Just Give Me the Crown: Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)

My wife and I chose this as a Saturday date night movie. We had both seen it before, but decades ago. She was disturbed by it, having somehow happened onto it at age seven. I watched it not too long after it fizzled from theaters and found its way onto VHS shelves as a double feature with Prom Night (1980). I was just confused because the sequel had nothing to do with the original and it seemed incredibly goofy. Hellraiser came out in 1987, after all. I wasn’t yet a teen, but I was serious about horror movies.

This time Prom Night II was a different experience for both of us.

I’m pretty sure the film was far from disturbing for her. And though it still had little to nothing to do with the original, its goofiness was actually a lot of fun. I’ve since found out that it was a low budget slasher that had re-shoots and the Prom Night name added to it after the original did well. [This is a Canadian project, but the Italian exploitation industry was notorious for this kind of thing: Zombi / Zombi II (1979–yes, these are the same movie) and Troll II (1990) are famous genre examples.]

The basic premise of the movie involves a mean prom queen who becomes a meaner prom queen demon-thing after being burned to death on stage. Decades later, she possesses a teen girl in order to get revenge.

On this viewing, I noticed how much the film played with Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) dreamlike elements. That was after the obvious Carrie (1976) reference during the opening scene and the burning prom. Soon though, the film populates itself with references to other horror films: The Exorcist (1973), Firestarter (1984), Evil Dead (1981), Demons (1985), etc. I think they wanted to do something like Tina’s famous death scene in Nightmare, where she slides up walls and around the ceiling, but likely due to budget borrowed a technique that goes back at least to Cocteau’s Blood of a Poet (1930). I didn’t notice any of these…ummm…references…the first time I watched it and found it enjoyable where it can sometimes feel cheap. Less charming are all the characters named after horror writers and directors.

Something else I noticed this time is how much it incorporated feminine (maybe feminist–but I haven’t gathered my thoughts on that) perspectives. There’s a teenager who’s gotten pregnant, the guy is avoiding her and she’s trying to figure out what to do. Mary Lou is threatening partially because she does not care about being a “good girl.” Vicki, the protagonist, is navigating her social class and what she’s supposed to wear and look like. And even though slashers are known for their final girls, they rarely seem to portray much from a feminine perspective. I thought it was interesting that this seemed to be trying, whether intentional or not (maybe it was only intentional in that Vicki’s homelife is very similar to Carrie White’s). At times, it felt more akin to something like Ginger Snaps (2000) or Jennifer’s Body (2009), which it may have influenced.

Overall, a pretty fun and silly date night movie if everyone involved likes this sort of thing. If you’re putting together an ’80s horror night, this would be a good one to add for its goofy charm, Michael Ironside, FX and kill scenes.

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