NORTH OF THE BORDER HORROR: Prom Night (1980)

After failing to sell Halloween producer Irwin Yablans on his pitch for a movie, director Paul Lynch ran with the suggestion that he set his film during a holiday. A prom seemed like a pretty big event and it tied in well with a story writer Robert Guza had created that was all about childhood trauma coming back to haunt people. Once Jamie Lee Curtis signed to be in the film (Brady Bunch star Eve Plumb was also up for the role), all that was left was to make the movie.

The film starts in 1974, when Wendy, Jude, Kelly and Nick are playing some weird game that seems like hide and seek but has them screaming, “The murderers are coming!” Maybe this is a game that kids play in Canada that teaches them that if they are not polite, they will be killed.

Another girl, Robin, tries to join in but they start chasing her while yelling, “Kill! Kill!” They back her up toward a window which she falls out of to her doom. Instead of telling the police, the kids make a pact to never reveal the truth. After Leonard Mench, a sex offender, is caught in the area, he is blamed and jailed for the crime.

Six years later, Robin’s family celebrate the memorial of her death while her twin brother Alex and teenage sister Kim (Curtis) prepare for the prom. Their parents will also be at the prom, as Mr. Hammond is the school principal He’s played by Leslie Nielsen, adding some star power before everyone would only know him as a serious actor. In fact, Airplane! would come out the same month as this movie.

Kelly, Jude and Wendy (Anne-Marie Martin, billed here as Eddie Benton, former wife of Jurassic Park creator Michael Crichton) have all started getting obscene calls while Nick never answers the phone. They’re all too worried about the prom, after all. Kim and Nick have been dating, Jude is going with goofball Slick Crane and Kelly is going with Drew (and he cannot wait for afterward, so they can have sex). Wendy used to date Nick and now, she is going to the prom with school bad boy Lou to embarrass her former friends.

There are so many bad omens: the locker room mirror is cracked and a shard is missing; Leonard Mench has escaped; and Wendy, Jude and Kelly have discovered their yearbook photos stabbed with glass and placed in their lockers.

Everyone still goes to the prom, where most of the drama is the triangle between Kim, Nick and Wendy. Disco was still somewhat around — it’s never really died to be honest — when this was released. Dig that dancing goodness.

Kelly and Drew are getting hot and heavy, but she refuses to go all the way. He leaves just in time for a giallo-style black-clad killer to slit her throat with a shard of the mirror. This same killer kills Jude and Slick after they share a joint and do some dancing — horizontal style — in his van.

The sex offender has been caught, so the police stop scrutinizing the prom. Yep, three kids are dead under their noses and they just move on. Maybe this really is a giallo with a police force this bad at their jobs!

Actually, that number is increasing, as the killer has an axe and he chases Wendy through the school, finally killing her just after she finds Kelly’s corpse.

Will Prom Night only be a slasher movie? Nope. It’s going to have a Carrie scene as well, in addition to trying to be Saturday Night Fever! Kim and Nick are just about to be crowned king and queen when Lou and his gang tie up Nick and steal his crown. Lou gets ready backstage and the killer thinks he’s Nick and well, his head rolls as the prom dancers run in abject terror.

Kim frees her boyfriend and they run from the killer, who only attacks him. She grabs the axe and hits the masked man in the head before realizing who it is — her brother! Turns out he watched the kids kill their sister and has been waiting for revenge. She tries to stop the cops from shooting him, but the axe wound does him in and our heroine cries at the death of her brother.

Wow. Who knew Canadians were so nihilistic? What a dark ending! Prom Night is a great slice of 80’s fun that really has nothing in common with any of its sequels. But that’s fine.

There were tons of deleted scenes that actually revealed that Alex and Robin were twins and others that made Mr. Hammond look like the killer. To pad the running time and make up for censored gore, many of these missing scenes and characters were added back into the film for the TV version.

If you really think about it, Halloween starts with Jamie Lee Curtis’ sister getting killed and then her brother ends up being the killer. The same thing happens here — except no one would know the family relationship between Laurie Strode and Michael Meyers until 1981’s Halloween 2.

Want to watch it for yourself? Grab the Synapse blu-ray or watch it on Shudder!

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