Prom Night (1980)

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 🙂

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18 Responses to Prom Night (1980)

  1. sebastian6 says:

    I agree with you 100%. Sometimes I question whether I’m simply growing with age into the “Back in my day, things were better!” stage of life, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think we’ve reached a point in our popular culture in which everything is stylized and there is very little representation of “real life”. Even ugly people are beautiful in the movies now.

    I think back to movies like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre with it’s cheap filmstock, amateur-ish actors, and coarse sound design, and think that without those shortcomings, it wouldn’t be nearly as scary.

    Rob Zombie has tried with his films and Tarantino and Rodrigez tried with their double feature*, but it’s almost impossible to capture fictional reality on purpose.

    I think the Dogma ’05 aesthetic has come closest.

    *Incidentally, Eli Roth’s fake trailer for the slasher film “Thanksgiving” was dead on perfect for the aesthetic you’re speaking about.

  2. Brad says:

    To be completely fair, though I agree with the point you make about Hollywood cannibalism & the weird fascination with remakes & extensions (part 4s of everything I mean), the Wiki page for the 2008 Prom Night film says the director has said there is no similarity between the two films besides the titles. I haven’t seen either, but now I really want to see the OG, consider it added it to the ol’ movie list.

    Whoa OK, after reading the other comment I need to add a little bit. I don’t completely agree that films are afraid to represent “real life” anymore. I think major Hollywood blockbusters usually are, yes, I definitely agree with that. But at the very base level, most Americans (I would hope) understand that the Hollywood blockbuster is just about the lowest form of American film. If you want to talk modern gritty horror films especially, might I suggest High Tension (Haute Tension in French, whatever). It is already being lauded as a new horror classic, & having only been released maybe 4 or 5 years ago, that’s pretty cool. I actually have it sitting on the desk right next to me right now, I have been meaning to rewatch it for a couple weeks now. Maybe now I have the motivation to do so.
    Okay wait, I kind of got away from the point I wanted to make. Which was this, or something like it: I think that something even more dangerous than the shitty American blockbuster (granted, no they aren’t all shitty, but seriously far too many are), is lumping modern films into a bulk & labeling it “not as good as they used to be — not as REAL as they used to be.” I disagree with this, very much so. I think that yes, technology has gotten to the point where effects are more stylized & maybe the lighting is a little brighter or whatever, but that does not always affect a film’s “reality.” What about all the old gangster/detective films where the dames looked nothing your mother or sister. Films are always stylized, that’s part of what makes them films in the first place. In hindsight, a film from 1980 might look more “real” than one today, but in 1980 a film from 1970 might have looked the same way. Films in hindsight comparison don’t always work, because technology goes quicker than opinion & there are changes being made in the field of film that we will never be able to keep up with (I’m not talking CGI or anything, I just mean the little things like smoother editing techniques or a crisper soundtrack or a sharper camera lens). Does this make it any more real? I’m not sure, but I would say no.

    Plus, if I’m going to get into things being real, there are countless things that can be said about the advancement of the documentary film through the years. Compare the number of documentaries made in the seventies to the number made now, & I’m certain you will be astonished at the rate these things are being kicked out. If you want a stylized reality, maybe watch “Zoo,” or if you want a shockingly disturbing, very REAL reality, watch “Night and Fog.” Both documentaries, but does one portray a better “reality” than the other? Does stylization precede reality? Does it over-ride reality? I say of course not!
    Though it’s very interesting to think about

  3. sebastian6 says:


    Forgive me for not being more clear in my assertion. I am speaking specifically about the horror genre (hence my mention of Grindhouse and House of 1000 Corpses, etc.).

    I have not seen High Tension but it is on my list. But few modern horror films pack the shock and awe as the horror films of the 50s, 60s, and 70s did in their time. The last low budget horror film to make any ripples was the Blair Witch Project. And that was done in faux documentary hyper real fashion.

    I don’t think horror is as effective in stylized form. It’s not a style that lends itself well to heavy, obvious effects and slick editing and actors. I’m thinking of a film like “The Hunger”, which was a *great* film, but was it really scary?

