Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #676
Number of Views: Two
Release Date: October 16, 1987
Country of Origin: Canada
Box Office: $2,683,519
Running Time: 97 minutes
Director: Bruce Pittman
Producer: Peter R. Simpson
Screenplay: Ron Oliver
Special Effects: Jim Doyle, William Guest, Nancy Howe, Larry Lapointe, Gary Paller, Dick Rude, Paul Sokol
Cinematography: John Herzog
Score: Paul Zaza
Editing: Nick Rotundo
Studios: Simcom Limited, Allarcom Limited, British Columbia Television, CFCN Communications, TBA Film
Distributor: Norstar Releasing, Alliance Atlantis, The Samuel Goldwyn Company
Stars: Stars: Michael Ironside, Wendy Lyon, Louis Ferreira, Lisa Schrage, Terri Hawkes, Richard Monette, Wendell Smith, Judy Mahbey, Beverley Hendry, Steve Atkinson, Robert Lewis, Lorretta Bailey, Brock Simpson, Beth Gondek, John Pyper-Ferguson, Vincent Gale
Suggested Audio Jukebox 💋
 Simple Minds Don’t You Forget About Me
 Ricky Nelson Hello Mary Lou
 The Partland Brothers Outside the City
I grew up feeling decidedly hard done by being British. Back in the eighties when I was coming of age, American high school movies were all the rage and one particular tradition that cropped up time and again was that of the end of term promenade dance or senior prom as it is commonly referred. It was the noughties before this trend caught on in the United Kingdom, and to this very day, I still haven’t ever stepped out in a tux. While this may seem like much ado about nothing to some, it’s also a rather monumental rite of passage and I love me one of those. Alas, unless I re-enroll for a second stint at the most hellish of all institutions, I’ll never know how it feels to throw up in the back of a stretch limo or attempt to cop a feel of the Homecoming Queen after one too many ladles of tampered punch.
It’s hard not to feel a little cheated and I often cry myself to sleep at night, pondering just how this particular rage took so long to travel the pond to us Brits. Even the stiffest of upper lips have been known to tremble. And don’t even think of pulling the Penny Farthing card as I’m not a hundred and twenty years-old thank you very much. Contrary to reports, we don’t all sit around on lawns in paisley tank tops, sipping camomile tea from elegant bone china you know. That may be how the upper class toffs earn their Eccles cakes but I can barely even grow a mustache, let alone groom it to curl at the tips.
I’m veering wildly off topic here, but getting back to the topic at hand, I reckon Paul Lynch’s 1980 high school slasher, Prom Night, had a lot to do with our indifference to this well-worn tradition. Before y’all tip that pail of hog giblets all over my store rented evening gown, I’m not suggesting it was anything less than competent. It simply wasn’t particularly inspiring. Granted, the sight of Leslie Nielsen sliding his brogues opposite slasher’s very own homecoming queen, Jamie Lee Curtis, (whilst glancing anxiously around for George Kennedy I hasten to add), pretty much amounted to disco plutonium. But it all felt so dreadfully polite, failed to spike the punch bowl until around the hour mark, and ended up feeling more of an exercise in ticking boxes than anything else if I’m honest. In an increasingly huddled marketplace, it simply became another face in the crowd.
Needless to say, when Bruce Pittman’s sequel, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, shuffled in beneath the disco ball a full seven years later, I swiftly checked my hip flask for signs of tinkering. What I’d failed to consider was that Lynch’s film actually took a rather tidy sum during its US box office quick step. My beloved grandmother once taught me never to look a gift horse in the mouth, particularly when you’ve seen that long face somewhere before and can’t place it. Besides, follow-ups were all the rage back then, and I’ve always been a patsy for peer pressure.
Astonishingly, it then managed to spawn a further two sequels before the obligatory watered down three decade reunion. Ron Oliver’s Prom Night III: The Last Kiss was doing the rounds before I decided to play catch-up and it didn’t take long to suss out that the rules had changed. The slasher groove train had all but bucked itself out of fizz by that point and the likes of Freddy Krueger had long since stolen the limelight. It turns out there’s more than one way to slaughter those lambs and it only entailed a few minutes of burning down into human slag to earn yourself a hall pass apparently.
