It’s prom night: 1957 and teen angel Mary Lou Maloney (Lisa Schrage) is having a night to remember. For starters, Mary Lou makes a brief stop at the local church—it’s there that she confesses to “many, many” sins before admitting that she loved every minute of it and leaves her phone number tattooed on the confessional wall (“for a good time call”) in bright red lipstick. When she arrives at the prom with her boyfriend Billy it doesn’t take long before she’s behind the stage with a flask of booze in one hand and Buddy Cooper’s crotch in the other. Unable to properly process the pain of his girlfriend’s wicked ways, Billy decides to ruin her moment of true happiness—by tossing a stink bomb on stage while she accepts her crown. Tragically the firecracker ignites Mary Lou’s dress and she burns to death in front of the entire auditorium.
30-years later and Billy Carpenter (Michael Ironside) is principal of Hamilton High. His son Craig is dating Vicki (Wendy Lyon)—a girl whose home life is lifted straight out of Brian DePalma’s CARRIE. When Vicki’s puritanical mom won’t let her get a new dress for the Senior Prom, Vicki decides to check out the drama department’s wardrobe for some suitably hip duds. But, when Vicki finds a beautiful purple dress and Mary Lou’s 1957 crown she awakens the evil spirit of the once and future prom queen—who is desperate to get back on the stage one more time.
Canadian Director Bruce Pittman’s 1987 follow-up to Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis’ 1980 slasher PROM NIGHT may be an “in name only” sequel but it surly ups the ante in the watchability factor—despite a wealth of arguments against it’s success.
HELLO MARY LOU has nothing to do with the original PROM NIGHT—save one thing—the name of the High School. The film also borrows heavily from past horror success stories—CARRIE, THE EVIL DEAD, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and THE EXORCIST. Even with all of these minor references the duality of PROM NIGHT II and CARRIE is profoundly blatant and at times almost embarrassingly plagiaristic. The other main factor working against the film—which as a sequel to the very dry and matter-of-fact original—is the fact that the plot seems to be written as a satirical in-joke.
Much in the same manner as NIGHT OF THE CREEPS the characters in Pittman’s film are named after the great horror directors—Carpenter, Browning, Romero and even a Kelly Hennenlotter and an “Eddie” Wood. All of this seems custom designed to spoof the genre. Instead the cast plays the film straight as an arrow—without the least hint of irony. The film’s supernatural elements overshadow the traditional HALLOWEEN-esque slasher formula of the original production in favor of a surrealist nightmare fantasy where Vicki is no longer in control of her actions. The film hints and later delivers several shocking moments, including implied lesbianism and a—too long—shot of the possessed Vicki passionately incestually kissing her father before she heads off to the prom. It’s the moments like this—woven into a standard 1980’s teen script that make PROM NIGHT II stand apart from the late 80’s gridlock of mediocre genre fare.
On paper, PROM NIGHT II should be a colossal failure. It has no basis in the original production—which has sadly not aged well. The screenplay has accounted for virtually every cliché ever written from John Carpenter to John Hughes. The dialogue is heavily dated and the performances are tinged with Canadian casting inflections—that the entire production feels like a lost episode of DeGrassi Junior High at best and an After-School Special at worst. Yet, somehow in the midst of this perfect storm of cheese, the film manages to still entertain to this day—and perhaps even influence current productions. Specifically the moment in the film that is most interesting in retrospect involves Wendy Lyon’s Vicki stripping down before stalking her best friend through the girl’s locker room. The full frontal scene shot through the rows of gray-green lockers is eerily reminiscent of Laura Harris’ scene in Robert Rodriguez’s film THE FACULTY. Perhaps this moment was Rodriguez’s opportunity to say hello again to Mary Lou?
To fully appreciate HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II, one would need only look to the original production and the pair of sequels that followed the second installment. All three of those films pale in comparison. The original is staid and dated and at times woefully boring. PROM NIGHT III and IV are low-grade Z-movies that would find a hard time even sating the voracious USA UP ALL NIGHT crowd. To see the film finally arrive on DVD is bittersweet. So few films that I grew up watching remain unreleased, it often becomes cause for celebration and sadness when one more graces the digital age with it’s presence. Having watched PROM NIGHT II again for the first time in the better part of a decade, I resign myself to the fact that I am genuinely thrilled it finally came out—now if the gang that produced DEMON WIND would finally get their act together, my life would be tragically complete!