Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)

Reviewed By: Billy

The only reason to be thankful to Brittany Snow and the 2008 remake of Prom Night is that it forced the studio to release this classic of 1980s horror on DVD – complete with a modernized cover to confuse people into thinking it’s a sequel to the new movie. But in fact, this movie is not a sequel to any one movie in particular – it certainly has nothing to do with the original, Jamie Lee Curtis-starring Prom Night. Hey, I’m not complaining here; Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is one of the great misleading titles in VHS horror history, almost as good as I’ll Kill You, I’ll Bury You, and I’ll Spit On Your Grave, Too! And besides…it is a kind of sequel; it homages so many horror films of the 70s/80s that it becomes a sequel to the entire genre.

Taking its initial cue from Carrie-meets-Back to the Future, this one opens as Mary Lou, a 1950s high school slut who tells her priest that she loves every minute of sinning, goes to prom, cheats on her boyfriend, and gets set on fire by him while receiving her crown. It’s a great opening, punctuated by the fact that as Mary Lou stands on stage lit up like a bonfire, the rest of the students just stand around looking horrified. Didn’t they have fire extinguishers in the 1950s? Or at least wet towels?

Next, we flash to present day and our heroine Vickie, played by Wendy Lyon (looking exactly like Tracy Griffith in a blonde Halloween wig). Somehow, she’s nominated for prom queen and is dating a hot guy who rides a motorcycle. One of the great mysteries of Hello Mary Lou is trying to figure out how this chubby, dough-faced blonde is supposed to be popular. To be fair, as the movie progresses, Vickie becomes one of the best horror movie characters ever (even giving us a rare leading girl full-frontal, which will please JM)…but early on, she’s as believable as Martie the hot sorority girl in Hell Night. Anyway, she also has a stern, religious mother…just like Carrie. We also learn that the motorcycle hunk’s father is the school principal…who also happens to be the man who set Mary Lou on fire thirty years earlier. Uh oh…I think I see where this is going…

I should probably just mention quickly that like 976-Evil before it, this movie seems intent on making sure everyone watching knows exactly in what year it was made. We get lots of people saying “totally awesome” and prom dresses with polka dots and big bows on the shoulder. There’s also so much frizzed hair here (especially on Vickie’s pregnant friend Jess, who looks like a young, androgynous Albert Einstein) that I can assume there was some sort of electric current running under the set.

Back to the future…I mean, plot…Vickie heads into the drama department’s prop room to borrow a dress and ends up unleashing the spirit of Mary Lou, who immediately kills poor pregnant Jess by hanging her then tossing her out the school window (which everyone assumes is suicide…didn’t they find it strange that someone who was asphyxiated managed to jump out a window?). Vickie gets some great in-school nightmares (shades of A Nightmare on Elm Street) and then, possessed by Mary Lou, starts using profanity (reminiscent of The Exorcist). Next, Vickie gets hit on the head with a volleyball by the school bitch (just like in Carrie) and a group of zombie-ish girls start coming after her chanting “Mary Lou” (instead of “brains…”).

OK…just to keep score…in about four minutes, we just referenced four different horror movies.

Mary Lou comes for Vickie in a wonderful scene in which a rocking horse sticks out its giant tongue, hands shoot out of a liquefied mirror, and Vickie’s bed comes alive. The town priest (who, as it turns out, is the guy Mary Lou was cheating with) starts yelling “The body of Christ compels you!” and eventually Vickie gets pulled into a chalkboard and becomes Mary Lou. Characters are quoting The Exorcist right and left, the effects are coming straight from Elm Street (and yes, there’s even a teacher named Mr. Craven), and the only missing here is Amanda Wyss and Linda Blair dancing together at the prom.

In short, this movie is essentially the original Scream. It’s a celebration of horror – but unlike Scream, it’s not trying too hard and it doesn’t think it’s smarter than its audience. And besides, whereas Scream never really feels like a true slasher film, Mary Lou is absolutely real 80s horror: we’ve got crazy teens, idiotic teachers, sex, full frontal locker room scenes, and dialogue including: “This moment will be inserted into the anals of scientific history, and I think we all know how painful that can be.” It’s damn near perfect.

By the end of the movie, as Vickie is shot dead while receiving her crown (and, again, the students just stand there…not even running to save their own lives…what is with these kids?), you’ll be just waiting for the obligatory scene where Mary Lou crawls out of Vickie’s dead body. And yes, it happens. Mary Lou gets her revenge, and then finally gets brought down by her own crown. And in the last scene…what else? We get the EXACT SAME ENDING as in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s the perfect ending to this 80s sequel. So, thank you Brittany…for you and your crappy movie bringing Mary Lou back from the VHS dead. Whereas I’ve only got one finger for you, Mary Lou gets….



  1. I just want to say that I love this movie and am glad that you gave it a positive (and very good!) review.

  2. This review is almost a year old but it's my first time seeing it. This film has always held a special place in my heart and I am always glad to see a positive review about it.

    The ending was totally Elm Street, which is fitting but the creators were riding the coattails of the film from the opening credits.

    And Michael Ironside owns!