Prom Night (1980 film)

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Prom Night
Prom night film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Lynch
Produced by Peter R. Simpson
Richard Simpson
Written by William Gray
Robert Guza, Jr.
Starring Leslie Nielsen
Jamie Lee Curtis
Music by Paul Zaza
Carl Zittrer
Cinematography Robert C. New
Edited by Brian Ravok
Distributed by Avco Embassy Pictures
Release date(s)
  • July 18, 1980 (1980-07-18) (US, limited)
  • August 15, 1980 (1980-08-15) (US, wide)
  • September 12, 1980 (1980-09-12) (Canada)
Running time 89 minutes
Country United States/Canada
Language English
Budget $1,600,000[citation needed]
Box office $14,796,236 (Domestic) [1]

Prom Night is a 1980 American/Canadian slasher film directed by Paul Lynch and starring Leslie Nielsen and Jamie Lee Curtis. The original music score was composed by Paul Zaza and Carl Zittrer. The film was given a limited release in the United States on July 18, 1980 (eventually going wide on August 15), and was considerably popular, especially within the drive-in theater circuit.[2] It was released in Canada in September that year, and went on to become the country's highest-grossing horror film of 1980,[2] also receiving Genie Award nominations for editing and for Curtis' performance. In spite of its moderate success, the film received generally unfavorable reviews from film critics.

The story concerns a group of high school seniors who are targeted by an unknown killer in revenge for their culpability in the accidental death of a young girl six years earlier. The anniversary of the incident falls on their high school's prom night, when the older sister of the dead girl is being crowned prom queen.


In 1974, 11-year-olds Wendy Richards, Jude Cunningham, Kelly Lynch, and Nick McBride play hide and seek in an abandoned convent. 10-year-old Robin Hammond tries to join them, but they start teasing her by repeating "Kill! Kill! Kill!". Robin is backed towards a window from which she falls to her death. The children make a pact not to tell anyone what happened and keep the incident a secret, but after they leave a shadow falls across Robin's body. A known rapist is blamed for Robin's death and arrested.

Six years later, Robin's family attend her memorial on the anniversary of her death. Robin's teenage sister and brother, Kim and Alex, are also preparing for the school prom to be held that evening. Their parents will also attend, as their father is the school principal.

Kelly, Jude and Wendy receive threatening phone calls from an unknown figure, while Nick ignores his ringing phone. Kim and Nick, whom she is dating, are attending prom together; Jude is asked by goofy jokester Seymour "Slick" Crane who she meets by chance that morning; Kelly is going with her boyfriend Drew Shinnick (who is preoccupied with having sex with her despite her objections), while Wendy, previously Nick's girlfriend, asks the school rebel, Lou Farmer with plans to embarrass Nick and Kim at prom.

In the changing room after gym class, Kim and Kelly discover the locker room mirror severely cracked and a shard missing. The offender blamed for Robin's death has escaped and Lt. McBride, Nick's father, investigates. During the senior prom Kim and Nick perform a dance number to impress Wendy who had insisted Nick would be getting back with her after the prom. Kelly and Drew make out in the changing room, but Kelly refuses to continue to full sex. Drew angrily leaves. As Kelly gets dressed, a masked killer slits her throat with the mirror shard.

Jude and Slick have sex and smoke marijuana in his van outside school grounds. However, they are being watched by Kelly's killer, who kills Jude by stabbing her throat. Slick brawls with the killer while attempting to drive away. The killer escapes from the van as it tumbles off a cliff and explodes, crushing and burning Slick to death in the flaming wreckage. McBride, staking out the prom, is informed that the sex offender blamed for Robin's death has been caught. He is relieved and ends his scrutiny of the event.

Wendy is confronted by the axe wielding killer in the bathroom and is chased through the school. After evading the killer several times, she is caught and hacked to death with an axe offscreen after she finds Kelly's body. Kim and Nick prepare to be crowned prom king and queen. Wendy's plan is put into action by Lou and his lackeys who tie up Nick with Lou taking his crown and assuming his position back stage. Thinking he is Nick, the assailant sneaks up behind Lou with the axe and decapitates him.

Lou's head rolls onto the dance floor, sending the partygoers fleeing in horror. Kim finds Nick and frees him. As they prepare to escape, they are confronted by the killer who attacks Nick. Kim eventually grabs the killer's axe and hits him on the head with it. As Kim and the killer stare at each other for a moment, Kim realizes who he really is. He runs outside where the police have arrived. As guns are raised Kim screams for the officers not to shoot. The killer is revealed to be Alex, who tearfully tells his sister that Jude, Kelly, Wendy and Nick were responsible for their sister's death, dying in Kim's arms as he cries Robin's name.



