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Prom Night: Unrated Version DVD Review

Prom Night (2008) movie poster Prom Night

Theatrical Release: April 11, 2008 / Running Time: 89 Minutes / Rating: Unrated (Theatrical Cut: PG-13)

Director: Nelson McCormick / Writer: J.S. Cardone

Cast: Brittany Snow (Donna Keppel), Scott Porter (Bobby), Jessica Stroup (Claire), Dana Davis (Lisa Hines), Collins Pennie (Ronnie Heflin), Kelly Blatz (Michael), James Ransone (Detective Nash), Brianne Davis (Crissy Lynn), Kellan Lutz (Rick Leland), Mary Mara (Ms. Waters), Ming Wen (Dr. Elisha Crowe), Johnathon Schaech (Richard Fenton), Idris Elba (Detective Winn), Jessalyn Gilsig (Aunt Karen Turner), Linden Ashby (Uncle Jack Turner), Jana Kramer (April), Rachel Spector (Taylor), Valeri Ross (Mrs. Hines)

Buy Prom Night from Amazon.com: Unrated DVDPG-13 Rated DVDUnrated Blu-ray Disc

By Kelvin Cedeno

The slasher may be the subgenre of horror most often been tapped by filmmakers. The concept of a killer who stabs victims to death in an unpredictable order is reliable enough for easy suspense. It's also broad enough to apply to virtually any scenario the mind can dream. Teenagers are frequently the main demographic for these films and, as such, the cast is usually comprised of teen characters.
This makes it all the more surprising that one of the most notable events in a teen's life, the senior prom, hasn't been used as a clothesline for the slasher flick more often. The fittingly titled Prom Night, a remake of a sequel-spawning 1980 film starring Jamie Lee Curtis, attempts to rectify this.

The story follows Donna Keppel (Brittany Snow), a senior in high school who witnessed the murder of her family three years ago at the hands of Richard Fenton (Johnathon Schaech), an obsessive teacher of hers. Now living with her aunt Karen (Jessalyn Gilsig) and uncle Jack (Linden Ashby), Donna is still haunted by her past even as her prom night approaches. Coincidentally, Richard has escaped from his psychiatric ward just in time to attend. Detective Winn (Idris Elba) investigates, keeping a watchful eye on Donna unbeknownst to her. This unfortunately means that he fails to notice Richard wandering about and killing everyone who crosses his path to Donna.

Aunt Karen (Jessalyn Gilsig) tries to alleviate Donna's (Brittany Snow) fears before sending her off to the prom. Donna (Brittany Snow), her friends Claire (Jessica Stroup) and Lisa (Dana Davis), and their respective boyfriends Bobby (Scott Porter), Michael (Kelly Blatz), and Ronnie (Collins Pennie) react more strongly to school bullies than serial killers.

Prom Night is a film that tries to be two things at once. It's mainly a horror story that involves the expected slashings and stabbings. At the same time, it wants to be a psychological suspense thriller. Some movies are able to successfully balance the two, but this isn't one of them. Audiences who wish to see a gorefest akin to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre will come away disappointed.
Even in the Unrated DVD version, the majority of the violence is implied, not shown. Those hoping for something deeper and more emotional like The Silence of the Lambs will likewise be short-thrifted. The characters on display are awfully one-note and shallow, and the plot is fairly nonexistent.

One thing that Prom Night actually succeeds in is its presentation. It contains solid production design and is well shot, thankfully avoiding the under-saturated color palette that makes many entries in this genre look the same. A slick appearance still isn't enough to overcome the story problems, however. The first half becomes awfully repetitive as Richard essentially kills random characters while the main ones party away on the dance floor. The deaths actually become somewhat amusing as Richard's motive for murder seems to be anyone who so much as breathes at him throughout the hotel where the prom is held. The second half fares slightly better as it turns into more of a chase thriller, but the lack of interesting personalities ensures the dormancy of suspense.

Detective Winn (Idris Elba) isn’t made of win just yet as he’s slightly befuddled and distracted, something the hotel clerk quickly notices. This would be the part of the film where the audience screams, "Look behind you!"... if they actually cared about the victim in question.

The level of ambition onboard Prom Night puts it in a peculiar state. It's not lofty enough to become anything engrossing and chilling, yet it's not humble enough to turn into a consciously silly killing spree. Too bloodless for slasher fans and too hollow for thriller fans, it ends up not pleasing any sort of demographic. Glossy and handsome production values can't save the film from otherwise being utterly tepid.

Note that the subject of this review is the Unrated version, which arrives on DVD this week separate from the PG-13 theatrical cut. Unlike many other unrated re-cuts, this one doesn't add much footage. Instead, it actually presents alternate takes of what some of the corpses look like when discovered. Outside of some added profanity, the elements exclusive to this cut don't seem strong enough to warrant an R rating, especially when the violence remains implied via reaction shots and sound effects. The concurrently-issued Blu-Ray disc only contains this unrated cut.

Buy Prom Night: Unrated Version on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English
Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: August 19, 2008
Suggested Retail Price: $14.94 (Reduced from $28.96)
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Black Keepcase with Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in PG-13 Theatrical Cut DVD DVD
and on Unrated Blu-ray Disc


In all three of its releases, Prom Night comes in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The image quality meets the expectations one would have for a film so recent as it's virtually flawless. The picture is free of both print and digital defects, and the surprisingly colorful palette is bold yet natural. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack replicates the various requirements well. Dialogue scenes are clear and intelligible. There aren't very many effects that the surrounds can utilize, so these are devoted mostly to music (whether it be the suitably bombastic songs from the dance floor or the clichéd, jumpy score).

