There’s no point in discussing the original Prom Night. It is a classic of not only the slasher genre, but of the Jamie Lee Curtis scream queen era—although it seems to get a shitload of hate thanks to a world full of assholes who use the internet as a forum to express their ridiculous opinions and believe those opinions actually matter.
So anyway, back to the horror gospel by Dan. The original 1980 Prom Night is amazing and should be watched, not discussed. The 2008 Prom Night remake should pretty much not be watched or discussed (in 10 years, kids who saw it when they were the age I was when I saw the original will most surely hail it as a classic).
So I’ll just talk about the sequels. They almost did with the Prom Night franchise what they were thinking of doing with Halloween – make every movie a non-related sequel that just happens to take place on the same night, in this case, prom night.
In 1987, when Hell Mary Lou: Prom Night II was released, me and everyone else who had grown up on the original were like, “Mary Lou WHO?” Yes, the series went into new territory with a new “iconic” killer. See, in 1957 at Hamilton High, there’s this slut named Mary Lou. She goes to church and advertises her shit on the confessional wall. She goes to prom with one guy, hooks up with another guy behind the stage…and then you feel like you’re suddenly watching Carrie. Tragically, the last thing Mary Lou does in her young life is claim her prom queen crown. The fun is what she does in her death….
To continue on the Carrie homage, the lead chick in this film, a long-haired blonde, has a freaky religious mom who doesn’t want her to even go to prom. Luckily, there’s a reasonable dad in the picture, so prom is on. But our leading lady has to go through the prop room at school to find a dress—at which point, she unleashes Mary Lou’s soul. Mary Lou might have specific men in mind for her 30-year reunion revenge, but she’ll kill anyone if the movie’s pacing requires it.
Yeah, Mary Lou’s legacy is kind of lame in retrospect. It’s not really a good slasher film, although it gets credit for mega 80s teen hi-jinx and fashions…and a couple of awesome faux new wave songs at the prom that are not even listed in the credits, so I’ll never know if they were just recorded by friends of the director or something.
Carrie isn’t the only film ripped off (btw, there’s also rigged voting at the end of this film). There are a lot of major Elm Street-esque dreamlike sequences, including being sucked into a chalkboard that turns into a watery liquid (SO Freddy), as well as a scene that’s like fingernails on a chalkboard (again, SO Freddy). And to thrown in a little Linda Blair homage, there’s even a part where a priest is trying a preemptive strike to exorcise Mary Lou with with the words “The body of Christ compels you!”
This film is LOADED with Catholicism. On top of that, you get naked lesbian action, girl boobs and bush, a chick giving one guy a BJ and then kissing another guy who really digs the taste of her kisses, father-on-daughter face sucking (no, I don’t mean priest-on-daughter), more Carrie chaos at the prom, and finally, a car-drive-away ending that’s right out of Elm Street.
But Mary Lou is not gone. She’s back for 1990’s Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (which it so isn’t). And she’s a different actress! Fuck up the continuity, automatically lose a star. She’s a much bustier, sexier Mary Lou. Give one star back for straight guys only. The lead guy shows an impressive full frontal if you find the unrated version (okay, give the star back for gay guys, too).
Three things came to mind when I watched this sequel for the first time in over 2 decades. It has that really bad, trippy, nonsensical feel of episodes of Freddy’s Nightmares that did not star Freddy. It has unsustainable dark humor/black comedy and over-the-top murders like the sequels to the original Sleepaway Camp. And it came out in 1990, and as a result, sucks like most late 80s/early 90s horror—which explains why I thought the first two things I did.
And yet, the internet assholes who are not me seem to think this film is great. It started off well enough, and I was actually rather entertained and finding some humor at first. But by the end of the first half hour, the film fell victim to its attempt to be wild and wacky. I simply got bored.
Let’s see. We open with footage of Mary Lou’s grave exploding…the same footage used during the priest’s failed exorcism in part 2, now being used to signify that Mary Lou is busting out for more murders. Then we cut to I don’t know what the fuck—it looks like Toto Coelo in their 1982 “I Eat Cannibals” video, but these dancing chicks are chained to stones in what I guess is supposed to be hell, and Mary Lou is one of them, and she escapes. I’m telling you, this movie SUX. And that was my favorite part (second to the big wiener, of course).