According to director Paul Lynch in the documentary Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film (2006), he was having difficulty securing financing until Jamie Lee Curtis signed on. Once the film was shot, Paramount expressed interest in distributing the movie. However, they only wanted to open it in 300 theaters whereas Avco Embassy Pictures offered to release it in 1200 theaters. As a result Avco released Prom Night. Paramount released another independent slasher film, Friday the 13th.

According to the producer of Prom Night, Eve Plumb (from television's The Brady Bunch) originally auditioned for the role of Kim Hammond.[3] The movie was filmed on location in Toronto at the Don Mills Collegiate Institute.


The score of the film was composed by Carl Zittrer and Paul Zaza.

  1. "All Is Gone" by Blue Bazar
  2. "Prom Night"
  3. "Changes"
  4. "Dancing in the Moonlight"
  5. "Fade to Black"
  6. "All Is Gone" (Instrumental) by Blue Bazar
  7. "Time to Turn Around"
  8. "Love Me Till I Die"
  9. "Prom Night 2"
  10. "Forever" by Blue Bazar

The Prom Night soundtrack is highly sought after by fans of the film and disco fans alike. It was released only in Japan on LP and cassette. A 7-inch single of "All Is Gone" b/w "Forever" was also released, however neither of these songs appears in the film. Many bootleg CD releases have also found their way onto the marketplace, but Prom Night has never been issued on CD. Some of the music used in the film was used in Canadian horror productions that Paul Zaza scored as well; 1981's Ghostkeeper and 1983's Curtains.[4] The song "Prom Night" was featured in Cabin Fever 2.

Home media[edit]

Prom Night has had an inconsistent release history on home video. It was originally released on VHS in 1981 by MCA Universal in North America, at the beginnings of home video popularity, despite the film's theatrical distribution by Avco-Embassy. In 1988, it was re-released on VHS by Virgin Entertainment. In 1997, the film was re-released again, by Anchor Bay Entertainment, in both standard and "collector's" editions.[5] It was then released on DVD by Anchor Bay on February 18, 1998 with a re-mastered widescreen transfer, and was one of the company's first DVD releases. By 2000, Anchor Bay's DVD release had gone out of print and became a rarity among film fans.

It was released again to DVD in Canada by Alliance Atlantis in March 2004, but was sourced from an extremely dark, low-quality VHS transfer, which resulted in some of the film's darker scenes being nearly illegible; this transfer was also used for Platinum Disc's full-screen DVD edition of the movie for the US, and has turned up in a couple horror movie collections as well. In September 2007, Echo Bridge Home Entertainment re-released the film on DVD in the US in a completely re-mastered print from a PAL source, which was given an uncorrected transfer to NTSC. Due to the uncorrected transfer, the film is slightly "sped up", which, though mostly unnoticeable to the naked eye, reduced the film's run time by several minutes.

In July 2013 (, it was revealed that Synapse Films' had acquired vault materials of Prom Night and are planning on releasing a high-definition restoration in the near future.


The film has an approval rating of 33% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 17 reviews, certifying it "rotten".[6] AllMovie's review of the film was generally negative, but wrote that it "utilizes a surprising amount of skill both behind and in front of the camera as it goes through its paces".[7]

The film earned $6 million in rentals on initial release.[8]

Award nominations[edit]

Sequels and remake[edit]

The Prom Night film series include four films and one remake (which tells a completely original story, with little connection to the 1980 film).


  1. ^ "Prom Night (1980)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-09-10. 
  2. ^ a b Miller, Rhett. "Review: Prom Night". Canuxploitation. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  3. ^ "Curtains Unveiled: An Interview with Peter Simpson - August 2004". The Terror Trap. 
  4. ^ "Chords of Fear: An Interview with Paul Zaza - February 2010". The Terror Trap. 
  5. ^ "Amazon Catalogue: Prom Night [VHS]". Retrieved 2014-04-12. 
  6. ^ "Prom Night - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  7. ^ Guarisco, Donald. "Prom Night - Review - AllMovie". AllMovie. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  8. ^ Richard Nowell, Blood Money: A History of the First Teen Slasher Film Cycle Continuum, 2011 p 260

External links[edit]