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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

PROM NIGHT (Synapse Blu-ray) - Bring it Home Before Midnight!

When the First Friday Fright Night crew said they were going to screen Prom Night, I was elated especially since they were going to be taking vintage prom pictures in the lobby. What a fantastic way to celebrate slasher gold, a Scream Queen of class and merit like Jamie Lee and a production that is almost as fun to dance to as is it to watch. Sadly, I was unable to attend the screening, and as I stared at my social media account in shame, I watched as a pile of happy couples dressed to the nines, taking pictures in front of an trellis and having one Hell of a time cutting a rug (or maybe just watching some 35mm goodness). I knew that Synapse had started their restoration for a new Blu-ray, and so I waited, like many of you, for a proper HD release with all the trimming (save for a corsage).

To further endear myself to picture let me provide this little tidbit. It’s no secret that I try to hit the gym every day, and when I do I like to work out to horror music mixes from Death Waltz to Evil Nine and on to Rendezvous  LA. One of my favorite mixes is from Haunt Love, the screen print genius that does work for many of the Exhumed Films 35mm screenings as well as other events. He put out a mix called My Bloody Mixtape which features tracks from previous Exhumed screenings include some trailer audio and movie sound bytes. Prom Night is featured prominently in this loop with a trailer and the busty disco theme that is perfect for your cardio mania. I only say that because that’s what it’s like watching Prom Night. Good upbeat fun with plenty to look at to get your heart racing.

Enough about my personal experience and absent misadventures… Let’s get you home before midnight.

Synapse has released a gorgeous print that preserves film grain, is DNR-lite and rich in color. The best scene to exemplify this is the dance scene with Jamie Lee and her beau disco dancing on a lighted floor. It really pops. I also noted that the opening scene which is extremely soft on the focus is bright and clear even in its intentionally fuzzy look. Please do not confuse this for a transfer issue. That’s how the movie was shot and it really is a dreamy, almost flashback like scene in a unique location with some classic late 70’s/early 80’s child performances (I like to think of the look of the children in Bloody Birthday).

The extras include an audio commentary with Director Paul Lynch and Screenwriter William Gray which is informative, but the lengthy making of featurette is superb. It is entitled The Horrors of Hamilton high and it has everyone (except for Leslie Nielsen and Jamie Lee Curtis). This looks to be put out by Synapse and Red Shirt (Red Shirt does many of the Scream Factory extras which are consistently good). Even in the absence of the two big stars, the rest of the cast and crew are eager to relate stories that fill the gaps nicely providing more than one belly laugh i.e. I had no idea Nielsen was so flatulent. I wonder how that worked out during the making of Creepshow a couple years later. There are a few outtakes (never before scene which are exclusive to this Blu-ray. Also the Blu-ray features a collection of added scenes used for the TV broadcast. I didn’t realize this was so commonly place in the early 80’s. Famously Halloween includes additional material (which I consider part of the canon), but I had no idea Prom Night had the same issue. It really makes sense when you see the blood and skin in this picture. The special edition includes a still gallery, the classic radio spots (Blu-ray only) and the original trailer and TV spots. These are as entertaining as the entire picture condensed. Having listened to the trailer over and over again on my My Bloody Mixtape track I’ve come to be especially fond of the Prom Night trailer voiceover.

Note: Region A, a new 5.1 surround mix, 1080p HD 1.78:1 presentation. This is a new version, remastered and restored in 2k from the original 35mm camera negative.

If you haven’t seen Prom Night then I suppose you’d like to know what you’re missing. Think of a traditional holiday themed slasher movie with focus on high school kids and the prom. The killer’s motive is fairly straight forward for this period in the slasher-dom; often they are more convoluted, buried in subtext. This one is clearly mapped to the audience in the opening sequence. You won’t necessarily know the identity of our masked killer (clearly American slasher and not giallo), but it’s a nice jumping off point much in the same way that say Halloween starts of with the childhood rendition of Michael Myers and then works into modern day where the nightmares begin. The kills range from somewhat tame to creative to gruesome. You may see the effects happening rather than feel like your watching a more realistic splatter, but that makes it fun in almost an HG Lewis sort of way (sans the Crayola red blood). Plenty of skin and sexual innuendo as well as a few naughty jokes that nearly touch on the rising 80’s sex comedies that were very common circa 1980. Of course Jamie Lee doesn’t show any real skin (she won’t until Trading Places), but you won’t be let down (perves). The end is actually quite sad… I mean if you let it be. You could just as easily laugh it off if you’re among a group of rowdy friends.

Prom Night is one of those horror pictures that I enjoy, but it doesn’t immediately rise to the top as a personal favorite. Maybe it’s because my personal connection to this movie isn’t a repeated viewing as a youngster.  Yet after each viewing I find myself feeling good. It gives you a bit of a kick in the pants because of the upbeat music and smart pacing. Yes it has sequels, and Hello Marylou may even be more of a cult favorite than the original, but the original is iconic and acts as a piece of slasher history preserving the holiday horror tradition, giving Curtis yet another starring role in our beloved genre and providing us yet another chance to see Leslie Nielsen in another Horror picture (Day of the Animals, Forbidden Planet and, as previously noted, Creepshow shortly thereafter).

I think back to An Album of Modern Horror, a book that guided me to many a horror film in my youth, and the image of the head from a decapitated prom goer on a stage in black and white. I had looked at the still for years, but didn’t get to enjoy Prom Night until I was nearly twenty years old. When I finally did catch it I seemed to overlook the infamous thwack, and I think that may be because I caught a TV cut.  I see that head lopped off now and it brings back memories; memories of waiting to see how that head ended up on that stage after piecing together my own personal back story while looking at that still in my early “text book” in horror 101. Who chopped it off? Why? I actually rewatched that sequence several times with this most recent viewing and even though the fleshy fake neck is Halloween costume grade, the speed at which it all happens and the head itself made me cheer in my own living room. That’s a great reason to buy the new Blu-ray of Prom Night. To watch, in High Definition, over and over again, a fantastic decapitation. Synapse continues an impressive run of Blu-rays, packed with features and providing unique cover art options on the reverse.

You can order Prom Night now from Synapse.

Watch it with someone you love and assure them you’ll have them home by Midnight. Maybe do what the Colonial Theater gang did and throw a theme party at your house with spiked punch, full prom regalia and don’t forget the floral arrangements. (Sneak away from the crowd and get naughty with your significant other for that authentic feel).


 Synopsis from Synpase:

Four Hamilton High seniors are hiding a terrible secret. What happened to Robin Hammond six years ago was a game that turned into a horrible tragedy, and someone saw what they did… someone waiting for gruesome revenge! Wearing a black hood and wielding an axe, a killer brutally slaughters the teenagers one by one at their high school prom. As the spotlight falls on the newly crowned prom king and queen, the psychopath will show everyone his new favorite game to play…

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