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Prom Night (Echo Bridge 16x9)
09-07-2007, 05:24 AM
Review Date: September 6, 2007
Released by: Echo Bridge
Release date: 10/2/2007
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
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Hollywood’s continual reimaging of horror’s celebrated splatter pictures has given the films a distinction not even their greatest admirers could imagine. Hollywood has made the slasher genre classical. Even when Scream was sending up the conventions ten years ago, the genre still had a contemporary perception. Scream was playing off a genre that was very much still in the mind of the filmmakers and the people who still continually rented the films on video. That era is over now, and now with every slasher remake we see, Hollywood is in essence canonizing films we’d never imagine as historical documents. Freddy, Jason and Michael are no longer contemporary, they're historical. Emblems of another era, stragglers in a genre that has moved on to the torture porn inspired by Iraq and beyond. Ten years ago, when Anchor Bay first released Prom Night on DVD, it was a contemporary classic. Now, with Echo Bridge’s long awaited anamorphic remaster, Prom Night is now historic. Let’s take a revised look at one of the founding fathers of the slasher genre we all love.
"The killer is coming!"
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In words with more weight than even diretor Paul Lynch could imagine, four little kids engage in a deranged game of hide and seek. Roaming the halls of a condemned school, they chase each other around with the promise that they’ll be killed. Little Robin Hammond joins the kids midway into the game, but being an outsider, the group gangs up on her. They surround her, engulfing her with taunts, until they back her into a corner. Out of fright, she propels herself back through an unstable window, falling two stories to her immediate death. Fearing punishment and retribution, the kids make a pact never to tell, to let their tragic secret stay with them until the grave.
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It’s now six years later, and Robin is survived by her older sister Kim (Jamie Lee Curtis), younger brother Alex (Michael Tough) and father and Hamilton High principal, Raymond (Leslie Nielsen). They all stop at her grave before heading off to school, where another monumental event is to fatefully unfold, Prom Night. Despite it being the anniversary of Robin’s death, Kim must prepare for her crowning as Prom Queen, and somebody else must prepare for their night of vengeance. For the four who saw Robin die, this will be a night they will never forget and one they’ll never live past to remember.
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Each person has been left a threatening phone call, from Kim’s boyfriend Nick (Casey Stephens) to the pampered bitch Wendy (Anne-Marie Martin), and each is reminded of what they’ve done. The show goes on though, as everyone groups for the disco celebration. Kelly will lose her virginity and Jude will try her first joint. Deep in the shadows though, a killer lurks, destined for payback. Is it the escaped rapist wrongfully convicted of the murder, the loony school gardener, daddy or someone else entirely? On a day of celebrating the past, one prowler will make sure Robin’s death does not go unforgotten.
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Prom Night is a deceptively complex film, rooted with the seeds of Greek tragedy but outfitted in frilled lapels and disco balls. On the surface, it is easy to revel in the camp of the tour-de-force disco dance-off (“Let’s show them what we can do!” says Kim) or the familiarity of genre tropes like sex and drug use leading to death. After all, the film is now classical, a demonstration of the slasher in its most complete and elemental form. While Halloween and Black Christmas may have been precursors, Prom Night cemented every previous convention, adding The Past Event That Dare Not Be Mentioned and the angle of mystery to make the slasher genre a full-fledged classifiable entity. While Halloween and Black Christmas have been able to attain acclaim on their own merits over the years, Prom Night remains inescapable of its slasher foundations, for it is the slasher, and the slasher it.
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So what exactly is the slasher genre? Well, according to Prom Night, it is one rooted with as much Sophocles and Freud as it is boobs and blood. No killer gouges their eyes out at the thought of making love to their mother here, but sight in this instance is nearly as traumatic. Indeed, the whole film is about how the sight of a young girl dying has impacted the lives of a community and a family. Activities like disrobing in front of your boyfriend or dancing in front of the school populous also invite the viewer to engage in looking. The killer itself is sight personified, dressed entirely in black, the only distinguishable feature being the big, tragic eyes. Halloween and Black Christmas may have invited us to see through the eyes of the killer, but Prom Night asks us to question what the killer has seen in hopes of coming to a greater truth about the essence of pain and tragedy.
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Again, the film is dressed up in a glittery disco exterior, but therein it asks us to look deeper. Like how Oedipus was bound tragically to his family, so too are the characters of Prom Night. This is a film, ultimately, about how one family copes with loss, whether they do it in silence or by brandishing a big phallic axe. Robin Wood has deemed the slasher genre “the return of the repressed”, suggesting (rightfully) that no secrets can be left unturned, and that once a vindicator arises to kill, their voice can never be silenced. Michael has escaped, Freddy’s still in our dreams, the Boy is still out there. But in its one major diversion from the slasher formula, Prom Night suggests a sad sense of conclusion. The killer does not rise again, and the terror inflicted does not live on in the hearts of others. Instead, the killer is dead, and the mystery behind Robin Hammond’s death has finally been laid to rest. In one of slasher’s most effective and emotional closers, the killer is revealed to tears, not screams, and the repressed is no longer.
