Archive for the ‘Prom Night (1980)’ Category

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Distributor: Synapse Films

Release Date: September 09, 2014

Region: Region A

Length: 93 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Audio:

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (96kHz, 24-bit)
2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio (96kHz, 24-bit)
2.0 English Dolby Digital (192kbps)

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.78:1

Notes: This is the Blu-ray premiere of this title in the United States. Synapse Films has also released a DVD edition (but not all of the supplements are included). Earlier DVD releases have been put on the market, but they pale in comparison to this release.

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Prom Night (1980) is a low-budget Canadian horror film directed by Paul Lynch. The production’s major asset was Jamie Lee Curtis (who was in the middle of her “scream queen” phase). Avco Embassy Pictures released the film and gave Prom Night an extensive marketing campaign. The slasher genre was riding high after the release of Halloween (1978), and Prom Night became a financial success. It was especially popular at drive-in theatres.

However, the film didn’t impress the critics. The “making of” documentary would have us believe that the film received good notices, but a look at many of these “good notices” will tell us a slightly different story.  Variety’s review made an effort to be kind, but seemed to qualify any praise that it was willing to bestow upon the film.

“Borrowing shamelessly from Carrie and any number of gruesome exploitationers [Prom Night] manages to score a few horrific points amid a number of sagging moments.

It opens with the falling death of a 10-year-old girl brought on by unmerciful teasing on the part of four of her peers. It’s six years later and prom night for the surviving kiddies and each is slated to meet an unsavory fate due to past exploits – unbeknownst to anyone.

Once the masked killer gets going it becomes a guessing game of who is the ax-wielding avenger and which, if any, victims will escape.

Director Paul Lynch seems to capture the spirit of the genre here, but spends a little too much time setting up each murder, thus eliminating some suspense.” –Variety Staff (December 31, 1979)

Vincent Canby also made an honest effort to say nice things about the film in his review for the New York Times. However, Canby’s review was also shrouded in reservations.

Prom Night, the Canadian film that opened yesterday… is a comparatively genteel hybrid, part shock melodrama, like Halloween, and part mystery, though it’s less a whodunit than a ‘who’s-doing-it’…

…Paul Lynch has learned a few fundamental tricks of the scare-movie trade. He always photographs the killer from the knees down and from the elbows out, and only shows his face when it is inside a ski mask. There’s a good, extended killer-stalking-his-victim sequence, and the opening sequence, set in an abandoned convent, is eerie. This may possibly be because we wonder under what circumstances the nuns were forced to flee.

Because it’s quite easy to figure out the killer’s identity by simply keeping track of who is off screen a lot, much of the movie is just vamping for time…

…The screenplay was written by William Gray, co-author of another recent Canadian film, The Changeling. It’s adequate. The most noteworthy thing about the movie is that, although the murders are ghoulish, Mr. Lynch chooses to underplay the bloody spectacle. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some sticky moments, including one not especially convincing decapitation, but that more often than not the camera cuts away, or the screen goes discreetly gray, before the audience is drenched in gore. This may or may not be the reason that the audience with which I saw the film yesterday booed at the end.” -Vincent Canby (New York Times, August 16, 1980)

Roger Ebert made less of an effort to be tactful in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times. He only gave the film half a star, and his review can be summed up in a single sentence: “Why do people go to these movies?”

At the very least, Prom Night will eventually be an extremely interesting archeological artifact. Scientists and scholars will one day study it; “So this is Disco?” As a matter of fact, the disco scenes might frighten contemporary audiences more than the masked killer.

Oh, the HORROR!

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The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is housed in the standard Blu-ray case with film related artwork. The disc itself is adorned with the same artwork.

The menus employ an extended clip of disco dancing from the film itself.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Synapse’s image transfer is really rather wonderful. While the film was originally soft, the transfer maintains the detail that was originally available. Black levels seem to be handled nicely (which is essential for a horror film). Textures on skin and clothing are preserved and showcased proudly here. Skin tones always look quite natural, and other colors are vivid and accurate. There is a slight layer of grain that gives away the celluloid source, but is never distracting.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Synapse has included a 5.1 Surround Remix that was created especially for this Blu-ray release (the original 2.0 Mono is also included). The mix sounds wonderful (if the viewer can tolerate Disco), and the surround efforts are quite effective. It is a subtle remix that never seems to go overboard. The element separation is done admirably, and the end result is the listener’s pleasing immersive quality. Dialogue is always clear, and ambient sounds (and effects) are spread throughout the surround speakers. The original Mono mix is included here for purists.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Commentary with Paul Lynch (director) and William Gray (screenwriter)

Fans of this film will certainly appreciate this track, which is moderated by Paul Jankiewicz. It isn’t terribly comprehensive, is often repetitive, and rarely gives the viewer any solid production information. The most interesting aspect of the track is William Grays dislike of an added subplot (which he didn’t like). His dislike is certainly warranted, and is one of the major weaknesses in the film. His disapproval (and embarrassment) keeps the track alive.

The Horrors of Hamilton High – (HD) – (41:04) –

It is somewhat surprising to see a “making of” documentary short on the disc. This program goes a bit deeper into the film’s creation than one might expect, and will be of great interest to fans of the film.

Additional Footage – (HD) – (11:11) –

This is one of the disc’s most interesting supplements. It is essentially a collection of Deleted Scenes. Since these scenes were added back to the film for Prom Night’s television release, the feature is listed as Additional Footage Added for Television Broadcast. Editor Michael Maclaverty discusses these scenes in a short introduction. While these scenes aren’t missed in the final film, it is always interesting to see deleted scenes.

Never-Before-Seen Outtakes from the Original ‘Prom Night‘ Shoot – (HD) – (23:15)

Fans are also given over 20 minutes of ‘scrap’ film from the production. This is some of the footage that was taken out of the film during editing. It is silent, but is given musical accompaniment. It is an interesting addition to the disc.

Theatrical Trailer – (HD) – (1:49)

The theatrical trailer for the film is in surprisingly good condition. It is nice to have it included in this collection of supplements.

Six Original T.V. Spots – (HD) – (3:17)

It is interesting to see how the film was sold to the public, and these television spots should delight fans of the film for this very reason.

Two Original Radio Spots – (HD) – (1:06)

Synapse has included two radio spots that were used in the marketing of Prom Night. These spots are a lot like some of the television spots.

Motion Still Gallery – (6:20) –

This feature is basically a slide show set to music. The Prom Night theme (by Paul Zaza and Carl Zitter) accompanies 74 images from principal photography and the publicity campaign for the film.

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Final Words:

Prom Night isn’t an essential classic of the horror genre, but it will please a few genre fans. This Blu-ray edition is certainly the best way to watch the movie. The transfer is incredible and there are a few surprisingly good supplemental features.

Review by: Devon Powell

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