April 17, 2008

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Prom Night (PG-13)
A crazy-eyed ex-teacher murders a passel of lip-glossed and hair-gelled teens trying to enjoy the Time of Their Lives in Prom Night, a movie that finds a brand new low standard in bad teen horror films.

Move over, When a Stranger Calls.

Donna (Brittany Snow) still has nightmares about the day when besotted teacher Rick Fenton (Jonathan Schaech) killed her entire family, including her mother, who was stabbed to death right in front of her. Like, bummer. Luckily, he’s totally in jail now and Donna has an aunt and uncle who have taken her in and paid for a therapist (Ming Wen — better known by the name Ming-Na, who, by whatever name, really needs to get more and better work) and a pretty pretty dress for her upcoming prom. Known as The Night for binge drinking and unwise sex, prom night is also a swell time for crazy serial killers to appear because (A) everybody is dressed up in their nice clothes, which really show the blood well and (B) since proms (and their accompanying after-dance behavior) often take place at hotels you have all sorts of possibilities for escapes and chases and places to stash the characters you kill off early in the game and (C) having all your female characters in high heels makes the fact that they all fall down when being chased by said serial killer make slightly more sense.

To Prom Night’s defense, it did give me time to think of the many unexpected ways a “girl in peril” movie could develop. What if Donna had bothered to learn self-defense and maybe even decided to pack some heat? What if she could have convinced all her friends to pack heat? My revenge fantasy movie is no less cheesy than this one, admittedly, but I think it would have been a lot more fun.

Sadly, I couldn’t spend all of Prom Night pretending to make my own script deal. At times, I felt obligated to watch the movie — to watch as the police repeatedly go after Rick using one, maybe two, officers instead of, say, more. I cringed as the characters peered into the darkness where they could have sworn they’d seen somebody saying “Hello? Hello?” and then, trembling with fear, walked farther into the shadows as if to say “Here I am, serial killer, stab away. Heart’s on your right.” And, what’s worse, I could actually feel myself getting angry at all this pointless terrorizing of the young female characters (the guys just died; the girls had to be scared out of their wits first). I don’t mind violence, even silly violence, but I just can’t justify wasting precious seconds of my life watching more TV bit players shriek and cry as they run away from some useless slip of a man who, if they thought about it for 10 seconds, they could probably outsmart.

Prom Night is stupid and tiring and not nearly the fun that something this campy ought to be. D-

Rated PG-13 for violence and terror, some sexual material, underage drinking and language. Directed by Nelson McCormick and writer J.S. Cardone, Prom Night is a very long hour and 28 minutes and is distributed in wide release by Screen Gems.