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Freud argued that identity formation was sexual in nature, and brought forth during childhood. In addition to addressing the grand themes of Greek Tragedy, Prom Night too is surprisingly attuned to aspects of this psychology. Psychology plays a literal part in the subplot of the escaped rapist, but it exists best in the background, when it underpins the motivations of the killer. The killer is stuck in childhood, asking if the victims “still like to play games” as if the event were only yesterday. The event has made the killer unable to mentally grow, revealing instead, at the grand revelation, a gender confused abomination.
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Sight, sexuality, and a family’s cope with violence are high themes for any film, let alone one from a genre with particularly lowered standards. Those who love the slasher know, though, that behind every hoot of the joint or stab of the knife, there lurks themes much deeper than what initially appears. Prom Night, after a long and tenured stay as one of the genre’s campy disco delights, has finally become classic, and now begs to be critically appraised as such. Behind its glittery, dated exterior lies one of horror’s greatest Greek Tragedies, a film that refuses to let secrets stay unseen.
The big question weighing on this re-release is whether or not Echo Bridge actually did it. Did they deliver the anamorphic Prom Night they promised; the one that has eluded fans for over ten years? The answer, enthusiastically, is yes. Not only that, they’ve delivered a transfer better in all respects, with better color timing, clarity, framing and detail than ht previous Anchor Bay benchmark. There’s another version of Prom Night on DVD, a full frame transfer also by Echo Bridge. While this removes the mattes and in effect opens up more picture, there’s no doubt this film was meant to be seen in the 1.85:1 widescreen it is shown here. In addition, the previous Echo Bridge disc was washed out with terrible contrast. But make no mistake, this new disc is leaps and bounds better than both, finally doing justice to Robert New’s underappreciated cinematography.
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The first thing you’ll notice from this new transfer is the clarity. Right from the opening shot of the school, everything looks so crisp compared to the blurry Anchor Bay disc. The added resolution of anamorphic enhancement only adds to the detail that can be seen in the previously indecipherable backgrounds of the frame. Upon even closer inspection though, Echo Bridge has drastically improved the saturation and contrast too, removing that overly-red glow that dominated the previous discs. Now, when Kelly gets hers in the gym, it looks a cold blue rather than a romanticized red. As a result, the skin tones look much more realistic. The framing too, is better, a little more opened up than the Anchor Bay disc, not only on top, but on the sides too. Consider the shot of Robin dead in the glass, the Echo Bridge disc offers a much more open and flattering framing.
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The Anchor Bay disc is ten years old, so it’s no surprise that Echo Bridge’s update is better. The colors look great, the blacks are solid, even the stretching seems more lifelike. Looking at the Anchor Bay disc, the characters look more narrow than they ought to be. The only problem comes from the fact that this is a PAL-to-NTSC transfer (demonstrated by the sped-up run-time) and there are thus combing artifacts throughout. It is most evident during the end credits sequence, with much of the text looking jagged on large televisions. It's not entirely a nuisance, but it's definitely there on those bigger televisions. Echo Bridge has righted all the wrongs of the previous disc, and even with these combing issues, they've still given us a worthy upgrade. Finally.
The mono audio is virtually the same as the previous track, only noticeably louder. The disco track is iconic, and the increased modulation will mean your speakers get an even greater work out. While this would still be a film I’d love to hear in 5.1 thanks to the soundtrack, I’m content turning on the “Disco” filter on my Yamaha receiver and letting the beats fill the room. It’s what my receiver was meant to do.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/pnight/pnight_menus.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/pnight/pnight_menul.jpg)There are no extras on this release. There was a classic trailer on the Anchor Bay disc, but other than that their disc was bare too. There is a notable difference in run-time between the two discs, the Anchor Bay disc running 1:32:12 from credit to credit, while the Echo Bridge disc runs only 1:28:28. Upon further inspection though, the elements are identical, with the Echo Bridge transfer simply running at a faster speed. Don’t worry, this is still Prom Night just the way you remembered it.
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I’ve always loved Prom Night, but in my original critique of the film I called it “campy” and conceded that it was “not an excellent piece of cinema”. When held up against contemporary slashers it feels dated, not only by the disco fever, but the old fashioned morality. Now that it’s been remade, thus asserting the film’s canonical status, it’s easier now to see it as the vintage classic that it is. Its old fashioned because it is classical, and indeed one of the pinnacle films in the slasher genre. Echo Bridge has treated it as such with a solid anamorphic remastering, too. Although there is some PAL-to-NTSC artifacting, the video is a huge improvement over the Anchor Bay release, and the sound is faithful to the original as well. The film is still crying out for extras though. Until that special edition comes, this will more than fill the void, and any slasher fan needs to own this, especially considering the $6.99 list price. Everyone else needs to own it now, too, because, well, it’s become a classic.
