Prom Night (1980)

My prom was rather uneventful. I skipped my Junior Prom, completely uninterested in the event and my friends did not seem too gung-ho about it either. While the richer kids were looking at the options for limos, dresses, and tuxes, I was excited to do just about anything else. I honestly do not remember what I did instead of going to Junior Prom and I know for a fact that nobody asked where I was the following Monday. I was already the weird theater kid who would have probably gone full goth if he did not have social anxiety. The following year, the Senior version of Prom approached and I was similarly nonplussed. Some of my friends were bringing dates but I had nobody and I had zero desire to ask anybody. I also had zero interest in going without a date. I just did not understand the appeal. I was working backstage at a show downtown at the time anyway so I had an excuse to get out of it. However, my mother pushed me to go anyway and so I went to the venue about thirty minutes before the scheduled end time. I really only agreed to attend because there was a tour of the cemetery where Poe was buried but when I arrived, the tours had been canceled. So I left.

Obviously, from what is written above, one could infer that I was alienated from my fellow students in high school. That is really how I felt. I felt that people I went to school with could care less if I lived or died and forgot me as soon as I was no longer in their field of vision. Looking back, I know that I decided this because it was a defense mechanism because of my social anxiety. If I wrote people off so I did not have to risk myself or put myself out there while I was in an extremely vulnerable time in my life. I had really good friends, two best friends at that time actually, but I was not as plugged into the social scene. I spent a lot of time with headphones on, scribbling in composition notebooks with bad poetry, story ideas, video game plots, short plays, short stories, and even song lyrics. It was during this period that I really embraced writing, something I still really love. In my memory, I shut myself off and just tried to survive. However, I went to reunions later and realized that people did remember me and remembered me fondly. They cared about what I was doing and who I am now. So, a lot of it was in my head and I have found that is a common experience in high school.

The first thing I noticed (as a former sound designer and technician), is the excellent sound in the movie. Older movies had fewer options when it came to special effects but they definitely could apply cool effects to audio. Over and over it is a part of older horror movies I have reviewed here like The Innocents, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, and The Hills Have Eyes. This movie is no different. The simple string music and the deep, rich sounds, and the proper use of echo sounds are so important to making this movie scary. Of course, this is also a disco movie but that is to be expected for a school dance movie in the early eighties. The pacing of this movie is also really good. There is a slow build to the movie that is instrumental to the tension of the movie. The movie has a slow burn that does well with ratcheting up the tension so that the viewer is good and ready for the chaos to begin. It also lets us get to know all of the players really well so that we will empathize with them as much as possible.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the cast in this one, especially considering a new release in theaters right now (Oct. 2018). The movie stars Jamie Lee Curtis, two years after Halloween so she is a little more mature and she has a few more movies under her belt. This was during the time she was gaining her title of Scream Queen (three horror movies in 1980 alone!). There is a reason that she is so celebrated. She is a great actress and she was really proving herself in this movie. Her father (and the principal) is played by Leslie Nielsen, who people forget can play a good straight man in non-comedic movies. George Touliatos plays the police lieutenant who is trying to track the killer, a very serious and haunted man. His scenes are very psychological as he is consumed by the responsibility of keeping the community safe. There are plenty of other teenage victims, the point of most slasher movies and it is interesting to see them interact in high school before the big dance. It creates a lot of intrigue, laying plenty of red herrings so it is harder to figure out who the killer is.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It came out the same year as Friday the 13th and is similar but I feel like it is way more artistic and fleshed out. Despite having Jamie Lee Curtis in it, it failed to be as big a hit even though I feel like it is the better of the two. Coming from me, that is high praise. The movie is more complex than many horror movies of its day (and later) in that it explores the victims and the killer and the situation in depth before really plunging into the real horror. I went in expecting this to be goofy but it had way more thought and heart than I thought it would.

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