The accidental death of a young girl is so haunting to the killer in Prom Night 1980, that six years after the event, they strike out and seek vigilante justice. The killer embarks on a quest to make those involved with the incident pay for their perceived crimes. At first, the group of friends thinks someone is playing a sick prank but they quickly discover that it’s not a game when members of their posse begin to die violent deaths.
Prom Night 1980 is an average slasher film that is elevated to slightly above average by the simple fact that it stars Jamie Lee Curtis and features some awful but ultimately enjoyable disco dancing. If anyone else were in the starring role, it would likely not be as good as it is – which still isn’t great. Leslie Nielsen also makes an appearance in the film, just before he transitioned to regularly working in comedy. Nielsen’s role as a high school principal is nothing exceptional but it’s always nice to see a familiar face. The rest of the supporting players aren’t bad either. There is a good chemistry between the characters that makes them more likable than they should be. Even though the performances aren’t top notch, the way the cast interacts is endearing and makes the film more enjoyable.
The script Prom Night 1980 is working from is pretty formulaic. It takes a lot of its cues from slasher and giallo films to come before. It was co-written by William Gray, who wrote the haunted house classic The Changeling. The revenge plot line has been done before and Prom Night 1980 doesn’t really do it better than the other examples of this type of storyline but it manages to be fun in spite of its lack of originality.
The cinematography in Prom Night 1980 isn’t anything special. The film looks like it was shot using an inexpensive camera and there is very little creativity behind anything the lens captures.
The gore effects aren’t bad. They aren’t terribly convincing or groundbreaking but there is a decent amount of stage blood spilled, here and there. And some of the deaths are especially gory.
In addition to boasting the kind violence that goes hand in hand with ‘80s slasher films, Prom Night 1980 also brings the requisite nudity. The flick doesn’t skimp on bare skin. The nudity in the film is completely unnecessary to the outcome of the film but its inclusion completes the formula that was used to make ‘80s horror movies: nudity + gore = high box office yield. And the film managed to make about fifteen million dollars. Considering that its budget was less than two million, that isn’t a bad return on investment.
There are better slasher films. There are better Jamie Lee Curtis slasher films. But ultimately, Prom Night 1980 is still a classic and a staple of ‘80s horror cinema. It’s not a classic because it’s a particularly well-made movie. It’s a classic because it stars former scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis and features some awesomely bad disco dancing. In spite of its flaws, the film manages to be a nostalgic good time.
Director(s): Paul Lynch
Writer(s): William Gray, Robert Guza Jr.
Stars: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen
Studio/ Production Co: Avco Embassy Pictures
Budget: $1.6 Million (Estimated)
Length: 89 Minutes