Movie - A
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B
Supplements - N/A
Running time - 1 hour and 29 minutes
09-07-2007, 05:36 AM
Awesome review. I have the old Elite LD and will probably buy this now after seeing the comparison screenshots versus the Anchor Bay dvd. Still not perfect but it does look a lot better than I remember my version looking on my best player.
09-07-2007, 06:46 AM
Thank you so much for the comparison, Rhett. While the intentional softness of the image appears to be as annoying as ever, the colors look amazing. All you need to do is look at the comparison of the shot with Wendy in her red dress--the red almost pops out at you from the screen! I need to buy this disc ASAP.
09-07-2007, 08:31 AM
I'm really going to need to buy this now. It's amazing how much better it looks just from those screen shots. Is the audio "exactly" the same though? Where for the first half of the movie it sounds like everything is being processed through an echo and then clears up just before the Prom? Guess for the price, can't expect it to be 100% better. :)
09-07-2007, 08:21 PM
I see some combing in the first still and the disco dancing still. Are these noticeable when playing at speed?
09-07-2007, 09:23 PM
Fantastic review Rhett! I love it how you are not afraid to analyze slasher films, especially since they are usually dismissed as empty and vacuous entertainment. I was wondering if you've read Carol Clover's essay on gender-related issues in slasher films? I don't know the English title of the essay (I've only read a translated version) but I think it's pretty well known so it shouldn't be hard to find.
I can't say I completely agree with all of Clover's conclusions, but it is a pretty fascinating read nonetheless. I think it would be right up your alley.
09-07-2007, 09:56 PM
There was big hair back then, Fist, so combing then was pretty unavoidable.
The effect in the stills though isn't noticeable really during playing, it's more just a product of trying to capture interlace on a progressive computer monitor.
I'm not sure which essay you are referring to, _pi_, but Clover's MEN, WOMEN AND CHAINSAWS: GENDER IN THE MODERN HORROR FILM was a staple of my tenure in film studies at college. Her and Robin Wood had the biggest influence on me, so it's nice to see someone else who appreciates her too!
09-07-2007, 11:38 PM
I wouldn't be so quick to give kudos to Echo Bridge for the transfer. Looking at the screenshots (and comparing them to the ones I took from the R2/R4 DVDs) it's exactly the same print, with the same running time, as well. They were both, however released by Alliance Atlantis on R2/R4, so I guess Echo Bridge just borrowed the print and took the credit. (Shameful, really.) Either way, the transfer is stunning. Kudos to WHOEVER did the remastering. It really does the film justice. My only complaint is that they didn't include at least a trailer, so now I gotta keep the old Anchor Bay disc lol.
Oh btw, Rhett...how many chapter stops are there? I'm a little curious. (Hope it's better than Anchor Bay's 9...one chapter is like 35 mins!)
09-08-2007, 01:07 AM
Yup, "Men, Women and Chainsaws ..." is the one. Although it has a cooler, alliterated title in the Icelandic translation (Karlar, konur og keðjusagir ;)).
09-08-2007, 04:33 AM
Mmmmm, I was thinking myself that the transfer probably came from one of those overseas discs. The time compression Rhett notes can only be logically explained as a straight port from a PAL source.
09-08-2007, 05:29 AM
Yeah, that's exactly what it is. It's been taken from the R2/R4 DVDs. It actually is the same print as the Anchor Bay DVD...while many have been removed, there are the exact same print blemishes in a lot of places.
09-10-2007, 06:55 PM
Rhett, if you say this is an interlaced transfer, then that is a shame. There will definitely be combing artifacts throughout. And if the movie is running at a faster pace, that means that, yes, it is a PAL-sourced transfer, and there could also be ghosting in the image and the audio pitch could be higher, distorting the key of the music and the actor's voices. Plus, I don't think the characters look too narrow on the Anchor Bay disc, they look normal. They look squished on this new release. It seems to me that because you are seeing more open framing on the Echo Bridge disc, what they did was take the open matte and squash it to fit a 16:9 frame. I'm very wary of this release. Kudos for the color timing correction, but everything else seems jacked.
09-10-2007, 07:43 PM
After all the comments, I went back and revisited the film on my 50" Sony, and most of your suspicions are correct. There is definite combing - it's noticeable most during the climax with all the quick movements and pulsing lights. The end credits have a particular twiddle to them too. Still, for the most part it isn't too bad, although a definite problem of a PAL-to-NTSC conversion (like Anchor Bay's DO YOU LIKE HITCHCOCK? and FANDO Y LIS). I've updated my review to reflect that.
Ghosting though, is not a problem.
