Club, The (1994)

It’s prom 1994, but it’s also a medieval costume party. It’s held in a gothic castle, complete with candelabras, suits of armor, vaulted ceilings, and a public bathroom with those metal paper towel dispensers you crank to get the paper out. I hate those things. Just give me the paper, goddamnit, don’t make me work for it. Like all good castles, there’s a dungeon with a torture chamber. There are shackles, an electric chair, and that wooden board with holes for your head and your hands (you know the one). There’s also the cutest petite guillotine you’ve ever seen. On a related note, my prom was held at a Sheraton conveniently located near the DMV.

Mr. Carver, the guidance counselor, saddles up too close to a kid at a urinal. He longs for the days when he taught gym class with all the girls in their tight shorts. He actually says this because, why not? He’s a guidance counselor and he’s got feelings, too. Another kid accuses Mr. Carver of murder and rape. The kid is not incorrect. Mr. Carver smashes the kid’s head against the wall. Now Mr. Carver sets his eyes on a young student named Amy. You know the rest. Or do you?

Wind blows through the castle and suddenly doors close on their own, iron gates shutter, punch bowls shatter, and balloons fall in slow motion, which is actually how they fall in real life. And now everyone has disappeared except for six kids: Amy, her boyfriend Evan, a nerd named Darren, an abusive jerkhole named Kyle, and his fearful girlfriend Laura. There’s also John, a floppy-haired outsider from another school who may or may not be hiding a secret. The crew tries to figure out what has happened. This entails splitting up and exploring the castle a la Scooby-Doo. This tactic has never once worked in the history of cinema, but one day it will, I know it.

Soon a guy makes out with a demon, a head rolls from the adorable mini-guillotine, and people are lit on fire. There’s also a very long scene where people look at yearbooks, while others open doors in a long hallway. And it goes without saying that there’s an egregious use of slow motion. The killer is Satan’s faithful foot soldier and he’s come to prom to have some fun. It’s not where I would’ve gone but OK. The killer does his best impersonation of Jack Nicholson in The Shining and Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice. In other words, there’s a lot of hand acting and cackling and demented smiling. He is easily the most satisfying part of the movie, but also the most irritating part. He’s the acting equivalent of picking a scab.

Prom night horror films deserve their own section in a video store—and if you have a video store, you should make that happen. And if you have a video store, thank you, take my money. This section would have some of our favorite movies, from Carrie to Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II. But this section would also have a lot of turds. Giant steaming piles that make you want to ban proms just so people will stop making horror movies about them (Prom Night). The Club isn’t a full diaper; it has its moments. But it lacks inventiveness and urgency; it doesn’t inspire or add anything new to prom night horror. You have essentially seen this movie before in a hundred other movies. Jump-scares are as generic as they come and devices and tricks are reused (the film really made the most of its fireproof suit rental). The same tired tropes are here—every girl falls while being chased—which is fine, but there just aren’t enough twists or sick kill scenes to push the movie into something worth savoring. It’s completely average and middle of the road, which is a shame because the prom takes place in a castle with a torture chamber. The torture chamber is the horror film equivalent of Chekhov’s pistol. When you see it on screen, you know it’s going to be used. How did director Brenton Spencer mess this up? Perhaps he was too tired from directing Blown Away, starring the two Coreys and that girl from Charles in Charge.

The last minute of The Club is more or less the entire movie in reverse. So the most efficient way of watching this is fast-forwarding to the end and then rewinding. But then you’ll miss the scene where the killer’s on fire and says, “I’m hot for you.”

From the Archives