Even before the movie came out, the "hardcore" horror community was trashing it. "Man, fuck PG-13 horror! There's no blood or tits or anything in it! This is excluding us! And it's not even related to the original! Raaawwrrr!"
First off, not to assault sacred cows here, but the original movie wasn't all that good. Granted, it's been a long time since I've seen it, but I remember a whole lottanuthin' happening, with some dancing footage thrown in to pad out the running time. It's not like we're losing a lot in translation.
Second, not every goddamn horror movie has to be targeted to the hardcore market. The target audience of Prom Night is clearly teenagers, particularly teenage girls. The things that are going to affect 'em are significantly different than what's gonna turn Dark Forum Lord Vivisection's crank. People are scared by shit they can relate to. People are titillated by buckets of blood. There is a difference, yo.
I was interested in the fact that Prom Night's killer was an older stalker that the victim had a previous relationship with. Having hung out with sexual crisis councilors before, I know that there are some fears resonate strongly with women, particularly fears of violent, obsessive men. There are a lot of men who can't/won't relate to that experience. I recognized that this movie needed to be seen in the context of its target audience. I was ready to watch the movie from the eyes of a teenage girl.
So, like I said, I was ready to spring to Prom Night's defense. Too bad the movie sucked.
The fundamental problem is that the movie is neither particularly interesting nor particularly scary. The filmmakers shoot the movie like one of those MTV reality shows, so the glitz of the world's most expensive prom overshadows the actual scares. The camera is good at mimicking the voyeuristic gaze of the stalker, but there is an almost willful ineptitude at building and maintaining tension. I counted not one, not two, but THREE separate instances where a character stepped into frame behind the lead, the music spiked, and the lead said "You scared me." That's not even trying, guys.
The characterization is pretty inconsistent. For a supposedly traumatized girl, Donna comes off as pretty unfazed. She wanders off into darkened suites on her own, doesn't obsessively check all potential dangers, and returns to the hotel after being evacuated to pick up an heirloom. Jonathan Schaech does a good job as the movie's villain, but the movie is somewhat ambivalent on what kind of monster he'll be. Is he a silent, faceless slasher movie butcher? Is he a feral, obsessed stalker? They keep coming teasingly close to making a real character out of him, but then they pull back and have him do typical slasher shit. There's no reason for him to kill Donna's friends but he goes through them like a buzzsaw through a flesh tree.
Look, I'm not against PG-13 horror. The Ring was PG-13 and that scared the crap out of me. I am against stupid, and watching two hours of this movie was like being hit upside the head with concentrated mediocrity. Horror filmmakers, there are some meat on these bones. Do something with it.
Oh, for what it's worth, I really liked the poster. If only it could have been attached to the movie I wanted this to be.