If Tobe Hooper's Steven Spielberg's Poltergeist opened today, it would almost definitely earn a PG-13 rating. Earlier this year we were treated to a very entertainingly creepy monster movie called Cloverfield -- which was also rated PG-13. So we know it CAN be done. Despite what the horror fans have been conditioned to believe recently, it IS possible to make an effective horror movie that's not rated R.

But it sure as hell won't happen this week, as the latest no-effort PG-13 remake to lurch off of the assembly line is called Prom Night, and it's easily one of the flimsiest movies I've ever seen. The entire film absolutely reeks of corporatized product, and nobody involved in the flick (from director Nelson McCormick and screenwriter J.S. Cardone to just about every bored actor onscreen) seems even remotely interested in making, y'know, a half-decent movie. No, Prom Night exists for one reason only: To snatch some of that babysitting money from the 15-year-old girls of the planet. (I should know. I sat behind nine of 'em as Prom Night unspooled, and not one of 'em was paying as much attention to the screen as they were their cell phones.) It's pretty obvious that the schlock-makers over at Screen Gems needed only three things: a trailer, a poster and a title like "Prom Night." The final product could be one of the worst movies ever made, and it's still guaranteed to make money -- because kids like to go to the movies, period. Basically, to call Prom Night a horror movie is to call chewing gum a cheeseburger. And I'm perfectly fine with the idea of movies being made for a 15-year-old female audience, but it really bugs me when I see so little effort put forth -- especially when we're talking about something that's supposed to be a horror movie.

Related to the 1980 Paul Lynch slasher flick in name only, the new Prom Night is about a girl who has survived a horrible attack, but (get this) her terrorizer has recently escaped from an asylum, and he plans to slice his way through prom night to get at our lead idiot. Toss in a half-dozen clumsy exposition scenes (courtesy of the two dumbest movie cops ever born), a whole LOT of endless banter that's supposed to sound like actual conversations, and (finally) a bunch of stunningly inept kill / stalk / scare / loud noise sequences. (Also, feel free to drink a beer every time one of the main characters leaves the prom to visit their hotel room. Seriously, for a minute I thought the projectionist was showing each reel twice.)

The movie is too lazy to dole out even one half-decent subplot, it has no idea how to make its killer come off as scary, it telegraphs every one of its meager thrills, and it's packed with characters so generic they'd be better off wearing white sweaters emblazoned with "JOCK," "BITCH," "VIRGIN" on the front. Prom Night can't even succeed at the ol' "enjoy the character actor" game because reliable folks like Idris Elba, Ming-Na Wen and Jessalyn Gilsig are given nothing to do. And the less said about Johnathon Schaech's performance, the better. He's a very cool actor, but it takes more than a vacant glower and a black hat to create an effective stalker. The ironic highlight of the cast has to be James Ransome as the universe's most unconvincing detective. Nothing against the actor, but if you can buy this guy as a hard-boiled authority figure then you'll buy anything. (Like a ticket to this movie.)

Prom Night knows precisely two tricks: The loud "misdirection fake scares" that come standard in just about every lame-ass horror movie, and the howlingly amateurish "POV cheat." (This is when the director, using very simple film grammar, indicates that the camera lens is temporarily standing in for the killer's perspective -- but when a different character looks in "our" direction ... they see nothing. It's evidence of a director aping some well-worn conventions without having any reason or skill.) McCormick uses these generic tricks about seven times each, and every time we're set up for another sadly ineffective jolt, the movie sinks deeper and deeper into the swamp of awfulness.

The bland and generic cast is done no favors by Cardone's witless screenplay. (The lead girl looks like an Olsen Twin and "acts" accordingly.) Had Prom Night been a spoof, perhaps the ceaseless litany of pre-packaged dialog could be played for laughs. Unfortunately Prom Night is not a spoof; it's a horror movie with no horror, a listless, lifeless, bloodless slasher flick with a ridiculous villain, and easily one of the most worthless films in a long line of worthless films. It'd be easy to just trash the movie for being watered-down remake crap, but you could do that without having seen the flick. Truth is, they could have thrown in a lot of R-rated gore at the last minute and changed the title to Hotel Prom Masscare -- and it'd still be one of the crappiest horror movies in years.
categories Reviews, Cinematical