In 1978, Jamie Lee Curtis starred in John Carpenter’s Halloween. The low budget independent film grossed 70 million at the box office, launched several sequels, and changed the horror landscape. It also made Curtis an in-demand actress. Not surprisingly she was offered several roles in horror movies. She made three that were released in 1980: The Fog, Prom Night, and Terror Train. To celebrate their 40th anniversaries I’m rating them based on their scares, the level of Jamie Lee-ness, humor, and the hot guy quotient. Very scientific.
Curtis and Carpenter teamed up again for this ghost story. Set in fictional Antonio Bay, Fog follows the locals as they prepare to celebrate the town’s 100th anniversary. Strange occurrences begin as an eerie fog rolls in from the coast. At the same time, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) discovers a long-buried secret in the church. In 1880, the founders of Antonio Bay ambushed a ship that was coming to the area to establish a leper colony. The crew died and their gold was stolen by the founders to build the town. Now the ghosts of those wronged men have come back, in the fog, to seek revenge. JLC plays Elizabeth, a hitchhiker who arrives on this deadly scene after being picked up by Antonio Bay resident Nick (Tom Atkins). Another reason why you shouldn’t hitchhike.
Is it scary…?
Very much so. Just like with Halloween, Carpenter creates an unsettling suspenseful film. Yes, the special effects with the fog are hokey by today’s standards, but they do add an eerie factor to the movie. The ghosts popping up and dragging people away are also frightening.
She’s more of a supporting player here. The real star of the film is Adrienne Barbeau, who plays silky-voiced radio DJ, Stevie. She just happened to be Carpenter’s wife at the time too. But there is a cool bit of casting with Janet Leigh, Jamie’s mother and fellow Scream Queen, taking on the role of the town member who is organizing the centennial celebration.
Nancy Loomis, another actor from Halloween, plays a deadpan Sandy. She throws out a lot of great one-liners to liven up the mood.
If you consider Atkins hot, more power to you. I’m not quite sure why he was chosen to play Curtis’ love interest when there’s a very noticeable 23-year age difference between them. Aside from him there’s not much to look at man-wise here.
A group of preteens accidentally kill one of their classmates. Sidenote, you shouldn’t play in old abandoned schools with broken windows that you can easily fall through. The four friends vow to keep the accident a secret. Too bad someone else witnessed the deed. Six years later the four friends are attending their senior prom. There’s bitchy Wendy (Anne-Marie Martin), prudish Kelly (Mary Beth Rubens), dorky Jude (Joy Thompson), and sweet cute guy Nick (Casey Stevens). The story also focuses on their dead classmate’s sister Kim (Curtis). Her family never got over her loss, but they’re trying to put it behind them for the sake of prom. As you do. Unfortunately, a crazed killer is out for revenge and will be attending the dance too.
Is it scary…?
Well, sorta. Prom is very slow and takes a long time to get started. An hour goes by before someone from the main cast gets murdered. In fact, it’s more like a teen drama with its soapy relationship plotlines. But the movie does have an intense sequence where Wendy (who looks and acts like a low budget Nancy Allen) is chased through the school by the killer. There are a lot of near misses that keep you on the edge of your seat. Another helpful hint, if you’re hiding from a killer, try not to scream loudly and draw attention to yourself.
This is a good role for Jamie even though she doesn’t really get into the action until the end. Up until that point she just walks around looking creeped out, while the killer comes after her classmates. When she and the psycho finally have a run-in, he tries to kill Nick and she has to rescue him. It’s a nice change from the usual horror set up.
There’s some unintentional comedy. The “Disco Madness” theme for the prom really kicks in when Kim and Nick do an elaborately choreographed dance number. Who knew Jamie Lee could do the robot? It’s all…something. But I must admit that I really like the song (“Prom Night”) that they’re grooving to.
Stevens supplies most of the eye candy with his golden curly locks. Also, Kelly’s boyfriend, Drew (Jeff Wincott) may be a jerk, but he’s cute.
A fraternity prank gone wrong leads to murder. Has there ever been a fraternity prank that has actually gone right? Doc (Hart Bochner), Mo (Timothy Webber), Ed (Howard Busgang), and Jackson (Anthony Sherwood) lure their naïve pledge, Kenny (Derek MacKinnon), into a darkened room with the promise of a hookup with a girl, Alana (Curtis). But instead Kenny finds himself cozying up to a corpse. The trick traumatizes him and he’s sent to a psychiatric hospital. Three years later, the fraternity throws a huge party on a train for New Year’s Eve. What they don’t know is that a killer is also on board and taking them out one by one.
Is it scary…?
From the beginning, the movie sets an ominous tone. Being trapped on a train with nowhere to escape from a killer is frightening and claustrophobic. The lighting for the film is often very dark, making every corner a potential hiding place. Plus, the party on board is a masquerade, which equals creepy masks.
This is the only movie of the three where JLC receives top billing. She is featured in the majority of the scenes, fighting with her boyfriend or running like hell from a psychopath. In the last act, she has to evade the villain while being trapped in a small train car and then a cage. She plays the tension well.
Again, there’s some unintentional humor courtesy of David Copperfield. He’s the magician (a stretch) who has been booked for the party, doing tricks while cheesy disco music plays in the background. It’s like if Travolta did magic. I couldn’t help but giggle.
There’s some interesting chemistry between fraternity brothers Doc and Mo. Doc spends most of the trip trying to break up Mo and Alana. At one point he stares intensely at his bro and reminds him that if Alana leaves him, Mo still has him. I bet. The movie needed more scenes like this. You could also say Copperfield is hot. It worked for supermodel Claudia Schiffer.
2 thoughts on “Jamie Lee Curtis…Scream Queen of 1980”
Sorry it took me so long to read this… really enjoyed it.
LikeLiked by 1 person