VIDEO: Prom Night
Pop Culture Rule No. 1: Wait long enough and even the stinkiest trash gets recycled into art. Rule No. 2: Usually this trash conveys the odor of its era more faithfully than the perfumed classics. Rule No. 3: Never let it be said that Jamie Lee Curtis had an easy time taking out the garbage.
Featuring a ferociously hair-flipped Curtis as yet another stalked (and virginal) Final Girl, the no-budget psycho thriller Prom Night (1980) has been given the widescreen laserdisc treatment--apparently owing to the hip genre necrophilia of the Scream films (see: Rule No. 1). Unlike these, Prom Night isn't clever about how it carves up pretty young things. But the disc's appended coming-attractions trailer practically adopts the teen killer's split personality: It starts out selling Prom Night as a high-school Saturday Night Fever ("A night [they] can break all the rules...") and ends as a blood-spattered Halloween redux, as if to say that, in 1980, Disco Equals Death (Rule No. 2). Sure enough, the film's boogie-inflected climax of Jamie Lee raising an axe to the psycho's head seems to mark the end of an era, and with it the end of one scream-queen's livelihood (Rule No. 3)--or at least until 1998's Miramaxed Halloween sequel (Rule No. 1 again).
Although hack director Paul Lynch can't resist making a color-coordinated cut between a female victim's slit throat and the prom's blood-red punch bowl, Prom Night is appreciably less misogynistic than most slasher films. Still, it's probably best to watch this trashy "art" within reaching distance of Carol J. Clover's Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film (Princeton University Press).
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