Last night I saw a coming attraction for the re-make of Prom Night (2008), which seemed so shiny and new compared to the original. In fact, while watching the trailer I found it to be a sign of the times of Hollywood for a couple of reasons: first, it seems an excellent example that the American film industry has given up all pretenses to having an original idea and has settled upon cannibalizing its own history; second, this particular remake (and this from the trailer alone) signifies just how polished and obsessed we have become with luxury, appearance, and all things empty. Now I know this is what people from the 50s and 60s would say about the 70s and 80s, but they’re wrong!
The trailer got me thinking about the original Prom Night from 1980 (the only one that’s true in my heart) and just how different the texture of that film is from the trailer I was assaulted with. The 1980 version of the film was a Canadian production (as was My Bloody Valentine (1981) another favorite slasher film of the era) filmed on location in Toronto, and it captures a really gritty and evocative image of a more modest and thoughtful moment in both cinema and culture. Take, for example, the trailer of the 2008 version, the students are all primped beyond belief (even the punks), it takes place in a fancy, rented-out ballroom, and the students all have $300 dollar a night hotel rooms. Compare that with the 1980 version: the prom is in the school’s gym, it’s a happening disco party, there are no limos in sight, and the dress has the undeniable flare and sexiness of the 1970s. It may seem odd to some that I would be hearkening back to the late 70s and early 80s for some sense of propriety and measure in terms of fashion and invidious consumption, but I’m convinced the decade we have been living through makes the late 70s and early 80s look like the Great Depression by comparison.
Take a look at the trailer for Prom Night (2008):
Now compare it with the Old Gold Prom Night (1980):
Which one do you want to watch? And while you could argue that the original Prom Night is a b-movie and we really shouldn’t be wasting our time trying to defend some exalted idea of when it is by its very conception second rate. However, that’s where you’re wrong. The 1980 version of Prom Night has one of the best opening scenes of any teenage slasher flick ever. It’s a powerfully poetic sequence tracing a group of kids playing a Gothic version of hide and seek (“The Killer is Coming”) in an old, dilapidated school that creates a really dark and scary setting. The very first shot of the scene (which you can watch below thanks to YouTube) frames the Gothic roots of this opening scene quite beautifully. How can you honestly re-make this film? It is impossible in this day and age, primarily because this Gothic structure is either long gone or has been turned into million dollar condos that the kids from the 2008 version of the film live in 🙂