Instead of watching the remake of "A Nightmare on Elm Street", I've been getting reacquainted with 80's slasher films. After the success of John Carpenter's "Halloween" and Sean S. Cunningham's "Friday the 13th", one couldn't go anywhere without seeing slasher movies in theaters and on video. It delighted horror fans (Some at least. Some horror fans hated them and longed for earlier days...kind of like today in some respects) and hated by critics (Siskel and Ebert did an entire episode dedicated to attacking the sub-genre), it's status in the 80's is unmistakable. So let's take a look at two entries from that decade-the Paul Lynch directed Canadian slasher "Prom Night" and a lesser entry in "Graduation Day"
"Prom Night" starts out with an accidental death of a girl named Robin due to a rather cruel prank. Six years later, the four teens responsible have grown up, and are gearing up for the prom. Too bad for them that somebody in a mask wants payback...
One of two Canadian slasher movies staring the one and only Jamie Lee Curtis, "Prom Night" is no stranger to horror fans-long considered a classic, referenced in Wes Craven's "Scream", and given a terrible remake to boot, "Prom Night" is an enjoyable horror film, but it's not exactly a classic.
The acting is largely good, with Curtis doing a fine job and Leslie Nielson of all people showing up as the school principal. The score by Paul Zaza and Carl Zitrer is fine, though some may be turned off by the terrible disco music on display. It's also a capably directed film, building up some nice suspense sequences and a great decapitation scene. The film does lack a certain nastiness though-it's not too gory, and a movie like this could actually benefit from more splatter, and the conclusion tries it's hardest to be sad and profound, but it's just bad.
On the other side of the spectrum is Herb Freed's "Graduation Day", a movie that's mostly a waste of time. After a track runner named Laura dies of a heart attack, a killer in an ugly sweatsuit and fencing mask starts killing off her friends. That's all you need to know.
"Graduation Day" is proof that for every good to underrated slasher film of the day, there were plenty that were awful. Sure, it boasts cult Screen Siren Linnea Quigly and "Wheel of Fortune's" own Vana White, as well as beloved cult actor Christopher George and some unapologetic female nudity, but there isn't a whole lot going on here. The kills are dull, the gore is unconvincing and boring, the movie never generates anything resembling suspense, the humor is really weak, and it moves at a snails pace. Worst of all though is the song "Gangster Rock" by a band named Felony. I'd make a bad pun based on the band's name, but instead I'll just point out that they look and sound like a poor man's Duran Duran. From what I can recall, one of their songs did make it on one of the "Friday the 13th" sequels, so good for them I guess.
On a whole, "Prom Night" might not be the slasher classic some say it is, but it is a fun time waster. As for "Graduation Day"-well, if you love every aspect of the 80's no matter how good or bad they were, then it's a must. I don't love everything about the 80's though, so...
Rating: Prom Night 7/10
Graduation Day 2/10
Lynch and Freed are of course no stangers as far as the horror genre is concerned. Though Lynch has mostly directed TV fair, he also directed the Canadian Slasher/Monster film "Humungous", the Michael Ironside vehicle "Cross Country", the little known Harvey Keitel film "Blindside" and episodes of "Baywatch Nights" and "Poltergeist: The Legacy." He most recently directed the Scy-Fy channel movie "Savage Planet."
Apart from "Graduation Day", Freed also directed the little seen 70's horror film "Haunts." His credits also include the abysmal "Beyond Evil" starring John Saxon and Linda Day George, the sex comedy "Tomboy" and the forgotten most likely for a good reason action movie "Survival Game."