There are 15 chapter stops, Matt, so it's an improvement over the Anchor Bay disc, for sure.
Thanks for all the feedback, guys!
09-15-2007, 01:51 PM
I happen to know there's an ass in Prom Night. I see no ass pic in this review. I am very, very disappointed at this oversight. I really am questioning the integrity of HorrorDVDs.com reviews at this point.
09-15-2007, 11:19 PM
From the review the print and colour correctionn is great but the print has been mastered by using a PAL print (R2/R4)
Does that mean that the R4 release of Prom Night has the exact same transfer but not the same problem with the interlaced transfer? If this is the case I'll get the Australian DVD as I live in the UK and the PAL DVD won't be a problem.
I just want to know if the R4 DVD of Prom Night is as good as the Echo Bridge transfer.
10-04-2007, 09:45 PM
Yeah, both the R2/R4 DVDs have the interlacing problem as well. I don't think ghosting is an issue, as you get that from going from NTSC-PAL, not PAL-NTSC. But yes, the Australian and UK DVDs both have the interlacing effect. (EXTREMELY evident in the opening shots: the bricks on the school, for example...the whole image "shimmers", and the end credits have about the same effect.)
10-20-2007, 05:20 AM
i noticed the film was sped up immediately, and it bothered me throughout. you could tell the voices were slightly higher in pitch and the disco music was faster than i remember. if youve seen the movie countless times as i have, it just felt wrong. i kept my OOP Anchor Bay DVD, and in the future will probably watch it instead if the new Echo bridge DVD.
11-26-2008, 05:44 AM
as much as i want to get this, i can't bring myself to give up my old Anchor Bay DVD. I love that trailer!
"There's a special night in the lives of all of us. A night to be beautiful, to be desireable, a night we can break all the rules, and make our own...PROM NIGHT!"
11-26-2008, 06:35 PM
I felt the same way, only because at one point that Anchor Bay DVD was worth heaps of money. It had been OOP for years and was the only DVD released. I still have it, but I went for this one (well...rather, the R2, since it's a proper PAL release, not a shoddy PAL-NTSC transfer like this one is, taken directly from the R2). The main reason is the 16x9 enhancement. If you have an HDTV you know what I mean. The Anchor Bay disc is almost completely unwatchable.
If you have the means, I seriously recommend the R2. It has exerpts from the original press materials on the reverse side of the cover sleeve, it includes the trailer, and the movie in 16x9 widescreen in "proper" PAL, thus you don't get the combing issues present on the R1.
12-28-2009, 06:04 PM
Watched this last night - first time re-visting the movie in a decade. Stunning transfer (the bass is incredible, and I turned it down before the disco songs kicked in). I can actually SEE this time. On the VHS I rented back in the 90's, you couldn't see a thing during the entire Wendy chase scene. A little red on her dress. That is it. The second the killer flips the light switch in the bathroom off - you can hear and see red. But that is all you see. Until she dies. You could only hear her die. Couldn't see it. And I had the brightness level on my TV turned up as high as it would go.
Still though, the movie may be an A strictly for slasher fans. But even a B is pushing it for everyone else.
12-28-2009, 07:44 PM
I watched this a few weeks back. I was very disappointed with the transfer after reading this review. I felt like was very soft. I'm wondering if everyone's excitement over this transfer is because the previous releases were terrible or if my problems with it are more about how the film is shot and not a product of a bad transfer.
Overall the movie is a classic that I can see myself revisiting once a decade, but it is very slow and the gore scenes are weak. There are a few scenes that make this movie worth sitting through. I actually like Prom Night 2 more.
12-30-2009, 09:22 PM
I watched this a few weeks back. I was very disappointed with the transfer after reading this review. I felt like was very soft.
No- it was, but I think that actually enhanced my enjoyment of it (what, that is, I did enjoy about it). Not only did it give the disco scenes a real late-70's haze to them, but it went well with the audio (that sounded a bit faster than I think it probably should have) and the strange look to the movie. Or, the look to the way Alliance Atlantis remastered it. You'll notice it moves faster visually than most movies on DVD. There are some VHS's like that. But I can't remember the last time I saw a movie on DVD like this (maybe... Tell Me Something). I think it's in the way it was shot, not the transfer.
I had low expectations for it, yeah. Because the disc was so cheap and the VHS's looked so bad. But, like I said- I haven't seen this movie since the 1990's. So, maybe you know it better than I do. I could see myself re-watching it maybe every October - but I agree the sequel is much better. I still say calling it a "classic" and giving it an A is really pushing it. It was a trend-following movie, that's all it is. And since people love the trends of slasher movies- it becomes overrated.
12-31-2009, 04:54 AM
The film was intentionally shot with a soft, almost dream-like haze filter throughout - and this transfer reflects that. You won't ever see crisp edges or skin detail from the negative.
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