Battle of the Killer Prom Nights

Remakes versus originals, old versus new, and so on. Hollywood loves to remake its beloved classics, more notably, their horror classics. Franchises like Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Friday the 13th have  been rebooted numerous times. With so many redo’s and re-adaptations, arguments circle around which is better: the original or the remake. Though many would argue the original, this is not always the case. Some remakes score farther and higher than their predecessors, so we want to look at some remade classics to determine which is the superior. To kick this off, Women in Horror is looking at the different versions of the classic Prom Night– in honor of prom season.

Back in 1980, Prom Night was released as a new teen slasher starring none other than the scream queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis. The film took something that was pure and beloved by society and tainted it with a sinister twist. Thus, no matter how this film has been received, there is no doubt that it carries its own significance in the horror genre. Then, almost 30 years after its initial release, a remake for the new generation of teens was released. Starring Brittany Snow as the new prom queen, the new film created its own storyline surrounding the presumedly magical night. Let’s see whose take on prom night was the most killer.

Prom Night (1980)

Image courtesy of AVCO Embassy Pictures

Directed by Paul Lynch, Prom Night (1980) is a story of revenge, much like many other slasher films of the 1980s (i.e. My Bloody Valentine (1981)). This story of revenge starts six years prior to the big night, when four children bully and accidentally murder a fellow child. Their collective fear of getting in trouble forces them to not say anything, allowing someone else to take the blame for it. Now as teens, a mysterious murderer wants to exact revenge on the four of them the night of their senior prom. Jamie Lee Curtis plays Kim, the sister of the murdered girl and friend to the group of teens that secretly murdered her sister. Ooo, the plot thickens. The film ensues into a cat and mouse chase where an unseen killer hacks off this group of teens one by one.

Prom Night has been compared to the likes of Carrie (1976) with its direction. The hazy, dream-like production of the prom gives off the same eerie feel that you get from the prom scene in Carrie. As teens laugh and enjoy one of the best nights of their high school career, there is something sinister afoot biding its time to ruin their night. The simplistic dialogue and character detail is what makes it akin to others horror flicks, leaving you knowing the names of the characters but not much else. Ultimately, Prom Night tries to show you who each character has grown to be, but honestly most of their personalities just meld together. The lack of character development allows you to not feel little remorse for the victims of the story. This also places all the focus on Jamie’s character, since she’s the only one with a separate identity than the rest.

Image courtesy of AVCO Embassy Pictures

Also, surprising for a slasher film, Prom Night lacks in the gore factor. Cutaways and shots of shadows rather than full-frontal murder scenes makes it a slightly watered down feature. In fact, it was praised during its time for its lack of violence, making it no less special than the dozens of horror films released in the same decade. Overall, the film is enjoyable, but this 1980s slasher is unfortunately too comparable to others of its kind.

Prom Night (2008)

Image of Sony Pictures

Taking an alternate approach to the storyline, the 2008 remake of Prom Night is a story of obsession. Directed by Nelson McCormick, it tells the story of Donna (Brittany Snow) and her psycho-obsessive teacher. As he becomes engrossed in her, he murders her entire family in the hopes of taking her for himself. Three years later, the teacher escapes from his mental facility and sets his sights back on Donna on the night of her senior prom. Trying to find normalcy and enjoy this hopeful night, Donna’s dreams are shattered right before her eyes.

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

This remake takes evil to a whole new level, and – unlike its source material – it does not shy away from gore. The villain of this film has no revenge to enact, no honorable motive, and no thoughtful stance in the story. The only thing keeping him going is pure, psychotic rage and delusion, and his desire to destroy Donna’s life is a cringeworthy watch. This film is so morbid that the ending offers very little of any feeling of relief or happiness once her assailant is stopped. Pretty much every character falls flat, even more so than the 1980 version, and at some point you have to stop killing your characters for the sake of your ending. In fact, the movie feels more like a beauty pageant, with a bunch of attractive people in expensive clothing run around an extravagant hotel; even the murderer is an attractive, older man. This entire film is eye-candy, but it offers nothing of substance. Though there is one emotional subplot involving a couple that you pray has a happy outcome, this small side-plot is also ruined by the senseless violence of the writers. Overall, the direction does not standout in any substantial way. There is a clear comparison in technology and practical effects from the original, but even with a subverted plot and better production, this film has nothing more to offer than the 1980 version.

Who Wore it Better?

Here at Flip Screen, we don’t pit two beautiful women against each other, so in this respect both Prom Night scream queens are winners. Already revered for her role in Halloween (1978), Jamie Lee Curtis is unsurprisingly astonishing in her role as Kim. She plays the most thoughtfully and focused on characters of the story, and she carries the entire emotional weight. Plus, she offers some  kick-ass dance skills halfway through the film. Brittany Snow is an honorable replacement in her remake film. Her screams and cries are toe-curling, and she delivers face like no other. However, because her character isn’t as fleshed out, she doesn’t carry the emotional weight like she should. She still shines in her champagne dress though, and salvages whatever is left of her storyline and dialogue.

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures

Remakes are not always better than the originals because the technology is newer, and originals are not always better because they did it first. In fact, it takes the most thoughtful storytellers, powerful performances , and masterful production to tell the better version. In the battle of the prom nights, both of the heroines are memorable and strong in their own ways, both storylines fall victim to some flat characters arches and plotlines, and they both offer production value in different aspects. However, only one Prom Night may prevail over the other, so without further ado… the better Prom Night is

The Original!

Image courtesy of AVCO Embassy Pictures