Donna (Brittany Snow) is an all-American teenager whose life is torn apart when one of her high school teachers, Mr. Fenton (Johnathon Schaech), becomes so obsessed with her that he breaks into her house and kills her family (What, no flowers?). He's arrested and thrown into a mental institution, while Donna is taken in by her aunt and uncle halfway across the country, in the town of Bridgeport.
Fast-forward three years. Donna is on anti-anxiety pills and suffering occasional nightmares but otherwise a well-adjusted high school senior preparing for her school's prom. Unbeknownst to her, Fenton breaks out of his asylum and, like a demented homing pigeon, finds his way back to Donna. Clean-shaven and ingeniously disguised (baseball cap pulled down over the eyes), he infiltrates the hotel in which the prom is being held and acquires a master key that allows him access to the room that Donna and her friends have rented. Bodies fall by the wayside as Fenton desperately tries to get some "alone time" with Donna.
Meanwhile, the police, led by Detective Winn (Idris Elba), rush to track down the killer before he strikes again...much. I mean, really, they can't be expected to prevent every murder, can they?
The End Product
Prom Night bears so little resemblance to the original 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis vehicle that it might as well not be called Prom Night. It basically just cashes in on the name of a film that the target demographic has probably never seen and thus assumes is better than it really is. Voila, instant credibility! Literally the only similarity is the presence of a killer at a prom. Otherwise, it could just as easily be called My Bloody Corsage.
The most glaring difference that fans of the original will notice is that the remake is rated PG-13 -- which means that despite the impressive body count (12, by my count), the film goes out of its way to downplay the gore. The kills are dull and uninspired (knife to gut, rinse, repeat), and the blood is so discreet (a smidge around the mouth), you'd think the victims died of a stroke. I'm not saying that all horror movies have to be gory, but removing gore and over-the-top kills from a slasher is like disallowing slam dunks in basketball.
Director Nelson McCormick slaps on the kid gloves by not only toning down the gore but also by making sure the scares aren't too scary. Mission accomplished! There are a few potentially spooky moments in the film, but they're blunted by either revealing the killer too early or by presenting the "boo" moment in such an expected manner, it's rendered inert. McCormick actually pulls out the old "medicine cabinet mirror" scare not once, but twice -- irony-free. (See the SNL short if you don't know what I'm talking about.) And the film does itself a disservice by making the killer as, if not more, visible than the victims. There's no air of mystery about a guy walking around in a tweed coat making polite conversation.
Beyond pandering to 13-year-olds, though, Prom Night is rife with issues. It's hard to believe that a script this banal and cliché-ridden could make it to the big screen. Every action is predictable and every character a cardboard cutout. It swipes elements from not only every slasher that came before it, but also from Silence of the Lambs and even a bit of Final Destination for good measure. The "twists" are so easy to figure out that the police seem like buffoons for not realizing them more quickly.
No effort was spent on developing the characters beyond the most mundane high school banter about, like, going off to college and stuff, and how this is, like, the last time we'll see each other and junk. I swear the screenplay had to be filled with emoticons and OMGs. Donna and her friends are so agonizingly plastic and superficial, it would've been more efficient to just throw in the cast of The Hills. Of course, by making the film PG-13, that's probably the audience the filmmakers were going for.
If that's the case, then they cast Brittany Snow perfectly. Her bright blue eyes, blonde hair and vapid demeanor come off as the second coming of Tara Reid. Granted, she doesn't have much to work with in a bland character whose opportunity for depth is never explored (Did she maybe have a fling with the teacher that led him on and now she feels responsible for her family's death?). The rest of the cast is solid but unspectacular. Schaech is a fine actor but hardly an intimidating force as the killer, particularly in the hands of filmmakers concerned more about selling tickets than creating scares.
Incidentally, the same writing/directing team of J.S. Cardone and Nelson McCormick is currently working on a remake of The Stepfather. Consider yourself warned.