Returning to Hamilton High, we get some Night of the Demons/Evil Dead camera travel through the halls, a janitor makes his way to the boiler room, sees a big jukebox just sitting there, is confronted by Mary Lou, recognizes her from 30 years ago (how, I don’t know—she’s not even the same actress!), and is then electrocuted by the jukebox.
Our lead with the big wiener has a girlfriend, but keeps hooking up with Mary Lou. She kills someone, he finds the body, he cleans it up, they have sex. It’s all very Elm Street 2 (yes, I believe Freddy and Jessie had sex). He goes to his sister’s bedroom door at night, and when she stirs, he says, “Sh…go to sleep”; he gets weapons ready to take on Mary Lou; he downs stay-up pills and drinks caffeinated soda; his house has a carpeted stair runner the same color as the one Nancy sinks into in Elm Street 1. If you have the Elm Street movies pretty much memorized, it all sounds very familiar, right? Not to mention, the kills are way up there with the asinine shit Freddy started to pull in his films by the late 80s/early 90s.
Mary Lou has gotten seriously supernatural in this one. She shoots electric beams from her eyes, gets neon halos around her body like Olivia in Xanadu, turns our lead with the big wiener into a leather sexy greaser…like Olivia in Grease. Wait, why I don’t like this movie? Oh, probably because at the prom, they have a rock n’ roll dance montage instead of a disco dance montage like in the original Prom Night. Anyway, everything comes to a head on the night of the living dead prom, there’s a red car out of the 50s that bares a striking resemblance to Christine, and our lead with the big wiener gets stuck in the 50s like Marty McFly at the end of Back to the Future II.
And we’ll never know what become of that big wiener. When Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil was released in 1992, Mary Lou was left in the gutter like the undead whore she was. In case you didn’t catch on by the title of this one, the obsession with Catholicism is back. This time around, a priest is determined to kill all the little sluts on prom night. I hate to admit it, but although this film drags and the possessed killer priest plot is not all that terrifying, the film somehow returns the franchise to its slasher roots. It actually USES musical score from the first film, and the prom kids even drink a toast to Jamie Lee Curtis. A self-referential slasher 4 years before Scream!
Part 4 begins on prom night 1957 at Hamilton High—yeah, the same night Mary Lou bit the dust (well actually she turned to ash). Must have been an unforgettable prom. Another horny couple is parked in their car—and set on fire by a priest! The priest has a rockin’ bod. He returns to a cave at his seminary, flogs his shirtless back, and then sucks face with another priest. Hot. The film also makes subtle references to child molestation in the church. Creepy.
Flash ahead to 1991, and the killer priest is locked up and under the care of a young priest—who isn’t all that hard to outwit. Meanwhile, a new group of 4 kids decides to skip prom (a prom in the middle of the snowy winter?) and go to one of their summer homes in the woods: a summer home that was once a monastery (hint hint).
The big problem here is, there are only 4 kids going up there, and they are all pretty much leads, so there’s not much slashing going on until the end.
Therefore, the film is loaded with footage of them talking, drinking, eating, dancing, having sex, going to the wine cellar, going to get wood from the barn—and the ridiculous overuse of the sustained tension chord. Listen up score editor. it’s out of place when we’re watching the girls in the kitchen cooking. Seriously.
So, when the film starts to get boring and all else fails, throw in lesbian action—and let that fail, at least as far as I‘m concerned.
What worked for me was the man moon out the limo window.
But really, when the film finally takes off at the end, there are some fun slasher conventions that make you feel at home. The priest places an obscene phone call. There’s a “lady sitting in a chair” Psycho scene. There’s a subtle yet effective smiley face change in a steamed bathroom mirror. And the final chase scene virtually rivals Wendy’s chase scene in the original Prom Night. And when everything comes to a close, there’s the promise of a very Halloween 2 hospital sequel…that never happened.
I do believe part 4 is my favorite of the three sequels. What actually makes them all okay in my book though is that ONE actor, Brock Simpson, actually appears in all FOUR Prom Night movies. In the first film, he was one of the young kids in the prologue. After that, he played various teenagers, eventually portraying a priest in the fourth film!
Other interesting tidbits—all 4 films take place at Hamilton High, and in every movie, someone says the line, “It’s not who you come with, it’s who takes you home.” So yeah, if it weren’t that late 80s/early 90s movies suck, the Prom Night series could have been a really cool franchise.