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Prom Night (2008) (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment / 2008 / 88 Minutes / Unrated
Street Date: August 19, 2008
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Reviewed by High-Def Digest Staff
Friday, August 08, 2008
I read a recent review of 'Prom Night' (2008) that called it, "the training bra of slasher movies." And it's true -- this is the kind of scare-flick that's safe viewing for your little sister, a PG-13-ified hack-a-thon that the babysitter might use to keep even the youngest of charges in check. Despite an ad campaign that promised otherwise, 'Prom Night' is not scary, suspenseful, gruesome or at all unsettling, it almost doesn't deserve to be called "horror." It's sort of like if the Disney Channel launched their own wanna-be slasher franchise, complete with comely teen stars, cheesy made-for-cable lighting and a plot so derivative it makes the original 'Prom Night' (1980) look positively ingenious by comparison.
Amazingly, this "reimaging" takes all of the worst elements of its predecessor and discards what little good stuff there was. If the original 'Prom Night' wasn't a great slasher flick, at least it was tons of fun, mixing bitchy high school girls, bad disco dancing, a classic revenge plot, and a killer in a creepy ski mask running around dark halls with an ax. (That it also starred Jamie Lee Curtis was just icing on the cake.) 'Prom Night' 2008-style drops almost all of those elements, and instead brings to the fore what was by far the weakest aspect of the original, which was a by-the-numbers police procedural plot about a escaped serial killer who didn't even factor into the final reveal. So instead of a campy, funny horror thrill ride, 'Prom Night' plays like a really bad episode of 'Without a Trace' crossed with 'Gossip Girl.'
The plot is standard-issue. Brittany Snow ('Hairspray') stars as Donna Keppel, a high school senior recovering from the traumatic murder of her parents at the hands of deranged psycho Richard Fenton (Johnathon Schaech). Now its two years later, and on the eve of her school prom, Donna is finally starting to piece her life back together, thanks to her hunky boyfriend (Scott Porter) and a supportive group of best pals (including 'Heroes' Dana Davis and Jessica Stroup). Unfortunately, Richard has other ideas and soon crashes the party, picking off her friends one by one until the local police detective (James Ransone) gets wind of the killer's plot, leading to a showdown back at the house where Donna's parents were first murdered.
'Prom Night' is utterly dull, because its villain is utterly dull. Who thought it was a good idea to replace a guy in a ski mask with the dude best known for having been married to Christina Applegate? Schaech is not a particularly charismatic actor anyway, but he's given such a murky backstory that there is surely little he could have done to save such an unthreatening and underwritten role. The original 'Prom Night' managed to eke out a bit of tension in its last half thanks to its creepy, faceless killer, but the remake shows so much of Schaech from the first frame that there is no mystery. It's sort of like a Friday the 13th flick where Jason not only doesn't wear a hockey mask, but looks like Hart Bochner.
Also poorly written is the Donna character and her cookie-cutter friends. Snow has been accomplished in other films, but here all she is required to do is squint her eyes to hold back tears, pout a lot, and scream. Davis and Stroup are also stuck with such nondescript victim roles (the only interest to be had is counting the minutes until they die), and even their death scenes are unimaginative and bland. Worse, 'Prom Night' is a ruthlessly overlit film, so even the endless scenes of teenagers walking down dark hotel corridors have absolutely no mood or suspense -- the film is far, far too glossy and whitewashed to generate any atmosphere at all. Add to that some of the most incomprehensibly dumb characters ever to grace a slasher flick (Donna's adoptive parents are a particular hoot, acting like complete idiots only because the plot requires it), and in 'Prom Night' you have a movie that gives an already disreputable genre a bad name.
If there is anything to recommend 'Prom Night' on Blu-ray, it's that at least Sony has provided fans with a never-before-seen unrated cut of the film. The PG-13 version that I saw theatrically was a mess thanks to horrible editing, with such choppy murder sequences that it was painfully obvious that the film had been butchered to appease the MPAA. Certainly, this "gorier" version of 'Prom Night' is still largely bloodless, but at least the kill scenes now possess some sense of construction and clarity, so it's no longer like watching a slasher flick edited in a blender. Unfortunately, that's about all this new 'Prom Night' has to offer, so if you want a fun little slasher flick to whittle away a Saturday night, quite frankly you'd be better off just going and renting the original on DVD instead.
Sony offers 'Prom Night' in a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.85:1). It's a very glossy and fairly attractive transfer, though there is really nothing to differentiate it from the pack.
