While Jamie Lee Curtis is having yet another moment in the horror zeitgeist, let’s turn away from the recent Halloween and take a peek at her 1980 hit Prom Night.
It’s a classic horror revenge tale that is unique for being one of the original high profile teen killer movies. It also occupied a very 1970s space that was in conversation with a world outside of scares. Take the below scene for instance, where there is a three and a half minute break for a disco dance sequence to a song that repeats the title of the film.
I watched this film a few weeks ago and still cannot believe that it had a fucking disco scene. And it doesn’t end there: the entire soundtrack of the film was a disco odyssey designed specifically for this horror show. Yes, many accolades have been given for John Carpenter’s scores and, yes, people like Goblin made names for themselves by creating horror sounds and, yes, horror soundtracks have been canonized. But Prom Night? It turned away from the scary, to talk to a time, to become a disco sensation.
The soundtrack is the product of Canadian musicians Paul Zaza and Carl Zittrer channelling a time period into a film. The songs were all original, designed to imitate mega-hits without actually bringing said hits. Why was that? The rights to big songs the filmmakers wanted were too expensive to use, according to Zaza, leading to the music team to create their own. The soundtrack has become a cult sensation for both horror and disco fans because, funny enough, it was only released in Japan. While not particularly scary, it is entirely dance friendly, which is what makes this soundtrack so good: it was concerned with being good music, with capturing a sound for a time instead of for a film.
While Prom Night lives on in the classic horror canon, its soundtrack – one of the most unique disco entries – exists in parallel as its own special something. Moments like these in horror, where you see other art forms at play, lurking underneath the chills and thrills, is why the genre is so special. This is yet another example of how horror films happen in conversation with greater culture.
You can listen to the full Prom Night soundtrack below.