    Horror is only truly frightening when the composure, look, and feel of the scenes strikes a chord of realism.

    That’s my opinion.

  4. Brad says:

    I agree with you on this issue, no doubt. I think it’s interesting you bring up Blair Witch Project, which had a style ripped completely off of Cannibal Holocaust (which is about as realistic a horror film as a you can get). I have been meaning to go back to Blair Witch for a couple years now, since I think there has got to be a lot more there than the general public gave it credit for (& I myself gave it credit for) when it first came out.

    But yea, I definitely see your point here. Though I don’t know much about horror films from the 50’s besides the original The Fly (which was more B than Horror & wasn’t realistic or “gritty” at all), I see what you’re saying about the 70’s especially. Texas Chainsaw Massacre is (usually) my favorite movie of all time, I’m always thrilled when it’s brought into a discussion. Definitely the most claustrophobic film I have ever seen, & I think that’s entirely due to its rather subtle realism. The hazy coloring, the dimming lights, the overbearingly cacophonous soundtrack. It’s brilliant the way it was done.

    You’re completely right, they don’t do it quite the same way. Now we have horror slashers like “One Missed Call” that have no purpose but blatant, disgustingly obvious suspense with no style (realism, after all, is an achievable style). Most times I wish I had lived through the golden years of the 60s/70s horror films, so I could have seen them on the big screen. Oh well, alone in your house with all the lights off can have an equally thrilling/chilling effect.

    Also, I apologize for seeming a bit argumentative, that wasn’t intended at all. I love talking about this stuff, it’s so rare for me to find people who have something to say that’s as compelling as what you two are talking about! It’s great!

  5. sebastian6 says:

    No need for any apologies, Brad. I’m a fellow horror fan myself. I love the low grade pictures of people like Leo Fulci, who seems to pay about 90% attention to gore and the other 10% spread between acting and plot. His films of the 70s are the dumbest crap ever, but chilling in their insane gore. I think the fact that some of these movies were poorly written actually gives them more cred- we don’t speak day-to-day in dialogue-speak, we use weirdly phrased snippets of sentences and sometimes aren’t really listening to each other in our responses, so I guess my thesis hold- the setbacks that most of these horror movies had are actually their strength.

    I was thinking about the 50s horror genre after I wrote my previous response and I have to admit that it’s a weak spot in my argument. There’s very little realism in 50s horror cinema…or even 60s horror cinema. I suppose my idea would be that we as a pop culture were still testing new boundaries at that point and seeing or experiencing anything scary, even in the context of a Hollywood feature, would produce high tensions.

    Perhaps 70s horror is post-innocence horror. That’s probably a weak argument but I’m thinking out-loud here.

    In the 60s things weren’t shown, they were insinuated. “Rosemary’s Baby” is one of my favorite horror films of all time. It’s terrifying in it’s portrayal of normalcy gone awry. But nothing was shown- the fear came not from dark hallways or ghoulish faces, but it was *situational* fear. But these are just small peeps of a larger picture of horror culture as it developed. Some 60s horror I’d love to address/have addressed at some point for cultural context:

    Dr. Phibes
    Night of the Living Dead

    Anyway, that’s enough of my scattered thoughts. Thanks for indulging.

  6. Reverend says:

    Ahh, when the bava is away the film critics will play–can I join too? To misquote Dally from The Outsiders: “A movie rumble ain’t a rumble without me!”

    Ok, @Brad, I’ve been meaning to write this other post just for you, and I will actually give you the abstract here, and then write the post, because it is almost ready for prime time. This is in reference to your suggestions that documentaries are just a matter of relative “realness,” which I agree with. But, and a big but here, some reals are better than others 🙂 After reading your paper on Vernon, Florida, and another post on Gray Gardens, Antonella and I did a double feature. And while I respect Errol Morris for some of his work, Vernon, Florida pales in comparison to Gray Gardens, and it has everything to do with not so much the real, as the relationships between the people being filmed. Morris is an outsider, and his film portrays it in all the worst ways. I liked Vernon, Florida well enough at first, but after watching Gray Gardens I felt he was looking down on his subjects to some great degree in this film. Their crazy, bizarre talk seemed like an experiment in some kind of weak, David Lynchean sense of the American surreal psyche, or some nonsense like that. I wanted a look at these people, not to come away saying wow, they’re crazy and that story about the suicide with the toe, wow, they’re crazy. It seemed to me an oddly predictable series of stereotypes about how nuts people in the middle of now where, especially the South, really are.

