Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Prom Night

(Paul Lynch, 1980)
The truly embarrassing disco dancing motif is a failing with no upside, unless you're the kind of person who watches movies mainly to ridicule them (hey - what's everyone looking at me for?!) But most of the problematic stuff here actually bears happy dividends as well. Ransacking generic elements from Carrie and Halloween (with Jamie Lee Curtis on board in case we didn't get the point), this is exceedingly familiar slasher fare, but in this case the deja vu allows the filmmakers to shed unnecessary exposition and just give the people what they want: boogie aside, the picture never drags. While one casualty of this approach is any hint of character development, the characters are pretty dimensional in their larval state, and watchable too, far from the usual hateful stereotypes. This minimizes the moral identification with the mysterious killer - you want these characters to survive, in spite of the deadly conspiracy the carnage is obviously meant to avenge. And obvious it is; while the large cast allows an unusually robust catalogue of suspects, the overt steering of the genre toward good ole Whodunit games - with audience rather than characters doing most of the sleuthing - won't fool anyone who knows how horror movies work. Intentionally or not, though, the teasing ambiguity necessary to this approach both complicates the film's moral position and renders it a fair bit more watchable than most shameless ripoffs.

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