Remember how I said they’d saved the worst for last with “Prom Night 4: Deliver Us From Evil”? That was chuffing Shakespeare crossed with Tarantino compared to the 2008 remake, one of the dumbest, most pointless movies ever to go under the “slasher” banner. It’s down there with the worst of the worst, and in the little mini-era of remaking 70s and 80s horror – “Friday The 13th”, “Halloween”, “A Nightmare On Elm Street”, “My Bloody Valentine”, “April Fools Day”, “Children Of The Corn”, “The Hills Have Eyes”, “Day Of The Dead”, “Dawn Of The Dead”, “Fright Night”, “Silent Night, Deadly Night” and “Black Christmas” – that happened between 2005 and 2012 or so, this is right down at the bottom.
But I can’t expect you to believe me, so let’s talk Idiot Plot. The Idiot Plot, as coined by Roger Ebert, is a movie that would fall to pieces in seconds if any person made a single sensible decision or asked a single reasonable question. It relies at every turn on people being as dumb as possible and for every single domino to fall exactly favourably for the antagonist – while this has its uses, such as the best tragedies, it’s fairly safe to say that “Prom Night” does not number itself among the great works of that genre. I will hopefully provide you with many examples of the Idiot Plot in action throughout the course of this review.
We have writer J.S. Cardone to thank for that Idiot Plot, and he’s got previous ISCFC form. He was an uncredited writer on the first “Puppetmaster”, and Full Moon Pictures gave him his break – he also wrote “Crash and Burn”. Then a little later he dabbled in SyFy Channel original movies, giving us “Alien Hunter”, before finishing up on crap like this (he hasn’t worked since 2009’s “The Stepfather”, another horror remake that didn’t exactly set the world on fire).
The plot, in case you wondering, is so utterly dissimilar to the 1980 original that the decision to use the name can only be a cynical money-grabbing one. Donna (Brittany Snow) witnesses the murder of her entire family by a teacher who’d become obsessed with her; three years later, he’s locked up on the other side of the country and she’s ready for Prom, going to the same school, in the same town. She sees a psychiatrist (played by the lovely Ming Na in a too-short cameo), has a boyfriend, Bobby (Scott Porter, who was 28 at the time of filming, playing 18), and a nice group of friends, who I won’t bother to list because they’re pretty much cannon fodder and no-one has ever complained about the lack of a list of minor characters in a slasher film review.
Anyway, the teacher, Richard Fenton (Jonathan Schaech) escapes from maximum security mental hospital, but thanks to a bureaucratic mix-up, no-one bothers telling the police force of his old town for three days. This force is pretty much represented solely by Idris Elba as “Detective Winn”, and while he’s one of the best actors currently plying their trade, he must have really not liked being there as he’s as painfully generic as they come. So, Fenton has made it all the way back to his old town, with love on his mind – well, psychosis and murder, which is nearly the same thing. We see him right from the beginning, there’s never a twist or a single doubt that he’s butchering everyone, and butcher he does. Every ten minutes or so, one of the dumbass teens will go off on their own for some reason, and Fenton is always in the perfect place to murder them (but only with stabs to the gut, because this is PG-13 and they can’t be showing too much blood). He’s every psychopath you’ve ever seen, and is therefore almost instantly forgettable.
Let’s talk fake scares! They are much beloved by crappy horror movie makers, and this one, directed by a fellow named Nelson McCormick (for whom this represents a very rare non-TV credit), is crappy. You name it, “Prom Night” has it – the dream sequence; the “hey, the murderer just disappeared behind that moving bus in the middle distance” one; the Final Girl backing into someone and screaming, only for it to be her friend (or a pot plant); a tree making spooky noise outside her window; and, by far the most common, the mirror scare. You can absolutely guarantee that if anyone goes to a mirrored bathroom cabinet, or is stood in front of a mirror, then looks away, then looks back, they’re in for a scare! It happens so often that you might be inclined to start believing it’s a joke, but there are no jokes in this movie. By the fifth or sixth one, I was ready to smash the director’s head into a mirror, just to make sure he never did it again.
So, we’ve already had the “sorry about not mentioning the psychotic killer on his way to your town”, but then this gets compounded. Idris pops round to tell Donna’s aunt and uncle that Fenton has escaped, but they decide not to tell her immediately, because it might spoil her Prom, and it’s not like the completely obsessed guy would head towards the woman he’s obsessed with, right? Then, Idris goes to the hotel, and rather than circulate Fenton’s photograph, just sort of vaguely asks a few hotel staffers if they’ve seen anything suspicious. Elba is the dumbest cop I can remember, staying three steps behind the killer at all times – well, until the last thirty seconds of the movie. Almost every member of the cast leaves the Prom at least once to go up to their room, just so they can be alone with the murderer, who’s able to move around at will, and always knows which closet his potential victim is about to use. Even when the Prom is being evacuated by the cops, looking for the killer, Donna decides to pop back to her hotel room, on her own, to grab a shawl. Good old horror teens and their complete lack of self-preservation! When they take her and her family home, they make sure to only have one cop with them, just to make it nice and easy for Fenton to kill them all, and Elba waits until way way too late to call for backup. Good work cops!
Everything about the new “Prom Night” is glossy and dull. Not much point comparing the two, but the 1980 one had a home-made-looking Prom, with a cast made of fairly average looking people. This Prom went over-budget by $100,000 (what must the overall bill have been?) and has taken over a huge, glitzy hotel; the entire cast is model-perfect, of course. It has the flatness of something made by a committee, with not a single interesting creative voice within a million miles of the production; the cast are the same, blandly professional to the point you wouldn’t say they were good or bad, really (although you expect more from a guy like Elba).
It’s just a “nothing” movie. The scares aren’t scary, there is absolutely no humour whatsoever to leaven the stodgy script, there’s no gore, you don’t care about any of the characters, and the sense of utter futility is strong. I feel like this is about as close as we’ll get to just spending 90 minutes watching a company’s balance sheet slowly ticking up (it made a very small profit, mercifully not enough to bless us with any further sequels). A waste of time on every possible level.
Rating: thumbs down