One of the production companies for “Prom Night,” a painfully by-the-numbers teen-slasher flick, is an outfit called Original Film. So the movie starts out with a logo that says “ORIGINAL FILM,” and I thought: This film’s been mislabeled.
Beyond the basic “deadly prom night” scenario, the film bears no resemblance to the 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis movie of the same name and is not, officially, a remake of it. Instead, it’s a remake of every slasher film of the last 30 years — why remake one film when you can remake them all? — but with the gore and sex toned down for the sake of the all-important PG-13 rating. Now it’s a wholly acceptable teen date movie for girls to scream at and their boyfriends to laugh at, and if that’s what you need, more power to you.
It is not, however, a good movie. Heavens no. Not by any stretch. My goodness, no, no, please. Don’t even think it. Cast that idea from your mind! Good? Mercy me. Not at all.
Written by J.S. Cardone (“The Covenant”) and directed by highly prolific TV director Nelson McCormick (“E.R.,” “Prison Break,” “Nip/Tuck,” etc.), it is a film entirely devoid of mystery, as we are shown up front who the killer is. His name is Richard Fenton (Johnathon Schaech), and three years ago he became obsessed with a high school student, killing her whole family before being captured and sent to a high-security mental hospital. Now he has escaped (this is easy, apparently) and is coming for the object of his affection, Donna (Brittany Snow), now a high school senior who’s struggling to put the memories of her past behind her and enjoy tonight’s prom.
Richard actually escaped three days ago. He has remained on the loose, however, because no one bothered to look for him in the one obvious place that was he obviously going to go, i.e., the hometown of the girl who everyone knows he wants to kill (or whatever it is he wants to do with her). In fact, no one even told local law enforcement until tonight. Det. Winn (Idris Elba) is furious that he wasn’t informed sooner, but he’s not much better himself: He barges over to the hotel where prom is being held and says, “If there’s some chance the bastard decides to come here, we want to be ready for him!”
“Some chance”? You mean, if there’s a slight chance the guy who’s obsessed with Donna might show up at the one place where he knows she is? Yeah, I guess there might be a sliver of a possibility there. Nice work, Columbo.
In what I can only assume was an intentional effort to prevent us from being frightened by him, the movie gives us lots of face time with Richard the maniac. We even see him check in to the hotel where the inadequately chaperoned prom is being held, for crying out loud. He is mildly creepy, the way all cold-eyed movie killers are, but scary? Dear me, no. Goodness no! The only suspense is over who will die and in what order, and even then a veteran viewer of slasher films could probably put together a pretty accurate itinerary. (Hint: Start with the characters who are close to the Primary Target but whose names we don’t know and who don’t really have any lines.)
So we hang out for a while with Donna and her sensitive boyfriend Bobby (Scott Porter) and her best friend Lisa (Dana Davis) and Lisa’s boyfriend Ronnie (Collins Pennie) and another couple, Claire (Jessica Stroup) and Michael (Kelly Blatz). Lisa has a years-old rivalry with a mean girl named Crissy (Brianne Davis), in a subplot that truly and completely goes nowhere and serves no purpose except to kill time.
And the movie is bad in the usual ways and at approximately the usual level. I can’t quite muster the energy to hate it. It’s too bland for that. One thing made me laugh, though. You know the cheap trick that lame horror movies use where the heroine turns around and is startled by something or someone that turns out to be harmless, and it makes the audience jump, too? Yeah, that happens to Donna about 10 times. One time it turns out to be, no kidding, a houseplant. As jumpy as she is, you’d think she’d be on stronger drugs. And as far as screamers go, she’s no Jamie Lee Curtis.
D+ (1 hr., 28 min.; )