For high school or college students, spring means just one thing: prom! That’s right, these formal school dances are all the rage and completely unavoidable. While some people lived for these events, others were tormented by the social pressures and financial burden of these black tie events. Ask anyone, and they will be able to tell you a story about their prom (or anti-prom) experience.
And what better fodder for a horror film splatterfest than a group of teenagers corralled in one place and dressed in their Sunday best? So, find yourself a date, spike the punch, and turn up the 80’s power ballads while we present you with the best prom-themed horror movies of all time.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
Much like my own prom experience, it is nearly impossible to tell if this movie is so bad it’s good, or just so bad. Either way, you will laugh at, and sometimes with, the over the top performances of Renee Zellweger as our slightly oddball final girl and Matthew McConaughey as a maniacal psychopathic tow truck driver.
When a group of teens leave their prom for no good reason at all, they fall straight into the arms of a Leatherface and his brothers. What it lacks in creativity, this film makes up for with ridiculous dialogue and acting. And, for extra shits and giggles, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation throws in a ridiculous subplot about the Illuminati. If the Illuminati does exist, I need to believe they could find more capable help.
Are we all part of some crazy fear experiment orchestrated by these secret organizations? Are proms just another mechanism of the man? The truth is out there. Although apparently, it is wielding a chainsaw in the backwoods of Texas.
Dance of the Dead (2008)
This newer film is a lot of fun. One of the best scenes is the prom itself. The heroes try to save their peers at prom, only to discover it has been taken over by zombies. This prom has all you can ask for, including 80’s covers, gruesome kills, and enough kills to make any gore fan happy, in spite of a low budget.
Who can resist zombies who run, jump, and slow dance? Also, this movie really gets the modern high school kid student right. Punk guitar players and student council presidents are the new cool kids. Token bad boy bullies are quirky, wrestling obsessed country boys. But some things never change. The geeks, cheerleaders, and jokesters stay tried and true. The fun starts when all of the kids join together to defeat the undead.
Prom Night (1980)
If you love puffy-sleeved gowns and powder blue tuxedos highlighted by painfully long disco dance scenes then, boy, do I have a treat for you. Prom Night is the textbook version of a 1980’s slasher film. Most of the murder scenes are ridiculously long, and almost always end up in a goofy death. The characters, with the exception of our final girl, are all unlikeable stereotypical shells of actual people, and the adults are, as always, completely useless.
Still recovering from the childhood death of their youngest sister, twins Kim and Alex are all grown up and ready for prom. And with disco balls, soul train-esque dance sequences, and an awesome technicolor dance floor, the night is everything they imagined. Until someone starts killing everyone off. A somewhat interesting whodunit mystery ensues and heads roll, literally, as Kim and her friends try to stay alive. Naturally, the best part of this film is that it solidifies Jamie Lee Curtis’s status as the OG of final girls. Everyone’s favorite scream queen alone makes this film worth the time.
Night of the Creeps (1986)
Part zombie survival, part alien invasion, part slasher, this homage to B films of yesteryear has it all. Two adorable, geeky pledges accidentally unleash the undead. These zombies just happen to be infected with alien slugs. Needless to say, all hell breaks loose on the night of the big college formal.
The boys try to clean up their mess. The only problem is, the ladies on campus are waiting for their dates, but have no idea what is really coming. This film has a lot of heart, as the relationships and personal demons drive the plot. But fear not, there is also plenty of blood and guts too, with special fx and scares that still hold up today.
Sadly, because of the death, mayhem, and explosions, no one makes it to the dance, but they still have a night they’ll never forget.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
Before Buffy took over the small screen, she dominated on the big screen with Kristy Swanson starring as the Chosen One in this awesome horror comedy. Like me back in the day, all Buffy wanted to do was move to Europe, marry Christian Slater, and die happy. Wait, that’s still me in 2018.
Anyway, instead of her dreams, she gets recruited to fight the undead. With Pike, played by the always dreamy Luke Perry, by her side, she learns all about vampires and how to beat them from Merrick, the current Watcher. Paul Reubens steals the show as the head vampire’s crony. Also, Joss Whedon’s clever dialogue still feels fun all these years later.
But best of all, Buffy is a fiercely feminist yet uber feminine valley girl we can all love. Buffy simultaneously dominates vampires and deadbeat boyfriends. She conquers the vamps and saves the prom with a quick wit, sharp tongue, and killer cheerleader kung fu. And she does it while totally pulling off a white prom dress paired with Doc Martens and a leather jacket. It was every 90’s grunge girl’s dream!
The Loved Ones (2009)
Am I not pretty enough? So many girls have asked themselves this question when the boy of their dreams rejects them at prom time. But Lola will not take no for an answer, as she stops at nothing to find her prince charming.
Taking place over the span of one prom night, the film centers on Brent (Xavier Samuel), a sweet but damaged kid who is gearing up for prom. Unfortunately, Brent winds up getting kidnapped and becomes the guest of honor at a seriously twisted home-grown prom. Meanwhile, his friends and family struggle to find him.
Driven by extremely likable characters, this film takes some awesome twists and turns. The most impressive thing is how The Loved Ones manages to take us to the edge of how much torture we can watch on screen, without ever going over it. In fact, the violence only helps drive the theme that love is the thing that will save us.
Carrie remains one of the most recognized horror icons of all time. Based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King, this film still holds up. Sadly, with the violence and turmoil in schools today, issues of bullying and social hierarchies in the high school setting are as relevant as ever.
Telekinetic teen Carrie (Sissy Spacek) endures years of torture from a zealot mother and the mean kids at school. But then the means kids plan the cruelest prom prank ever. Carrie enacts revenge not only on all of her tormentors, but also on all of the innocent prom-goers around her.
In addition, the movie’s final scene remains hauntingly poignant. Especially in light of recent events and our current climate where issues surrounding bullying and violence in schools are more relevant than ever.
Tragedy Girls (2017)
Like a slow dance prom playlist, I’ve gone and saved the best for last. That’s right… The pig-blood queen has been dethroned. Tragedy Girls is the best horror prom film out there. Don’t get me wrong, I love Carrie. But, every queen’s reign must come to an end. The new royalty is more than up for the challenge.
These queens pack a knife, a cell phone, and a ‘take no shit’ attitude. In his directorial debut, writer and editor Tyler MacIntyre does a great job of capturing the millennial young woman. Well, if she is also a homicidal maniac.
Leaning heavily on classics such as Heathers and Clueless, only with a lot more murder, this film captures the youth of the moment. Our millennial murderesses are social media obsessed feminists who are unafraid to shirk the status quo. Even if that means slashing their way through life. Equal parts hilarious and horrifying, Tragedy Girls is driven by a perfect script, a strong cast, and scenes of truly visceral horror. It is also a strong statement on our current obsession with recognition through likes and subscribers on social media. But fortunately, just like prom, this movie also reminds us that at the end of the night, what really matters are the people we love.
Did I miss anything? Let me know your picks for the best horror prom movie out there!
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