If there is one major lesson to be learned from PROM NIGHT, it is that the legal system and its “insanity” loopholes make it possible for psychopathic, vengeful killers to get back into society and kill again. So it is for the character of Richard Fenton (played to horrifying perfection by Johnathon Schaech), a high school teacher who became obsessed with his student, Donna Keppel (played by Brittany Snow). He murders her family, killing her mother in front of her eyes as she hides under the bed, and is eventually imprisoned thousands of miles away. Because of an insanity loophole, he is sent to a mental facility rather than faces the death penalty. As one would anticipate, he escapes to find the object of his obsession and to kill any and everyone who gets in his way.
Living with her aunt and uncle after the death of her family, Donna is still recovering after three years of torment and nightmares. However, it is the night of her senior prom, and she tries to put her fears behind her, looking forward to a great new life. Her boyfriend, Bobby (played by Scott Porter), is very supportive and caring, and does not press her. He encourages her to move on with her scholarship to Brown, and that if they are meant to be together, they will be together.
Three couples go together in a rented limosine, including Donna and Bobby, her best friends, Lisa (Dana Davis) and Ronnie (Collins Pennie), and Claire (Jessica Stroup) and Michael (Kelly Blatz). The group has gotten a suite at the Pacific Grand Hotel, the venue for the prom which has been paid for by wealthy class diva, Crissy Lynn (Brianne Davis). Obviously, the renting of the suite gives the impression of evil and the intent of their youthful lusts.
Predictably, the killer shows up at the hotel and begins killing off everyone with whom he comes in contact. He manages to get a master key to the rooms, and waits in the suite for his “idol,” Donna. Everyone but Donna comes to the room, however, and his killing spree continues. The action moves back and forth between the dance and the suite, and the eventual crowning of the king and queen of the prom. Eventually, the police get a fax about the killer’s escape and rush to the hotel, which leads to a suspenseful finish.
The story is very predictable. PROM NIGHT is a scary, unsettling movie that may generate fear, though perhaps not in horror fans who prefer more blood-soaked R-rated fare. It is a “slasher” movie, but it does not revel in gore. Perhaps because this killer was a seemingly normal character, a teacher, he is that much more frightening, rather than the typical masked “Michael” from HALLOWEEN, or “Jason” from FRIDAY the 13th. If anything, PROM NIGHT is scary teenage flick with typical teen testosterone behavior. Though the killer is clearly made to be evil, which could cut down on any copycat crimes, and the teenagers don’t consummate their sexual plans.
(PaPa, B, Ho, LLL, VV, S, AA, M) Strong, slightly mixed, pagan worldview with moral elements about an evil stalker and killer who escapes a mental institution and must be stopped (but he kills many people before he is stopped), with political content suggesting that society is too sometimes too easy on vicious killers and other villains, plus a homosexual reference to a female gym teacher; strong teenage slasher thriller violence with some blood shown but heavier on the suspense with numerous knife killings (many not shown fully), disturbing scene of teenager returning home from a movie to find her father and brother stabbed to death and witnesses the stabbing death of her mother, scary nightmares of killer returning, maid stabbed in hotel room, room valet stabbed on bed; teenage girl stabbed in bathroom, teenage boy stabbed in living room, bodies hidden under beds/in closets/in ceilings, body in trunk of car, girl’s throat slit, blood spatters on sheet, man killed in car, man on ground in pool of blood, dead body on bed, and gunshot killing; light sexual references such as teenage couple with clothes lying on bed kisses passionately, passionate kissing on dance floor, and teenagers talk about getting hotel suite at the prom hotel for the purpose of fornication, a goal that is never reached, plus reference to gym teacher being a lesbian because she likes student’s low cut dress; no actual nudity but female cleavage is often shown; underage alcohol use and teenagers bring quantities of alcohol into prom and hotel; no smoking or drugs; and, stalking, typical high school cliques and jealousies, and lax enforcement of crime by the judicial system, which the movie implicitly criticizes.
PROM NIGHT is a PG-13 slasher movie. Donna Keppel is a beautiful high school senior preparing for her senior prom. Her excitement is clouded, however, by the continuing nightmare of her family’s murder at the hands of an obsessed psychopathic teacher. Even though the killer was caught, he was sent to a mental facility because of a last-minute insanity plea. Three years later, he escapes and stalks Donna at the hotel where her prom is being held. He begins killing everyone who gets in his way. Then, he gets a master key so he can wait in the hotel suite where Donna and her friends plan to party and have sexual relations.
The terror plot in PROM NIGHT is predictable, but it works. Though PROM NIGHT is a teen “slasher” film, it is heavier on suspense than blood and gore. It also speaks against the loopholes in our legal system that too often allow leniency for psychopathic murderers. Even so, the movie contains strong violence, scary scenes and plenty of foul language. Also, the teenagers intend to drink alcohol and engage in sexual relations. Thus, it is more than excessive.