Prom Night (1980) Blu-ray Review: Disco! Dancing! Death!

Synapse Films brings us the definitive transfer of the classic Canadian slasher flick.
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Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a classic slasher flick, only to wonder "Man, I sure wish they would have included a lot of disco tunes on the soundtrack"? Or perhaps you are of the persuasion that would find themselves in the midst of a disco movie before they began to envision how much better it would be were there people getting slashed? Well, either way, the 1980 American/Canadian slasher film Prom Night proves that you can have your cake and eat it too - as it not only features murder, but disco dancing as well. And said dance numbers are set to a variety of catchy tunes written especially for the movie by composer Paul Zaza (Curtains) when it became apparent licensing existing popular tracks would prove too costly for this low-budget offering that in-turn made millions and became an instant cult classic.

The tale here opens with a quartet of kids accidentally causing the death of young Robin Hammond, and promptly form a pact to never tell what really happened there that fateful day so as not to get in any trouble. (Apparently, Canada has some very harsh penal laws for kids involved in accidental deaths.) Well, six years later we find ourselves on the eve of what would have been Robin's first prom. Her twin brother Alex (Michael Tough) and older sister Kim (Jamie Lee Curtis, still riding the Halloween wave) have recovered as best they could, while the Hammond mum is still something of a great big mess. The patriarch of the clan, however, Mr. Hammond (Leslie Nielsen), is also the principal of a high school populated by oversexed boys and girls who look suspiciously like college students.

Well, it isn't long until a mysterious stranger begins to call up the four kids responsible for Robin's death one by one, leaving them an asthmatic, cryptic warning that the time has come to pay the piper. And soon thereafter, our unknown maniac begins slaughtering the seemingly innocent teenagers during the disco-themed prom of terror. Casey Stevens, Eddie Benton (aka Anne-Marie Martin, of TV's Sledge Hammer! fame), Joy Thompson, and Mary Beth Rubens portray the quartet of unintentional killers targeted by a deliberate assassin; Sheldon Rybowski (previously seen in Equus, soon to never be seen on film again) is a hilarious love interest of one of the doomed kids who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, a young lass by the name of Pita Oliver wins the Best Mooning Ass of 1980 Award here hands down, and Cronenberg regular Robert A. Silverman is one of several potential suspects.

After having been previously released to DVD by several outfits, most of whom never managed to get it right (one version was culled from a murky VHS print, another was a PAL master incorrectly transferred to NTSC), the folks at Synapse Films have gone straight to the source material in order to bring us the definitive high-definition version of this killer feature on Blu-ray. And the new transfer is nothing short of breathtaking, presenting us with a vivid color scheme, deep blacks, and fine detail throughout in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Synapse also gives us a choice of audio tracks here: a DTS-HD MA lossless remix presented in 5.1, and a mono 2.0 DTS-HD MA version. Nice big English (SDH) subtitles are also on-hand.

Special features for this marvelous title include an audio commentary by director Paul Lynch and screenwriter William Gray (moderated by Paul Jankiewicz). A 41-minute retrospective making-of documentary entitled The Horrors of Hamilton High gathers the recounting of various cast and crew from the film (Ms. Curtis is not among them, I'm sorry to say), and there's an assortment of excised footage in the form of silent outtakes (set to Mr. Gaza's amazing score) and some rare scenes shot specifically for the movie's original network television airing (wherein Leslie Nielsen gets some more screentime before inexplicably disappearing in the final cut of the film). A vast assortment of stills, several radio/TV spots, and the original theatrical trailer round up the package.

Recommended.

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