    But Gray Gardens…a masterpiece in reality because the Maysles Brothers were in the film, were part of that house, and had a relationship with these women that brought the whole bizarre world into a real and compelling narrative of women, an unconventional sense of liberation and feminism, and a quite powerful story of people that are people first and crazy second. What were the stories of the men in Vernon, Florida? Who were the people behind them? There was none, the were archetypal characters that you frame beautifully in yur paper, which signified much more than they were, and that is the part were Morriss’s over-stylized documentaries annoy me to no end. I don’t blame the folks of Vernon, Florida for being mad at Morris, it was kind of a cheap shot, but it looked good while it was thrown. In fact, Morris believes more staunchly in the “real” than most documentary filmmakers, yet he is also further away from any kind of relationship with his subjects, and the interrotron suggests that. It is a mediated film machine of transposed interrogation.

    Well, maybe that’s the post after all 🙂 How say you? And your talk on Cannibal Holocaust has kept me intrigued, and I am proud to say I now have it on hand, and I am waiting for a late night when Anto is asleep to watch, because that is a solo journey to hell 🙂

    Speaking of which, @Sebastioa6, the point about stylized realism is an interesting one, and one of the most truly haunting films of the 80s for me was Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. The use of video cameras during the killing scenes was insane (an interesting medium that I think made the initial impression of the Blair Witch Project so powerful–a movie that when I re-watched was not nearly as impressive or interesting as the first time). And the conversation between you and Brad, which is awesome, got me thinking about something, and I’m gonna lay it down here. Modern independent horror film is very much like punk rock (I know, I know, I think everything is like punk rock, and I’m lame, fair enough, but humor me).

    The arbitrary point at which the punk scene “begins” in American Horror movies is George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), produced for nothing, made with all local resources, settings, talent, etc., and aa political commentary on race, politics, and media, and an outright brilliant film. Romero made the film for literally nothing at the tune of $114,000, but couldn’t find a distributor given the gore involved and his production house’s refusal to make it a happy ending. It was picked up by the Walter Reade Organization who agreed to distribute it as is, but they removed the copyright notice, which meant it lapsed into the public domain. In fact, Romero tells the story that when he was heading up to NYC to try and get the film distributed, the news on the radio announced Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot, how trippy is that? It is just like the film in so many ways. “They’re coming to get you, Baaaarbara!”

    So, if this is my starting point, than Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left (1972) & The Hills Have Eyes (1977), and David Cronenberg’s Shivers (1975), Romero’s The Crazies (1973) and Martin (1977), and the brilliant and ever genius Dawn of the Dead (1978) become important “albums” in the independent movement of American horror film as a reaction to the Vietnam War and the politics of the US from Johnson to tricky Dick, not to mention the economic hard times. (BTW, this is all straight out of the great American Nightmare documentary on IFC, but they don’t see the punk rock element 🙂 ).

    Now, these are the seminal moments of the new scene in American horror, a gritty, low-budget, DIY aesthetic that makes some serious political and social statements, and should be understood as reflective of the moment in the best possible ways, horror is the genre for that in my opinion (and when done well Science Fiction), but the horror we see today is too much part of the machine rather than a reflective discourse within and upon that machine.

    So, then come the Ramones, or the great John Carpenter, with a little film called Halloween (1978) —one of the greatest ever—and he takes this aesthetic and approach and makes it a phenomenon by popularizing a sub-genre–the slasher film (I will not say invented because Mario Bava “invented” it in 1971 with Twitch of the Death Nerve–but I digress). Halloween was made for $325,000 and grossed over $50 million. Unfathomable for an independent film by all standards (I think Blair Witch made more though).

