Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Prom Night (2008)

Weak stuff. It's been widely understood for a couple of decades now that one of the major audiences for horror movies are teens looking for narratives of self-actualization, coming-of-age stories that involve fighting back against the bigger, stronger bad guy and eventually defeating him, all the way back to the original Halloween. Clever producers have refined this formula over the years to more specifically focus on female audiences, so that we've had a slew of incredibly generic girl-centric horror movies that have managed to make lots of money - in addition to the above-average Scream movies, there's I Know What You Did Last Summer, When a Stranger Calls, and now this one, where the traumas of being attacked with a knife are blended with the horror of dealing with the bitchy rich girl at the Senior Prom.

The problem is that these movies are all so blandly similar, which I know is one of the hallmarks of the horror genre, but...jeez, throw me a bone here, Prom Night producer Neal H. Moritz! This version of the movie, which has nothing in common with the 1980 movie beyond the title, begins with a teenage girl (Brittany Snow) discovering the murder of her parents at the hands of your standard psycho creep (Johnathon Schaech), ending as he's about to stick a knife in her, and then we cut violently back to the present (it was just a flashback). All well and good, and obviously setting us up for the climax of the movie when this unresolved scenario will find its consummation, when the young girl, chased and tormented, finally takes matters in her own hands and gets rid of her tormentor, all according to genre plan. Right? Wrong (uh, spoilers), because instead concerned cop Idris Elba simply blows the bad guy away after about 85 minutes of movie and then credits roll. All Brittany Snow learns is that she's going to have to sleep more lightly and hang out with more cops.

So it's a movie that can't even get the basic cathartic release right, which means that it's an hour and a half of watching attractive teens wander, one at a time, into a hotel room where Schaech patiently offs them. I prefer to blame director Nelson McCormick, who has a lot of TV credits, for not bothering to actually think about what his material might be about on any level beyond how often to have a sudden music cue startle his characters (to the movie's credit, it has no frightening cats thrown at the actors by off-screen PAs). There's so much potential in a movie like this to address the fears and desires of teens and moviegoers in general, as proven by the films of John Carpenter and Wes Craven, and it's a shame to see something so bland just pooped out onto movie screens like this.

FYI, I wouldn't have seen this except that I saw that it had been doing pretty well, box-office-wise, and I felt a curiosity to know what was up. I should have known. Still, better than Saw IV.

3/10

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