as big a slasher fan as I am, and Iím sorry to say I havenít spoken to her in years. On the other hand, I believe the crew was too stoned to care either way. They appeared to like it, though. There was certainly no disapproval.

One thing that bothered me, though, and Iím embarrassed to admit this today, but it took me awhile to figure out why Michael Tough is wearing make-up at the end of the film. Of course, I now understand it. But the first time I saw Prom Night, it completely took me off-guard. I now see it as an essential part of the movie. From the bit where Antoinette Bower is missing her lipstick to Tough showing up wearing it, well... The pieces all finally fell together for me.

I went to see Prom Night a few more times at the theater, and also caught it at the drive-in. Iíd also like to mention the first time I saw it on television. It was cool to see that the filmmakers were attempting a bit more red herring action with Leslie Nielsen. Itís too bad those scenes were cut and have never reared their head on DVD. Until then I suppose Iíll be stuck with my VHS warhorse.

Iíve since lost count of how many times Iíve seen Prom Night. And I enjoy it more and more on each viewing. I still lament that we never received a direct sequel. I suppose that mightíve been hard with Toughís passing in the movie, but I wouldíve preferred it to Mary Lou and her shenanigans.

And yes, I also went to see the refake on opening day. I knew I was in trouble with a PG-13 rating, but I couldnít stay away. Iím a glutton for punishment. Thatís the last youíll ever hear me make mention of that particular, um, film.

Now, letís put on our boogie shoes and enjoy Prom Night! Letís slip the DVD into the player, do our best to remind ourselves that itís once again 1980, and sit back to enjoy the show. I know that I will.


Written by Trever Palmer

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