    Both popular and technically brilliant, Carpenter took the politics out and introduced a kind of psycho-run-amok into the horror film scene, but it’s a really intelligent film in terms of structure, timing, acting, plot, and music. Not to mention far more authorial allusion than the others–with him quoting Hawkes’s The Thing –which he would brilliantly remake in the next couple of years. So what might be lost in the punk message of earlier films, opens up the gateway to a host of unbelievable possibility and profitability for small, independent production houses making their own horror films (usually slashers –and making money outside of the Hollywood engine). Prom Night is one of those, I mean look who the star is, Jamie Lee “Halloween” Curtis (who I love, by the way). Despite what it might seem, Prom Night is an intensely independent film production (unlike the fucking Miramax experience), which doesn’t mean it is liberal or progressive or experimental, but rather that it could be made by a group other than Hollywood. It means alternatives, not some faux cool that it became in the 90s. A film like Prom Night could be made for next to nothing and still find distribution, and the rise of the VCR and Cable only helped these companies during the early and late 80s.

    Therein likes the structural difference to that aesthetic and the idea of “real.” The mode of distribution changed so dramatically in so little time during the early 80s than it had over the previous 20-30 years, and the same can be said of the past 20 years. Who would try and make an independent film company anymore? It was hard in the 90s, for everything was immediately bought up and watered down to such a point that someone can have the balls to claim American Beauty is a) independent and b) good. The 90s weren’t about genre like the 80s was which featured all kinds of great scifi, slasher, comedy, films etc, which in turn resulted in a renaissance of low-budget b-movies. Nope, that wasn;t the 90s, rather the 90s was about “serious films” and great actors and directors like Billy Bob, and the Coen Bros. and Sam “Orson Welles” Mendes (I’ll never forget or forgive the fact he was compared to Orson Welles at the Oscars after that piece of shit American Beauty). But now all of that is basically irrelevant, Hollywood is a dying dinosaur and they are currently engaged in their final battle scene with a “14 year old in Finland that they will lose”—to misquote David Wiley.

    So, let’s review, horror film from 1968 to about 198889 was much like the punk scene, but better because it was film. Is this clear? I kinda like being the hoary curmudegeon who says then was better than now, because we all now it was and it still is 🙂

    That for spurring this one one guys, it was so fun to right, and gets to the heart of my fascination with b-movies from the 80s. This is very important to me that I got it out, I feel light and sharper on this point finally. And I owe all to you…I love you guys!!!

  7. Reverend says:


    One more thing, I know the director says the two films have only the title in common, but let’s think about this (and I haven;t seen it either mind you). It is a horror film (that’s another), it has a pre-story whee people get killed (another), the main action takes place 3 years later (wow another), it is about murders on a prom night (fascinating, yet another similarity), and ultimately the film will end and many people will have died on prom night. So, the director is a jackass, and needs to shut up. For if the two films truly had nothing in common, no one would see it, and the context of the original from which it took its name, and the reason why it made 50 million dollars is clear. And if the director wants to claim independence and originality, well then, he should have called it Not prom Night, or something more original like Cheap, Slick Rip Off with Nothing to It.

    Hahah, I love I can say all this by just seeing the trailer, and the scariest thing is I’m probably right. Has anyone actually seen this movie? And can they refute my uninformed remarks?

  8. Joe says:

    I know I’d seen enough when I heard the bastardized version of “Time After Time” in the trailer for the remake. If it ain’t Cindi Lauper, it ain’t happening, bruda.

    And I agree with you on the loss of the “gothic structure,” but I feel like part of why the remake will fail is that there’s a huge pressure on the movie producers to create this extremely excessive “ultra-prom,” since the audience they are targeting with this movie wants to see that.

    I also agree with you that we live in a “cannibalistic” remake-era, but this could’ve been pretty good. High schools are creepy. It’s a shame, really, if half of the trailer shows what prom is “supposed” to be like, I don’t know what we can say for the first half of the film, but it doesn’t look good.

  9. Brad says:

    I have a lot to say, but I’m at work so I should be outside weeding or something right now. So sue me. But I did want to say one thing: the new Prom Night movie already came out, in mid-April. It’s target was high schoolers, since it came out right at the beginning of prom season (April is the month high schoolers start looking at dresses & asking their dates & everything — exciting stuff). So what’s interesting is how much of a cash cow this thing must have been when it was released, & how cannibalistic its own viewers must have been. If you are going to prom, & it excites you to see a movie about murder at/after prom…possibly this is masochistic of you. When did the OG Prom Night come out, I wonder? Prom time, as well?

