Written by: Ron Oliver
Directed by: Bruce Pittman
Starring: Lisa Schrage, Michael Ironside, and Wendy Lyon
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
"There's no God, Buddy! And there is no Heaven, and do you know what pissed me off the most? No fucking wings!"
The original Prom Night, released in 1980, has come to be regarded as a bit of a cult classic of slasherdom. I myself have always found the film to be a bit of a slow burn with an okay twist at the end. Instead, I have found the first sequel, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II to be a far more interesting and more entertaining film. Released seven years after the original, the second film has very little to do with the original film, as it shares only the setting of Hamilton High School in terms of plot elements. Instead of directly continuing the events of Prom Night, part two introduces one of the slasher genre's more underrated killers in Mary Lou Mahoney, a psychopathic prom queen hell bent on the destruction of those who wronged her.
The film opens in 1957 with Mary Lou confessing a copious amount of sins to her priest, particularly her carnal pleasures, and even gives the priest her phone number. We then flash ahead to that night's prom, where Mary Lou has arrived with Bill Nordham; however, she soon ends up behind the stage with Buddy Cooper, much to Bill's dismay. Shocked and in anguish, Bill decides to play a prank on Mary Lou that goes horribly awry and ends with Mary Lou being burned to death to the horror of her classmates. The film then moves ahead to the glorious 80s (as evidenced by the hair and fashion). Our protagonist here is Vickie, a young girl who is competing for the title of prom queen. One day, while rummaging around in the school, she comes across some of Mary Lou's attire and prom tiara. This, of course, awakens the spirit of the incinerated prom queen, who returns to wreak havoc.
Hello Mary Lou not only shares no direct continuity with its predecessor, but it also shares very little stylistically. Whereas the original is a bit more like your standard stalk and slash films like Friday the 13th, the second film has a more supernatural flavor, as it features an undead spirit and possession. Also, this film makes it clear who our killer is from the start, whereas the original plays out as a murder mystery. Thus, the film is a slasher where the killer has a bit of a personality and style, like in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. As I stated earlier, Mary Lou is one of the more underrated slasher villains, and, though she doesn't get a whole lot of screen time, she has a captivating presence and personality that serves the film well.
The rest of the cast is decent as well. It's lacking the star power that the original had, as neither Jamie Lee Curtis nor Leslie Nielsen are nowhere to be found. Instead, the cast is made up of some characters that are rather unforgettable outside of the lead characters. Michael Ironside turns in a decent performance as Bill Nordham, but the rest of the teens are average, if that. Wendy Lyon is good in the role of Vickie, especially when events later in the film cause her to play against the character type established earlier in the film. This transformation is one of the more fun parts in the film, which is a good way to describe the film altogether: it's a more fun take on the "prom night revenge" motif established in something like Carrie, and it's more entertaining here than it was in the original Prom Night.
From a directing standpoint, Bruce Pittman does a serviceable job. There's nothing especially flashy or stylish about the direction, but there are a few sequences that are very well done, including a rather grotesque transformation scene later in the film. From a horror standpoint, you should know what this film is all about: the gore and death sequences. It's not an especially scary film in terms of suspense or atmosphere, and, really the gore is nothing to write home about either. There is a rather bizarre and unsettling scene in the girl's locker room that will excite fans of the skin scale. Also, this film gets a few extra points from me for absolutely exuding that 80s quality that so many slasher films of this era captured.
Overall, Prom Night II is a very good example of a well-done slasher film. So many films in this sub-genre are utter tripe (though I admittedly enjoy them), but this is one of the better ones. If you like a little fantasy mixed with your slasher, this is one of the better ones out there. One thing I've come to notice is how strikingly close this film is in plot to A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, as both feature the spirit of burn victims returning to wreak havoc. Both films feature possessions, a homoerotic locker room sequence, and the climax and ending to each are very similar. I might be looking at things too hard, but I'd like to know if others see such a similarity, so I'm throwing it out there. Fans of Mary Lou will also like to know that the character returned in the 1990 direct-to-video sequel Prom Night III: The Last Kiss, though Lisa Schrage did not reprise the role.
Up until a few years ago, Hello Mary Lou was not available on DVD in the United States until MGM released the film. The DVD features a good presentation with a very well done video transfer considering the source material. It's a bit grainy, but the colors are well done, and the transfer overall is very clean of any artifacts. Fans will note that this disc features only the widescreen presentation of the film. There is an Alliance release in Canada that featured a full-screen transfer with a slightly inferior transfer, so pick your poison. The MGM disc also features both mono and stereo soundtracks that more than get the job done, as all the sound effects and dialogue are crystal clear. There are no extras, but the disc is pretty cheap, so you get what you pay for. Overall, I'd have to say the film warrants a place in any slasher fan's collection; if you're not a huge fan of the original, definitely give this one a look anyway. Buy it!
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