Want to see the alternate ending to the film? You’re looking at it and would see nothing different were you to press 'play.' The cast eases up after a flubbed take included in the outtakes reel. A random extra smiles and waves to us in the camcorder-shot video yearbook. Her better-known classmates are mysteriously missing from this video.


The first feature is an audio commentary track with director Nelson McCormick and actors Brittany Snow and Johnathon Schaech. This track is like a showcase for different possible commentary scenarios. McCormick exhibits the type that's reasonably informative, explaining his motivations and inspirations. Snow's comments are an example of the sort of track where the participant reacts to the onscreen action and narrates it. Schaech fits the mold of the commentator that fails to comment, instead just watching the film silently. Because of this, the commentary is a very mixed bag, and the most valuable portions can be gleamed from the featurettes.

Next are a collection of five deleted scenes (4:56). While one of them would've actually helped clear a muddled plot point, the rest are superfluous and would've neither helped nor hindered. These can be viewed with optional commentary by McCormick, Snow, and Schaech. The commentary adds nothing to the proceedings as McCormick narrates, Snow reacts, and Schaech sounds to have fallen asleep.

The hyped alternate ending (0:34) is shocking, but only because of how deceiving the marketing is. All it is is a freeze frame of a shot found in the actual film while an additional line of dialogue is heard. Once again, the trio returns for a commentary that fails to explain much of anything.

A gag reel (2:00) is included and simply features the actors flubbing their lines. Some of this is slightly amusing, but most of it is routine, especially without much inspired improvising or on-set antics.

"Bridgeport High Vikings Video Yearbook" (5:31) shows the entire version of the student montage briefly seen at the prom. It's a good addition, especially since it lets one admire the effort that went into making this appear like a real school's video yearbook.

"A Night to Remember: The Making of Prom Night" (12:41) is a fairly average piece on the production. Very little behind-the-scenes footage is shown. Instead, there's a reliance on interviews and film clips. Some good notes come up regarding the filmmakers' intentions, but mostly praise is just thrown about.

"Gothic Spaces" shows how the senior class of Bridgeport High is treated to a prom budget quadruple those of other schools'. Dana Davis recalls how serial killer-free her real prom was compared to her onscreen one. Richard wields his weapon of choice in the disc's main menu.

"Profile of a Killer" (5:59) features similar quality. Both Richard Fenton the character and Johnathon Schaech the actor are examined. The comments regarding the former are decent (especially considering the character doesn't come across as well as was intended in the final film), but those about the latter fall into more praise.

"Gothic Spaces: Creating the Pacific Grand Hotel" (4:47) is easily the best of the featurettes despite being the shortest. The cast and crew talk about what went into building the film's central locale and what its various designs represent.
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Behind-the-scenes footage helps reveal how much detail was put into the elaborate set.

The final featurette, "Prom Night Photo Album: Real Prom Stories from the Cast" (6:13) is partially mistitled since no photos are shown outside of a couple of production stills at the very end of the featurette. Before that, the actors reminisce about their own prom nights. While this is appropriate subject matter that lends itself well to fun anecdotes, the prom experiences shared, quite frankly, aren't that interesting.

The supplements wrap up with the welcome inclusion of the theatrical trailer (2:19) and a TV spot (0:18).

The DVD opens with a promo for recent Sony Blu-ray releases and trailers for Quarantine and 21. These can be found under the "Previews" menu along with an astounding collection of trailers for The House Bunny, Lakeview Terrace, Vantage Point, Made of Honor, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Fearnet.com, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder, Resident Evil: Degeneration, 88 Minutes, Redbelt, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, 30 Days of Night, I Know Who Killed Me, and Persepolis.

The main menu presents a montage of clips revealing far more than they really should. These are surrounded by a confetti border sprinkled with blood. All submenus maintain the confetti motif but are silent and static. They're all expectedly 16x9 enhanced, while the supplements are disappointingly 4x3.

The DVD comes housed in a standard Amaray case with a cardboard slipcover. Like most of its kind, the slipcover merely replicates the sleeve artwork, and its uselessness is heightened by a lack of embossment or shine. The disc art replicates the back cover image of Donna, and no insert is included inside the case.

It's not a prom night without a dance between our protagonist (Brittany Snow) and her beau (Scott Porter). Would you trust this man (Johnathon Schaech) to teach your teenage daughter? The staff at Bridgeport High apparently does.


This Prom Night remake is the type of film that sets out to please everyone, but ends up pleasing no one. Whether it's the lack of blood or character development that disappoints, one is likely to come out unaffected either way. Sony's DVD presents the film well, at least, with excellent picture and very good audio. The bonus material, while hitting the main points, fails to reveal very much about this production.

Too subdued to be enjoyed on a campy level and too clichéd to emotionally invest in, Prom Night isn't really worth anyone's time. Fans of slasher films and thrillers are recommended to look elsewhere to fill their gore and suspense quota.

Buy Prom Night from Amazon.com: Unrated DVD / PG-13 Theatrical Cut DVD / Unrated Blu-ray

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The Cast of Prom Night:
Brittany Snow: The PacifierWhisper of the Heart | Johnathon Schaech: That Thing You Do! (Tom Hanks' Extended Cut)
Jessica Stroup: Grey's Anatomy: Season Three | Kellan Lutz: Stick It | Ming-Na Wen: MulanPush
Dana Davis: 10 Things I Hate About You: Volume One | Idris Elba: 28 Weeks Later

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Reviewed August 18, 2008.

Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2008 Screen Gems, Original Film, Newmarket Films, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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