Ask seventeen-year-old involuntary firestarter Mary Lou Maloney (Lisa Schrage) as this admittedly slightly thorny American rose just found herself up to her pretty little stem in blazing ember and I’m not about to call out “you asked for it cocktease” after witnessing the look in her eyes as she perished. In addition to frequently taking the Lord’s name in vain, habitually disrespecting her parents, engaging in all manner of sinful relations with numerous bucks, offering to fallate the prom tally counter for the all-important swing vote, and practically offering her pastor a hand job through the confessional lattice for her Hail Marys, she also has a tendency to repeat like acid reflux when incinerated for no better reason than a simple case of the green-eyed monster.
To be fair, heartbroken senior Billy Nordham (Steve Atkinson) did have fairly good reason to feel aggrieved after Mary Lou publicly humiliated him by jilting him on the most important night of his high school tenure. Besides, if you’re looking to point the slender finger of shame for this unfortunate accident then faulty electrical wiring and a sub-par sprinkler system should be deemed at least partly responsible. Isn’t that right Billy? Billy?
That rowdy rapscallion has fled without so much as a careless whisper and didn’t even have the decency to stay for the last dance. I wouldn’t mind but it’s 1957 for chrissakes. Now I’m left standing around like a wallflower and all I’ve got to look forward to is a cossack duel with Fonzie. That ain’t happy days. Where’s a flux capacitor when you need one? With a bit of luck, the school janitor has a dustpan and brush handy and can sweep Mary Lou’s ashes into a musty old trunk so we can all move on with our lives.
Thank the heavens above and board of education for dialling us forward thirty years as we now have a fresh cohort of disposable teens to torment. While Frank Drebin is nowhere to be found, Michael Ironside seems a suitable enough stand-in. Apparently the reward for arson and manslaughter at Hamilton High School is to be made head of faculty although time isn’t necessarily the great healer as Billy still appears wracked with guilt after inadvertently incinerating the homecoming queen.
It’s a particularly painful time for the principal as prom night preparations are now in full swing and his teenage son Craig (Louis Ferreira) has a cherry of his own to pop. The bad news is that his sweet-natured crush, Vicki (Wendy Lyon), has happened across a certain musty old trunk in the prop room and called dibs on the cape, sash, ring and tiara stashed inside, thus releasing the hell raiser’s vengeful spirit from its eternal shackles.
While Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II appears pretty standard slasher fare on face value, it increasingly deviates from the well-worn template and tosses a dash of demonic possession into the melting pot for good measure. However, it doesn’t take a child genius to spot the similarities to a number of better-known movies. Pittman openly pays affectionate homage to the likes of A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Exorcist, and Carrie, although Ron Oliver’s screenplay is a little too by-the-numbers to really offer up any true sense of its own identity.
That said, the story does take a surprising direction once our embittered homecoming queen moves into Vicki’s head space and there’s more than enough mischief-making to keep things rattling along at a fair enough clip. Then after Mary Lou has quenched her thirst for frolic, we take our places beneath the glitter ball for the obligatory prom night girlfight. Predictable it may be, but the incendiary finale provides a decent platform for our bitch in heat to really showcase her insubordinate prowess.
It may be some way from a classic but Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II still managed to earn its tiara with fans. Thirty years after its release, Pittman’s film has built up quite the cult following and its hard to argue that it doesn’t deserve its own spot on centre stage, given its predecessor’s failure to impart any lasting image in our yearbooks. Ironside adds a dash of pizzazz, chewing the scenery like the seasoned professional that he is, while a smattering of snazzy set pieces raise the bar further.
Lack of originality may leave a blot on its report card, but like the titular terrorizer, it knows precisely how to get up to mischief each time the spotlight threatens to dim. Anyhoots, my stretch limo has turned up right on cue and those leather seats aren’t puking on themselves so excuse me if I don’t stick around for the last dance. No offence, but after waiting thirty frigging years for my leaver’s ball, I’d prefer my prom date a tad less well done thank you very much.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 2/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: A little more gushing grue wouldn’t have gone amiss, although Mary Lou does find some reasonably inventive ways in which to dispatch those frisky co-eds. Meanwhile, Vicki may first appear like she wouldn’t say boo to a goose, but she’s certainly no shrinking violet once the shower’s running. The homo-erotic locker room scene echoes Freddy’s Revenge to eye-opening effect and that ain’t a loafer I’m gripping in my palm in case you were wondering. One of them has to fumble the soap bar soon surely?
Read Prom Night (1980) Appraisal
Read A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) Appraisal
Read Carrie (1976) Appraisal
Read Carrie (2013) Appraisal
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Grueheads Films 2017