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Prom Night (2008)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 8/19/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/14/2008
The terms story, plot, and concept are often used interchangeably and confused. (And, of course, when someone mentions a movie, we always say, "What's it about?", which adds another confusing term to the mix.) A concept is simply an idea for a movie. The plot is an overall structure for the film. And the story is the meat of the piece, containing the beginning, middle, and the end. A well-made movie should actually contain all three of these elements in order to make a complete package. Prom Night has a concept, a bit of a plot, and no story. Can you guess what the result is?
Brittany Snow stars in Prom Night as high school student Donna Keppel. When Donna was 14, she was stalked by a teacher from her school, Richard Fenton (Johnathan Schaech), who had become obsessed with her. Fenton broke into Donna's house, and when he didn't find her home, slaughtered her family. (There's nothing more endearing than killing the loved ones of the object of your affection.) Following this, Fenton was institutionalized. Donna is now a high-school senior, and thanks to years of therapy, she's doing OK, and living with her Aunt (Jessalyn Gilsig) and Uncle (Linden Ashby). Donna is excited about attending the prom with her boyfriend, Bobby (Scott Porter). She goes to the prom, which is held at a lavish hotel, with Bobby and a group of their friends. The group have reserved a suite at the hotel for after the festivities. Meanwhile, Fenton has escaped from the institution and made his way back to town. Detective Winn (Idris Elba) catches wind of this and sends a group of police to guard the prom. Will Fenton finally get his dream girl, no matter what it takes?
I'm not one to mince words, so here we go: Prom Night is one of the worst excuses for a studio film that I've ever seen. As noted above, the movie has no story. It has a concept and traces of a plot and that's it. We learn that Fenton is obsessed with Donna and that he was imprisoned for killing her family. We see Donna and her friends go to the prom. We find out that Fenton has escaped. After that, we get no new ideas or information...and all of this happens in the first 30 minutes of the movie.
Following this, the movie gets very ridonculous and if you insist on watching the movie, you may be better off viewing it as a farce. (The following may seem like spoilers, but trust me, they aren't.) Donna and Fenton arrive at the hotel at about the same time. Fenton kills a hotel staff member to gain access to Donna's suite. After that, he simply sits in the room and kills anyone who walks in. (This is another one of those slasher films where the killer will kill anyone, whether or not they have direct contact with his intended victim.) So, anytime a character says, "I'm going up to the suite", you know that Fenton will have to get off of the bed (or whatever he was doing) and get to work. In between these moments, we are treated to scenes of the police debating about what they should do, and Donna and her friends discussing their plans for college. What fun!
Not only is Prom Night an exercise in tedium, but it's a creative wasteland as well. We know from the outset that Fenton is the killer, so we don't even get a cheap murder-mystery. In the 80s, the least that a slasher film could offer was an interesting mask for the killer. But, since we already know who Fenton is, his disguise to elude the police is a black baseball cap. Wow, that is exciting. The only area where the film gets excessive is in the spectacle of the prom itself. Even though the movie tells us that the father of the class rich girl paid for the prom, it's more elaborate than most night clubs. And why are their paparazzi and a crowd behind barricades out front? Is it just a prom, right?
Of course, the film's biggest crime, besides being awful, is that the title implies that it's a remake of the 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis film of the same name. Well, it's not. (And according to some comments from the producers that I've read, it was never intended to be.) The two movies have a prom and a killer and those are the only similarities. The original Prom Night had a twisty mystery and Leslie Nielsen. The new film offers only one predictable scene after another. This is one Prom Night where it's OK to sit at home alone.
Prom Night dances onto DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only traces amounts of grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look great and the image is never overly bright or dark. However, the image is somewhat soft at times and lacking in detail. I also noted some mild video noise at times. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The track delivers some great in-movie music which as a surprising amount of bass. The stereo and surround effects are very good during the kill scenes.
The Prom Night DVD contains an assortment of extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Nelson McCormick, and actors Brittany Snow & Johnathon Schaech. This is a fairly good chat, as the trio discuss the making of the movie. They talk about the actors, the costumes, and the locations. However, Snow makes some questionable comments and it's difficult to tell if she's being serious when she says things like, "Don't ruin the movie for them!" The film can be viewed with the "Picture-in-Picture Storyboard Track" which provides storyboards for certain shots in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. The DVD contains five DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes and can be viewed with an optional commentary. There's really nothing new here, save for an explanation of how Fenton escaped. The "Alternate Ending" is exactly like the ending in the film, except it has a pointless voice-over at the end...which still doesn't change anything. There is a 2-minute GAG REEL. "Bridgeport High Vikings Video Yearbook" (6 minutes) shows us the reel which played on the screen during the prom in the film. "A Night to Remember: The Making of Prom Night" (13 minutes) contains comments from the filmmakers which make the film sound much more important than it really is (it was going to be about reincarnted souls?). We also get comments on how the film was shot to be scary. (They failed.) The cast also gives their views on the film. "Profile of a Killer" (6 minutes) examines the Richard Fenton character and how his realism makes him scary. "Gothic Spaces: Creating the Pacific Grand Hotel" (5 minutes) is the kind of segment which would normally feature the production designer, but instead we get comments from random cast and crew members talking about the locations and sets. "Prom Night Photo Album: Real Prom Stories from the Cast" (6 minutes) has the actors reminsicing about their own proms. The extras are rounded out by the film's THEATRICAL TRAILER and a TV SPOT.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has also brought Prom Night to Blu-ray Disc. The movie is letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. This transfer lacks the softness found on the DVD and the image is very detailed. It also has a nice amount of depth and the colors look great. The Blu-ray has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.3 Mbps. However, the track drops below 1.0 Mbps on several occasions, making this one of the lower bitrate HD tracks that I've seen. The track provide clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are good and there's some nice surround sound at times. The music from the prom really sounds good and fills the speakers.
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long