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  Prom Night Death Disco
Year: 1980
Director: Paul Lynch
Stars: Leslie Nielsen, Jamie Lee Curtis, Casey Stevens, Anne-Marie Martin, Antoinette Bower, Michael Tough, Robert A. Silverman, Pita Oliver, David Mucci, Jeff Wincott, Mary Beth Rubens, George Touliatos, Melanie Morse McQuarrie, David Gardner, Joy Thompson
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: Six years ago, a group of children were playing hide and seek in an abandoned hospital, except they called it "The Killer is Coming". They were all playing so intently that when three siblings appeared along the road they were less than welcome (nobody wanted to be found). Nevertheless little Robin ventured into the building and stumbled upon Nick, a mistake as it turned out because he chased her and then the three other kids joined him to intimidate her. They advanced on her until she had backed into a window, whereupon accidentally Robin fell out to her death. The four children swore never to speak of this to anyone, but somebody knows their secret...

Is there anything that says 1980 more than Jamie Lee Curtis with her hair permed disco dancing in a slasher movie? Well, it probably says more 1979, but 1980 was the year Prom Night was unleashed on the world, to a favourable reception among the fans of such things, apparently forgetting the fact this was a poor imitation of Halloween chiefly because the Canadian production had secured the services of the genre's biggest star. Watching it now it's easy to grow restless as it takes two thirds of the film for anything much to happen.

And by that I mean for the killer to go on the expected rampage, although the body count is low by most standards of such things, probably because the story is just about over by the time the "thrills" arrive. What this was notable for was the sheer amount of red herrings conjured up by William Gray's screenplay, with almost every character a suspect, and not just the clich├ęd creepy janitor (Robert A. Silverman from Scanners) or the recently escaped pscychopath who happens to be at large in the area and has already committed another murder (offscreen).

Someone is telephoning the four kids, now teenagers, who caused Robin's death and leaving them sinister messages so we can surmise that someone is out for revenge, and you would be right in that assumption. But who? In truth he's not that difficult to spot, and you might be thinking it's the dead girl's father, who is also the father of Curtis's character Kim, played by top-billed Leslie Nielsen. Yet the biggest mystery of the film is actually what happens to him - he appears for about ten minutes in the first half and then completely disappears for the second save for a couple of minutes of laughable grooving. So where did he go? Come to think of it, why cast a star like Nielsen at all when he has so little to do?

These might not seem like important questions in the great scheme of things, but they do occur to you while you watch Prom Night as the victims are set up. Interestingly, one girl, Wendy Richards (Anne-Marie Martin - was someone an Are You Being Served? fan?) is presented as the villain, but when it gets to the sequence where she is being chased by the ski-masked killer, we're completely on her side. This represents the problem with the film: because Kim was not involved with the death of Robin, and never receives a menacing phone call, she's never going to be a potential victim so she's pretty much safe even if her boyfriend isn't. Still, we can always enjoy her lengthy disco dancing number where she struts her stuff to a tune that goes "Prom Night! Everything is all right!" (oh the irony). Music by Paul Zaza and Carl Zittrer.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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