  10. sebastian6 says:

    Small point about your punk rock comparisons, Jim. When I was reading your comparison of John Carpenter and the Ramones, I had to chuckle. You’re so right about John Carpenter not inventing the slasher film. (Isn’t “Psycho” technically a slasher film?) But yes, he did *perfect* it. He made it his own. And this just really lines up with the Ramones comparison- if you listen to their songs, they’re basically the Beach Boys sped up with fuzz pedals. They didn’t invent the music they play, on the contrary, the Ramones’ song structures are incredibly traditional. What they did do was make it their own and perfect it. The Jesus & Mary Chain did the same thing- listen to PsychoCandy- it’s the fucking Beach Boys!

  11. Andy says:

    On the main strands there’s nothing much that hasn’t been said … but I was interested in the comment that horror movies that have real style, vision or acting or whatever often don’t work as horror.

    Despite reviews etc, I really liked ’30 days of night’.

    But, what I want to say is … what do people think of Near Dark? I rewatched it very recently … it’s amazing. I think it works on every level including being scary. ‘Love’ the bar slaughter scene. And it has Bill Paxton and Lance Hendrickson in it.

  12. Brad says:

    A-ha! & such is the cycle of art — the Beach Boys didn’t invent anything either; they used the same song structures as Robert Johnson as Charley Patton as medicine show songs as sea shantys as gospel revival jams as slavehand howlings as organ music.
    Horror movies — all movies! — are the same way; who really invented what? Isn’t it just an imitation — a GLORIFICATION if you will — of life anyway? So Hitchcock didn’t invent the slasher — the first man who murdered someone else did! A caveman probably invented the slasher, my friends, a caveman.
    & such is the beauty of history!

  13. Reverend says:

    Mario Bava invented the Slasher movie, how many times do I have to tell you? 🙂 And while everything is everything, there are some particularities we need to hold on to, namely that Mario Bava invented the Slasher film, am I being clear?

    Also, I love your points about the marketing to a cannibalistic prom market. The original was released after that time of year, actually July 18, 1980, to be precise (thanks to the beauty of Wikipedia!).

    I always think about th Ramones when I think about the Brad’s point about influence and th long tradition of remix and re-framing this stuff. And the Beach Boys influence on Ramones was an amazing break through moment for me in this whole idea, I mean The Ramones are bubble gum pop through and through, that is so cool about them, and makes Punk that much ore fascinating to me.

    Near Dark!!! You are truly a man after my film heart. That is my favorite vampire film of the 80s along with Fright Night.I loved the whole idea of the nomad “family” of vampires in the midwest, the setting is perfect, and th final moment of emergence from immortality is very wild and scary in and of itself. I also love the way that film makes being a vampire a drag. It has its benefits, but it is a lot of work, as if they were itinerant workers. That is a solid horror, and makes the pantheon of great films of the 80s. Wikipedia notes on the production that Bigelow actually wanted to make a Western, but the interest of financial backers wasn;t there, so she fused it with the vampire film:

    Kathryn Bigelow wanted to film a Western movie that departed from cinematic convention, which at the time was strongly identified with the films of John Wayne and John Ford. When she and co-writer Eric Red found financial backing for a Western difficult to obtain, it was suggested to them that they try mixing a Western with another, more popular genre. Her interest in revisionist interpretation of cinematic tradition led her and Red to the idea of combining two genres that they regarded as ripe for reinterpretation: the Western movie, and the vampire movie, whose conventions largely derived from Bela Lugosi’s performance in Dracula. The film was scored by the German electronic music group Tangerine Dream, who also penned the soundtracks for Risky Business and Legend.

    Interestingly, I saw this on VHS from a good local video store that was featuring it, it got no play at all in the theaters.

  14. Andy says:

    Near Dark is such a fav of mine that when I watched the first season of Heroes and saw Adrian Pasdar as Nathan Petrelli I thought – Oh, it’s Caleb from Near Dark.

