From Prom Night (1980) to Carrie (1976), the high school dance is as much a staple to the teen scream as it is to other teen movie subgenres, with prom at the top of the social event hierarchy. In horror especially, some kids will stop at nothing to make sure they make it to prom, where they can live out whatever ambitions they’ve pinned to the dance, from dancing with their crush, to showing of slick moves, to getting crown prom king or queen. The kids on this list might have made it to the school dance, but the only pulse they can feel is being pumped through a speaker.
Benny Jacks – Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
After a bender where he and his friend are attacked by vampires, Pike (Luke Perry) wakes up to realize that his buddy Benny (David Arquette) didn’t make it out alive when he sees Benny floating outside his bedroom window, begging to be invited in so he can feed (Iconically, Pike‘s half-awake response is “You’re floating! C’mon man, get away from here!”). This turn is what leads to Pike teaming up with cheerleader vampire slayer Buffy (Kristy Swanson), despite their running in vastly different social circles, to take down the horde of local vampires that convene at Hemery High’s school dance. The showdown at the dance means that Pike needs to take on his now-undead bestie to stop him from preying on other students.
Mary Lou Maloney – Hello, Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)
Prom queen Mary Lou Maloney (Lisa Schrage) is burned to death at her own prom in 1957. Thirty years later, her vengeful spirit is released when her accessories are found stuffed in a trunk in the school drama department’s prop room. Freed and ready to wreak havoc, Mary Lou possesses student Vicki Carpenter (Wendy Lyon) and is determined to get the prom she wanted decades ago, and this time no one is going to ruin it for her.
Cherri and Spud – Hair High (2004)
Enemies-to-lovers Cherri (Sarah Silverman) and Spud (Eric Gilliland) are killed on prom night by Cherri‘s spurned ex-boyfriend. At next year’s prom, they come back to life and head to prom as if they’re bodies haven’t been decomposing at the bottom of a lake for the past year. Veteran animator Bill Plympton is known for using bizarre imagery and gore and violence as humour in his work, and this feature is a trippy tale that whispers of the animation style familiar in the 90s Canadian series Freaky Stories….if Freaky Stories were NSFW and had the gross-dial turned way up.
Johnny Dingle – My Boyfriend’s Back (1993)
Johnny Dingle (Andrew Lowery) wants nothing more than to go to prom with his forever crush Missy McCloud (Traci Lind). In a horribly failed attempt to impress her, Johnny ends up dead. But, thanks to the intensity of his One True Wish to go to prom with Missy, Johnny soon finds himself undead, albeit decaying rapidly. Bad enough that he has to convince the girl of his dreams to date a walking, talking corpse, but he’s warned by a gravedigger that if he doesn’t chomp down on some human flesh, he’ll be rotted away before he can ever make it to prom. A clerical error in heaven means that technically Johnny is alive by the time he gets to go to prom, but I think his journey through death, undeath, and back again earns him a spot on this list.
Mark Kendall – Once Bitten (1985)
Mark Kendall (a very young Jim Carrey) is a horny high schooler. His girlfriend isn’t ready for sex, and so, after his friends convince him to go to a singles bar where a vampire known as the Countess (Lauren Hutton) seduces him to feed on his virgin blood. When Johnny wakes up, he doesn’t realize two things: one, that he’s still a virgin; and two, that he’s now developing weird vampiric traits. Like Johnny in My Boyfriend’s Back, Mark eventually gets a second shot at life, but at least while he’s at the school’s Halloween dance, he’s vampirish, and caught in an appropriately cheesy dance-off between his girlfriend and the Countess.
Gwen – Dance of the Dead (2008)
Only the dateless aren’t at the high school prom when the local power plant’s waste brings the dead in the town’s cemetery back to life. Through misadventure, pizza delivery guy Jimmy (Jared Kusnitz) and other survivors realize that the recently resurrected townsfolk like music and that the prom will be a target of attack. They’re too late to prevent the zombie attack, but for the most part are able to fend off the undead at the prom. All except for Gwen (Carissa Capobianco) the cheerleader, who is bitten and turns while making out with class nerd Steven (Chandler Darby).
Angela Franklin – Night of the Demons 2 (1994)
If you get banned from the school’s Halloween dance: just make your own! That’s what school bully Shirley (Zoe Trilling) decides to do, and she doesn’t hold back, setting her party at the Hull House, where students where murdered only six years earlier, planning a ritual sacrifice, and inviting the sister of the only body not recovered at Hull House’s last event. As it turns out, that “missing” student, Angela (Amelia Kinkade) is still there, demonic and ready to kill.
The Prom-goers – Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009)
It doesn’t matter if you were alive when you got there, if you went to prom at Springfield High, you were marked for death before you walked through the doors. At the very least, you were probably already infected and doomed to die of the aggressive necrotizing fasciitis that’s contaminated the water (weirdly, the infection is described as a virus in this movie, but NF is actually bacterial in nature). If the flesh-eating disease didn’t do away with them in a hurry, the CCD (Contamination Control Division — not to be confused with the CDC)’s lockdown and gassing of the school definitely finished them off.
Mick and Pnub – Idle Hands (1999)
Stoner pals Mick (Seth Green) and Pnub (Elden Henson) get horribly murdered by their best friend Anton (Devon Sawa)’s possessed right hand. But when they get the chance to go to heaven, they decide that they’re just too lazy to climb the steps to the pearly gates and head back to help Anton out by watching over his crush Molly (Jessica Alba) at the school dance. Luckily, it’s a Halloween dance, not the prom, so Mick and Pnub‘s obvious undeadness goes mostly ignored.
Jennifer Check – Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Poor Jennifer (Megan Fox) didn’t ask to be a virgin sacrifice, especially since she’s decidedly non-virginal, but now that her dead body is occupied by a demonic force, she might as well make the best of it (and make high school hell for everyone in her circle). And that includes going to the school dance only to feed off your best friend’s boyfriend.