The best attribute of the image is its color palette, which is quite rich. The hilariously unrealistic prom scenes look like some Hollywood club, with flashing multi-colored lights all over the place, but at least its eye-popping. Darker scenes hold up fairly well, with deeper hues that are still stable and consistent. Only the use of high-contrast stylization during flashback scenes is unattractive, though fleshtones hold firm throughout. Befitting a new release, the source is nice and sharp, with deep blacks and contrast that runs on the hot side. Detail varies, with most shots looking pretty nice, while others suffering from blown out whites which soften the image. There is also a bit of noise on highly-saturated areas, though no major compression issues. 'Prom Night' is not a reference-quality transfer, but it's certainly good enough to do the material justice.
'Prom Night' enjoys Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 Surround audio (48kHz/24-bit, in both English and Thai), plus French and Spanish dubs in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps).
The material is hardly taxing. There are a few angsty pop/rock songs on the soundtrack and a forgettable score, but otherwise the film is largely dialogue driven. Surrounds are not as active as I had hoped, with a few bursts of shock effects here and there, but no real sustained sense of atmosphere. The TrueHD track does has a bright and polished quality, and low bass supports the action nicely. The dreadful dialogue is well balanced throughout, so I suffered no volume issues. This is a perfectly adequate, nondescript mix.
'Prom Night' gets the special edition treatment, with a decent number of extras to please fans. Video quality is weak, however, with only 480p/i/MPEG-2 provided.
- Audio Commentary - Director Nelson McCormick is joined by screenwriter J.S. Cardone and (phoned-in) star Brittany Snow. It's a congenial track, with the trio fairly engaging as they discuss their appreciation of the original 'Prom Night' (seriously), and get way pretentious about the remake's characters and story "intricacies." The praise lavished on Jonathon Schaech is also dispiriting, as he's the weakest aspect of a film filled with missed grips on fun ideas. As much as I liked all the folks on this track, the film they have made is still awful.
- Featurettes (SD, 28 minutes) - Typical of marketing-happy studios, Sony has simply taken a short making-of featurette and chopped it up into a bunch of smaller parts. "A Night To Remember: The Making of Prom Night" (8 minutes) gives us the basics on the film's conception, it's casting, and lots of dull plot recap. (Sadly, there is no footage from the original 'Prom Night.') "Profile of a Killer" (6 minutes) is pretty silly, the cast and crew really expect us to take its generic villain at all seriously. "Gothic Spaces: Creating the Pacific Grand Hotel" (6 minutes) is yet another misstep for the movie, turning a potentially interesting location into a big, glossy and unscary setting for a horror movie. Finally, "Prom Night Photo Album: Real Prom Stories From the Cast" (7 minutes) is a cute vignette where the stars talk about their own real-life prom experiences, with some of them quite amusing.
- Deleted Scenes (SD, 8 minutes) - There's six in all, including an alternate ending. All are uninteresting character bits and scene extensions, and just as vapid as the main feature. The alternate ending is typical of such things, offering a few different shots but nothing really major to differentiate it.
- Gag Reel (SD, 2 minutes) - Wrapping it up is this short outtake montage of goof-ups, but it's not really that funny.
Apparently, Sony was determined to treat 'Prom Night' as some sort of modern classic, and grants it a number of cutting-edge exclusive features that other, far more deserving titles would beg for.
- Picture-in-Picture - Really, now, does 'Prom Night' need a PIP storyboard track!? Requiring a Profile 1.1-compatible player, this BonusView experience gives us a little PIP box in the bottom right of the screen, with storyboard compares for most of the key scare and suspense scenes. It's interesting for about two minutes, as there just isn't enough happening structurally in 'Prom Night' to warrant such treatment. Nice effort from Sony, though.
- Interactive Poll - BD-Live-enabled (Profile 2.0 required), "Where is the Best Place to Hide a Body?" simply asks you to pick the best death scene in the film. Your answer is then sent to Sony's Blu-ray databank (somewhere deep in the vaults in Culver City?), where you can then get and share the poll stats.
- BD-Live - Additional BD-Live extras on 'Prom Night' include a raft of viewable trailers for other Sony titles, a bookmark function allowing you to share your favorite scenes with others, and links to other Sony websites.
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'Prom Night' is an utterly bland slasher flick that is so innocuous and predictable it might as well have been produced for the Disney Channel and starred Miley Cyrus. This Blu-ray release is pretty solid, however, with good video and audio, and way more supplements than the movie deserves. I can't recommend 'Prom Night' to even diehard horror fans because it's just so darn lame, but if you're one of those folks that just has to rent every single slasher flick that comes out, then by all means knock yourself out.