    Vampire Movies are a whole blog on their own 🙂 But, the main attraction of the vampire story is all it’s possibilities – all the places you can go with it for levels of meaning and comment on our existence.

    Near Dark captures parts of this in a very poetic way.

    @Brad – the circle of culture debate is a common one and a bit suspect. Music – I mean, it all comes from the same 12 intervals etc etc.

    But the term ‘slasher film’ – I think it implies a second level of awareness in movie history that is later than ‘genre’. I think that movies that are thought of as ‘slasher pics’ are self-aware and have a certain level of exploitation to them too.

    I think there ‘were’ slasher pics that are genre pics about murder/terror – but at one point a self-aware, exploitative modern slasher pic was made and then all after that would be true slasher pics and all before it influences.

    I guess what Im saying is that the advent of the slasher pic coincides with a post-modern mentality in film emerging. Eli Roth and even Wes Craven circa scream – are after the true slasher pics for me, because in order to make those films – there had to be an awareness of the existing genre – which then gets transformed again.

    I think it was fully formed for Halloween and Friday the 13th – 1978 on … ran for the 80’s ..ebbed, and then Sream in 96 marked it’s having passed into history.

    How arbitrary is all of that 😉

    Just though I’d throw it all out and see where it takes us.

  15. Brad says:

    There were so many things I wanted to say, that I kept shelving into my mind as I went through work today, but a lot of it has become a little lost in the wind & exhaustion of the day. These new comments have inspired me into new territory, as well. So maybe I will just start from there.

    What you are saying about the slasher flick, Andy, & what you are saying about the vampire film, Jim & Andy, I think are more in the same vein than you think. The vampire film, I mean to say, is a re-hashed genre of self-awareness that has gone through different forms as well, & just like the slasher movie has “Scream” (where the killers go step by step through slasher films & base their own murders on stereotypes of the slasher film — I love how meta-cognitive it is!), the vampire movie has things like “28 Days Later” or its sequel. The idea is that the genre has created movies wherein the characters are saying things like, “So they’re vampires?” The knowledge of the vampire is so self-aware that the vampire itself is obsolete & completely re-created. “28 Days Later” is actually fascinating (& I love this move, by the way, though I completely disregard the ending most times when I watch it) because it helped move both the vampire film & the zombie film into new realms of historic awareness. Whereas a zombie or vampire film might have been originally made to say, “What if this happened? How frightening that would be!”, the new films of the same sub-genre are saying, “We all know what this would be like, but what if it were actually POSSIBLE?”

    Which kind of brings us back to the stylized realism thing. Taking editing & sound & whatever else denotes style or lack thereof out of it, the plots of the vampire & zombie movies are so much more historically realized now. What I mean is this: comparing, say, Fulci’s “Zombie” (or “Zombi 2,” as I suppose it was called in Europe?) to “28 Days Later,” the plot of the latter is far advanced in the direction of Man’s own realized potentials & faults. The plot of “Zombie” is unbelievable, based on a fictional “cursed island” where the dead rise again to prey on the living. The more recent films, however, are based on medical mistakes or human irrationalities — “28 Days Later” follows the wipe-out of the human race when an advanced viral form of what is basically rabies is let loose onto humanity. Okay, I realize 28 Days Later is not REALLY a zombie film, but that’s my whole point. Zombie films aren’t REALLY made anymore, since the genre has gone past the point of self-awareness.

    Which, I suppose, is WHY slasher films are mostly re-makes. Not necessarily because Hollywood is out of original ideas (though this is mostly true as well), but because the genre has gone through its evolution & has come to the point where the killers KNOW they are slashers & they slash with the influence of 30 odd-years of self-aware slasher movies backing them up. That infamous line from “Scream” can basically sum up this entire argument in one question: “What’s your favorite scary movie?”

