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August 9, 2012

Midnight Movie of the Week #136 - Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II

Prom Night II doesn't sound like much of an idea.  Even the most fervent supporters of the slasher film will probably admit that 1980's Prom Night - which is most known for Jamie Lee Curtis' unfortunate dancing and a series of "Wait a minute, what the heck happened to get the guy from Naked Gun into this movie?" moments - is not an entirely successful film.  That Canadian slasher film was one of the first and most obvious ripoffs of the Halloween formula, but it missed most of the things that made that film and several other slashers great - particularly when it came to the film's sluggish pace.
And yet, when you find Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, you'll find a horror sequel that's surprisingly talked about and has grown something of a cult following.  Primarily, I think, because Hello Mary Lou is kind of ridiculously crazy.  It's not your average slasher film - and Prom Night, in fact, is the definition of "average slasher film" - it's a body possessing mish-mash of themes from Carrie, The Exorcist, A Nightmare on Elm Street and plenty of other horror movies I'm probably missing.  This movie is basically the horror version of the Mongolian Buffet restaurant that's a mile from my apartment: it looks like one thing while it actually has all different types of things, things that are often put together in a pattern that lacks any type of common sense.  While these things are often disappointing on their own, but when you put them all together you get a decadent mixture that leaves you stuffed to the brim and content.
The film, like many slashers, starts in the past.  It's 1957 and Mary Lou Maloney is the slut belle of the ball at the good old fashioned high school prom.  Unfortunately for her, she cheats on her date, causes a big stir, and ends up set on fire while she's crowned Prom Queen.  The fire kills Mary Lou, but I guess there's a bright side to her predicament. She doesn't wake up pregnant the morning after prom gets to become a rageful spirit of destruction.
We flash forward to 1987 - the year of the film's release - and meet Vicki Carpenter, a mild mannered girl with extra Christian parents and a sweet side.  Vicki's biggest problems, aside from being a mixture of Carrie White and Nancy Thompson, come from normal high school problems like parental control and that one witchy girl who gets her kicks by picking on the girl who's not at all intimidating.  At least not until she inherits the spirit of Mary Lou through a conveniently preserved prom dress.
Unlike its drab predecessor, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (or, HMLPN2 if I get tired of typing that), enjoys breaking the mold that slasher films were stuck in early in the 1980s.  Part of me wonders why the film even bothered to inherit the Prom Night name at all (Probable answer = money.), because this film is such a different animal than Jamie Lee's Dance Party.  Director Bruce Pittman packs the film with wacky visuals and bizarre scenes - like an evil rocking horse or a naked and possessed Vicki stalking a friend in the girls locker room - that remind of abstract '80s horrors like Prince of Darkness or The Pit.
Like that Mongolian Buffet - I'm sticking with that analogy because it makes so much sense in my brain - the pieces of HMLPN2 aren't always good fits with the rest of the meal.  A first time viewer will probably mutter something like "Wait, what?" a few times, but that just adds to the charm as the film crashes through the its plot with a carefree disregard for normalcy.  There's a little bit of Evil Dead in the film's spirit, because anything can happen at any time in this film's universe.
As the story wraps up, it allows the great Michael Ironside to take over alongside Lisa Schrage, who plays the imposing Mary Lou with vigor.  Their performances, mixed with the younger folks (Wendy Lyon has impressive range as Vicki), keep the unpredictable film interesting as it moves with such a brisk pace.  This takes our attention off the little details, leaving us to remember the film in a positive light.
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II isn't a titan of horror, even by '80s standards.  But it gets plenty of bonus points for effort, because it spares nothing in an attempt to do something fun with a brand name and a silly plot.  It's hard to call a movie that calls itself a sequel and seems to borrow ideas from so many others an original piece of horror - maybe it's more of a Mad Libs horror movie? - but I still would bet that most people who seek out this movie are in for a few surprises.

2 comments:

The Film Connoisseur said...

I've always loved this one, it reminds me a bit of a Nightmare on Elm Street film, which were extremely popular at the time this one got made. I remember enjoying the supernatural element, but haven't seen it in so long! I loved that scene with the spirit coming out of the blackboard in a classroom or something?? Looking forward to seeing it again soon!

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Until you pointed it out, I didn't make the obvious connection that most Slashers really begin in the past! Very interesting, aye?! =D I'm going to have to think about that some more . . .

Thanks, The Mike!