Prom night is meant to be the most memorable event in a high-schooler’s life. Nelson McCormick’s loose remake of 1980’s Jamie Lee Curtis-headlined Prom Night, on the other hand, is memorable only insofar as its colossal, rank ineptitude will linger in unlucky viewers’ minds for years to come. A PG-13 slasher film is something of an oxymoron, as tame propriety is fundamentally antithetical to the down-and-dirty genre. Yet while the MPAA designation—sought so more teens can flush their allowance down the studio toilet this weekend—is the explanation for the lack of nudity and gore, it’s hardly responsible for the absence of suspense or mystery in this wretched tweener approximation of a scary stab-a-thon.
As the film’s title implies, it’s prom night in Bridgeport, a super-swanky suburb where the boys are hunk football players and the girls are boobs in low-cut dresses. For Donna (Brittany Snow), the evening is also the next big step in her ongoing psychological recovery from an incident three years earlier in which her family was slain by a deranged stalker (Johnathon Schaech). Wouldn’t you know, the psycho has broken out of his maximum-security hospital just in time to very sluggishly pursue Donna at the ritzy hotel where the senior class festivities are taking place, thereby attracting the attention of two always-one-step-behind cops (Idris Elba and James Ransone, slumming-it vets of The Wire).
A film even slightly more clever would have used Schaech’s madman as a red herring to mask the identity of another, enigmatic killer, but for writer J.S. Cardone, knowing exactly who the baddy is and watching him slaughter featureless nobodies—not to mention supernaturally appear and disappear at will—is the way to heighten, rather than downright annihilate, tension. If scruffy pretty boy Schaek in a baseball hat and dinner jacket isn’t un-scary enough, he then dispatches victims in speedy money-shot sequences that obscure violent contact or sights of copious blood (knife attacks result in only dainty red spots) but, alas, leave plenty of time for “I’m gonna miss you guys!” and “That bitch better not win prom queen!” claptrap so soul-crushingly vapid it makes one hate high school all over again.