    As to your ideas on the documentary, Jim, I have a lot to say about it but maybe I will just make a blog post instead because I like the direction these comments are taking with all this horror jargon. I am writing these films down, the beauty of the genre is that it is so re-done, making it endless. I am also in the middle of re-watching “High Tension” & I have a lot to say about claustrophobia in horror films, but I think I will just post about that, as well. “The Descent,” anyone? If you like your horror blacked-out & panting, if you like not knowing where you are at all, man that movie is for you.

    Also, I was just discussing Little Edie & Grey Gardens with a friend of mine a couple nights ago, how coincidental for you to bring it up, Jim. I have not seen it yet, but it’s top of the list already!

  16. Reverend says:

    Wow, who knew Prom Night could be so educational?


    But the term ’slasher film’ – I think it implies a second level of awareness in movie history that is later than ‘genre’. I think that movies that are thought of as ’slasher pics’ are self-aware and have a certain level of exploitation to them too.

    Exactly, precisely the point! This idea of a Slasher film as its own sense of awareness within a moment of time is crucial. That idea of these films as both historical, political, and social is so key to the emergence of a term/genre such as slasher film. And you trace that history beautifully.

    Anothe intersting point to think about would be the idea of POV in Slasher films, and their vicious attacks on women. Vera Dika, a film critic who was at UCLA when I was sitting in on classes in Melnitz theater —that is the single greatest educational experience in my life, no class just listening to Dika, and peter Wollen talk about film—talks about the space of the Slasher as a conservative reaction to the sex and drug crazed decade of the 70s, and links it with a Reagan era moment of family values. I loved hearing that in 1993, it was spellbinding. She also talks about why women were the focal point of such an attack in these films, and what it would mean to have a female psychopath–is there a famous one of those in that genre?

    Awesome stuff, and I agree that Vampire films deserve their own space, and I would love to write that blog 😉


    This is brilliant, and nails it in my mind.

    Okay, I realize 28 Days Later is not REALLY a zombie film, but that’s my whole point. Zombie films aren’t REALLY made anymore, since the genre has gone past the point of self-awareness.

    The idea of this self awareness giving rise to a whole new sense of the genre, while remaining loosely within it is fascinating. And it is just that kind of thinking that begins to get us out of the very problematic (but I must admit fun) logic of it was better than, and it sucks now. Your points here allow me to think about the re-made Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days without the same kind of expectation and sense of loss, which is key. And what you say about Zombie as opposed to 28 Days is right on, it makes for a powerful comparison of two films framing their genre for a specific time and place, or as I like to think about it a decade of culture. That is why Blade was one of the single best films of the 90s, it re-imagined the Vampire film so creatively.

    Did I say wow already? Let me do it again then, WOW!

  17. Brad says:

    There is a famous female slasher, but if I tell you who it is then it would ruin that movie for you! You will know when you see it, though (I will never give away a surprise ending! When you least expect it, you will find out what movie I’m talking about!).

    Also: does Ms. Bates count as a female slasher? I vote yes…okay maybe no. I vote maybe, then.

    One more thing. Even more so than Blade, I would say Nightwatch took the vampire idea & took it to a whole new level of subculture. Highly recommended if you have not seen it, & if you have seen it, then you know what I mean!

  18. Andy says:

    On my way out to get my bicycle fixed … but love all the comments. OMG Brad, 28 days later – that could get me started, love it too.

    Just want to say that I’d considered that reading of slasher movies, the Vera Dika one. Especially a bunch of cocky, decadent teens getting their come-uppance. But this also leads into a whole new point – the advent of modern horror movies was with socially concious artists, we talked about Carpenter and Romero. Even the earlier exploitative horror makers were kind of writing their own visual language, conciously. But as it moved into the fully formed slasher pic, it also moved into studio hands and you can see the shift in ideology.

    Newer movies – especially Eli Roth and Topher Grace (Saw, right?) kind of take us back to the film maker putting it in your face with a purpose (they say) but that provoked the ‘torture porn’ outrage, which I think is a kind of defensive reaction to the fact that our societies perpetrate death and destruction around the globe in real life. We don’t like our denial or ‘other’-izing of violence/death to be rudely interupted.

    Got to say too, the idea of the Slasher POV shot, especially if it puts the male in the position of the killer murdering a female, is a few blog posts too.

    Don’t make me start a film blog, Jim.

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