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Film / Prom Night (1980)

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"The killer is coming!"

Released in 1980, Prom Night opens with an unfortunate death of a child, caused by a group of kids playing a variation of hide-and-seek in an abandoned building teasing a girl, leading her to fall from a window. The kids never told anyone what happened and the little girl's death was blamed on Leonard Murch, a psychopathic sex fiend who is caught shortly after.

Several years later, students of Hamilton High are preparing for prom. But unbeknownst to them, a masked killer looking for revenge has invited himself to it.

The film features Jamie Lee Curtis and Leslie Nielsen in starring roles, and has since become a cult classic, especially among slasher fans, even inspiring some elements of Scream (1996). It is also remembered for its disco soundtrack, which is sought out by collectors. It was also popular enough to receive three In Name Only sequels; Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987), Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1990) and Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil (1992). A loose remake was also released in 2008.


This film has the examples of:

  • The '70s: The prologue is set in 1973. The main events of the film are technically set in The '80s, but because it's only 1980, it still has strong 70's vibes, complete with a disco soundtrack. Notably, the movie was still filmed in late Summer 1979.
  • Adorkable: Slick. Despite being less smooth than his nickname would imply, he still manages to win Jude over.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Averted, as all the girls are repulsed by Lou. Good girl Kim and bad girl Wendy are in fact rivals for good boy Nick.
  • Alpha Bitch: Wendy was this right from childhood as she manipulated a group of other kids to keep the accidental death of Robin a secret. She grows up to be a very straight example of this, as she's openly jealous of Kim being voted Prom Queen and taking her boyfriend Nick. She then attempts to win her man back and sabotage the prom.
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  • Angsty Surviving Twin: Alex, whose anger over his twin Robin's death drives him to commit five murders over a single night.
  • Asshole Victim: Wendy and Lou, who conspire to ruin the prom crowning of Nick and Kim for their own ends.
    • Also, the guy who was wrongfully charged with killing Robin. Although he was innocent of that particular crime, he's still a rapist.
  • Auto Erotica: Jude and Slick use the latter's van to have some good times by the bluffs.
  • An Axe to Grind: Killer's weapon of choice for killing his targets in the prom. And that's what's used to kill him.
  • Ballroom Blitz: The disco themed prom is ruined by the killer scaring everyone off by decapitating Lou, and then attacking the Prom King.
  • Betty and Veronica: Nice Girl Kim and Alpha Bitch Wendy for Nick.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Easygoing Alex, who seems perfectly happy helping with the lighting at the prom rather than attending with a date. He's the killer.
  • Big Bad: The killer, who turns out to be Alex Hammond, who is seeking to avenge the death of his sister Robin.
  • Big "NO!": Kim gives one right before landing a fatal blow on the killer.
  • Big Ol' Unibrow: Lou, a Type I unibrow sporter due to being an asshole.
  • Blind Without 'Em: When Jude comments about the amount of the stars in the night sky to Slick, he replies that he guessed about it, as he sees poorly without his glasses.
  • Book Safe: Slick keeps his joints in a hollowed history book.
  • Bound and Gagged: Nick tied up with tape and left hidden in a corner of a backstage after being attacked by Lou and his goons.
  • Broom Stick Quarterstaff: Wendy knocks the killer down with a broom (and lays on a couple of additional blows while he's done) when she escapes from the auto shop.
  • Canada, Eh?: Despite the middle American setting, the film's mostly Canadian cast makes little-to-no attempt to hide their native accents.
  • Cassandra Truth: Sykes tries to warn the party guests about the killer, but he is so drunk that he is taken away to the police.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: Kim throws a chair at the killer during the climactic confrontation.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Lou's ski mask that Principal Hammond throws into a garbage bin later appears worn by the killer.
  • Children Are Cruel: Robin dies due to the teasing of the other kids in the opening.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Wendy to Nick.
  • Cool Big Sis: Kim to Alex.
  • Covers Always Lie: Echo Bridge's DVD cover has Jamie Lee Curtis staring devilishly at the camera and holding an ax, falsely implying that she's the killer. Another cover recycled her face from the Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later poster.
  • Cradling Your Kill: Kim holds Alex in her arms after striking him down.
  • Crusty Caretaker: Mr. Sykes, the janitor of Hamilton High is a weird guy who stares at the girls creepily.
  • Cute Bookworm: Jude.
  • Daddy's Girl: Kim.
  • Dark Secret: The children who accidentally kill Robin vow to tell no one. They don't realize someone else figured out what happened.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Wendy at times.
  • Death by Sex: Averted with Kelly, who is killed just after she chickens out on going through with the deed with her boyfriend Drew. Played straight with Jude and Slick, whose first time turns out to be their last.
  • Death of a Child: The film opens with the accidental death of Robin.
  • Destination Defenestration: Robin dies as she accidentally falls through a window in the opening.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Over an hour is used to build up the characters before the killer offs his first victim.
  • Downer Ending: All but one of the secret keepers die, the surviving target's secret is exposed, destroying his reputation, and the killer gets an Alas, Poor Villain sendoff as he dies in his sister's arms while sobbing about his other sister's death and the injustice of her killers covering it up. Not to mention the prom is completely ruined.
  • Dramatic Unmask: The killer is unmasked as he lays dying on the ground in the ending.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Wendy tells Lou she doesn't want their prank to ruin the prom crowning to seriously hurt anyone.
  • Event Title
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Slick's van explodes immediately after it rides over the edge of the bluffs.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect
  • Final Girl: Kim is built up to be one, but it is then subverted when it's revealed that she wasn't a target at all.
    • The film does, however, feature a final boy with Nick, the only target to live. All three female targets die.
  • Famous Last Words: “I know they did it. They did it. They killed her! Robin! Robin!” Alex Hammond
  • Girlish Pigtails: Kelly has her hair in ponytails in the gym class and locker room scenes.
  • Glass Cannon: Alex can deck a person with a single punch, but a similar blow is enough to floor him, as shown in the cafeteria fight with Lou's cronies.
  • Grave-Marking Scene: The first scene after the Time Skip is the Hammond family visiting Robin's grave.
  • Harassing Phone Call: The killer makes threatening phone calls to his soon-to-be victims.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The killer is struck down with his own axe when Kim slashes the side of his head.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: The killer plots to carry out their massacre on the night of the senior prom.
  • Improvised Weapon: The killer breaks a mirror in girls' changing room, and uses one of its shards to kill Kelly.
  • Karmic Death: Lou's attempt to upstage Nick by knocking him out and taking his place backstage ends up backfiring when the killer mistakes him for Nick and takes his head off.
  • Lady in Red: Wendy's outfit for the prom is a glittery red dress.
  • Little "No": Kim lets out one when she realizes that the killer is her brother Alex.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: The film closes with a melancholy piano line as Kim cradles Alex as he dies from his wounds.
  • Love Triangle: Wendy loves Nick, but Nick loves Kim and Wendy isn't happy about it.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Jude and Slick go to have sex on the edge of the bluffs, but are spooked by the killer, so they return to Slick's van. Where they're murdered.
  • Male Gaze: We get two gratuitous shots of camera following a female character's behind.
  • Man on Fire: Leonard Murch in McBride's flashbacks is shown leaving his crashed and flaming car while on fire.
  • Match Cut: The shot of Kelly's slashed throat is immediately followed by one of a bowl of red punch.
  • Misplaced Accent: Apparently, people from suburban Ohio sound exactly like Canadians.
  • Mooning: One of Kim's friends moons Sykes when she sees him picking up trash next to the tennis court.
  • Murder by Mistake: The slasher accidentally beheads Lou instead of Nick because Lou is standing the darkness backstage wearing Nick's Prom King crown.
  • My Greatest Failure: Nick is racked with guilt over his role in Robin's death six years earlier.
  • Nature Tinkling: Slick leaves the van to relieve himself and is nearly killed by the slasher before Jude drags him off to have sex on the bluffs.
  • Neutral Female: Averted. When the killer goes after Nick, Kim does everything in her power to stop him, which ultimately leads to his death.
  • Off with His Head!: Lou's head is knocked off with an axe as he waits behind the curtains to become the prom king. His head then rolls to the view of the prom attendants, who promptly panic and leave the premises in a hurry.
  • Once Is Not Enough: Wendy makes a run out of the auto shop and knocks out the killer with a broom in the process, and keeps going when he falls to the floor in pain.
  • Oral Fixation: Lou is constantly chewing gum.
  • Outside Ride: When Slick attempts to escape by driving away, the killer clings to the outside of his van.
  • Peek-a-Boo Corpse: Wendy gives out her location to the killer when she is startled by Kelly's corpse dropping from a shelf in the closet that she is hiding in.
  • Police are Useless: Lt. McBride is present at the prom obsessing over the wrong suspect while the real killer is offing prom attenders practically under his nose.
  • Prom Wrecker: Being a Slasher Movie in which a masked killer hacks up teenagers at their senior prom, this trope is naturally at play.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Principal Hammond tells Lou that he's a disgrace to the school and the community before suspending him "indefinitely."
  • Redemption Equals Life: Nick, the only one of Robin's tormentors who seems to feel any guilt about her death is the only one who survives the film.
  • Red Herring: The escaped psychopath Leonard Murch (who got the blame for Robin's death six years ago and has a strong motive to be the killer - getting revenge against the kids who let him take the fall for a crime he didn't commit), the weird Mr. Sykes and Kim's father, who conveniently disappears once the killings around the schoolgrounds are discovered.
  • Rich Bitch: Wendy, as evident by the huge house she lives in, her nice car and offhand remarks of buying things.
  • Sarcastic Clapping: Wendy gives one to Kim after witnessing her practicing her moves on the dance floor, followed by her threatening to take Nick away from her.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: Robin's photo accompanied by flowers and her teddy bear are displayed on the mantelpiece in the Hammonds' living room.
  • Slashed Throat: Kelly meets her death by getting her throat cut with a mirror shard.
  • Speech Impediment: Robin's stammer—possibly why she is ostracized by the other children.
  • The Stoner: Slick. He may not have the looks, but he makes up for it with weed.
  • Supporting Protagonist: The film is mostly told from Kim Hammond's perspective, despite not being much involved in the main conflict, and wasn't even a target for the killer. This is most likely because she was played by Jamie Lee Curtis. Better (and more interesting) choices for protagonists would've been her boyfriend Nick (basically the Final Boy), Wendy (the surprisingly complex Alpha Bitch), and her brother Alex (the killer).
  • Unbuilt Trope: The film was among the first Slasher Movies released in the eighties, and it contains some of the typical cliches (the title, death by decapitation, a masked killer etc.) of the era. However, the Unbuiltness is evident by its killer, who isn't silent, slow-walking or a heavy damage shrugging monstrosity. Instead, he's some guy in a ski mask who makes mistakes like any other person would (at one point he rushes after his victim, and in the hurry forgets his axe) and is ultimately defeated by a blow to the head with a blunt instrument.
  • Villain Song: The end credits song "Fade to Black." Listen closely to the lyrics.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We are not told where Kim's dad has disappeared to at the end of the movie.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Alex.


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