Welcome back to another Friday Nightmare Reviews, wherein I tell you all about what you could be watching right now instead of aimlessly clicking away at buttons on the internet. You never know what sinister locations that aimless clicking will take you to nor if you will make it back unscathed, after all. But really, if you click around long enough, you’ll be almost guaranteed to find yourself trapped in the nostalgic world of the 1980s.
Despite having left the decade of spandex and big hair behind thirty years ago, we seem to find ourselves often living in a bit of a parallel world where most of our recent popular fiction comes from that era. To be fair, not counting that period in the ’90s where anything to do with the dreaded ’80s was the opposite of cool, that cluster of neon soaked years has come back in vogue in a big way and has remained that way for a while now. That said, it’s a weird version of the decade that we’re seeing people fawn over in more recent times. One that tends to entail a lot of bright neon colored spandex like mom never wore around the house. Also it incorporates a lot of the big hair that I only ever saw people wear if they were going out to a concert or if they were going to a retro ’80s night sometime in the early 2000s. This is not to say that I never saw those things growing up, but most of it was on TV or in specific scenarios. It’s the equivalent of someone remembering how popular bell bottom pants were in the late ’90s and deciding that this is ALL ANYONE EVER WORE for the entire decade. The point is that this is a made up memory of a time that most of the people who worship at the altar of the ’80s never actually experienced and a good deal of them never lived through. The real deal was a lot less glamorous but, let us all be thankful, the weird hairstyles were actually totally a thing.
Thanks to shows like Stranger Things and the most recent It film, we’re seeing a little bit more accuracy in the portrayal of everyone’s newest favorite decade, even if it is still drenched in fan service. Prior to this, those of us who were never cool to begin with had to get our ’80s fix by watching films that were made, usually on the cheap, in the decade itself. In fact, if anyone wanted to see what it was really like living in the 80s, low budget horror was probably the most accurate portrayal that you could find because it was filmed in real life locations. Granted, not every low budget horror film did justice to the reality of the fashion and settings of the time period. (I’m looking at you specifically, Rock & Roll Nightmare, with your weird ass silver coat tails.) There’s a plethora of ’80s horror films that I could showcase for a peek at how accurate (or not) certain representations of the time frame was and at some point, I’ll likely review them but tonight, we’re looking at one that is kind of dear to my heart because it has that look from the ’80s that I remember from my childhood. And it’s not a surprise, given that this piece of brilliance was filmed in the city I grew up in (sorta). What’s our cinematic masterpiece that packs the nostalgic punch this week? Why none other than Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2!
The more astute in the audience will note that there is a 2 at the end of that title and will garner that this is a sequel. Well, yes, of course it is, but on the other hand, kind not really. That kind of incoherence is exactly the tone we need to set if we’re going to make it through a night with Mary Lou and her backstory so strap in. It all started as a little film called The Haunting of Hamilton High which is already an odd choice considering that Hamilton is in Ontario and this was filmed in Edmonton which is in Alberta. (Canadian geography lesson for the win! Also, yes I have a weakness for Canadian cheese horror. You’ll just have to deal.) Again, I’m assuming a large number of you are noticing that this is not only a different title, but also one that does not bare the burden of having a big fat 2 on the end of it. While the school in the film shared the name of the school in the original Prom Night, it was actually just a coincidence and it turns out that a film about a prom queen coming back from the dead to possess a sickeningly sweet teenager as a means of getting revenge upon those that wronged her is not really following the trajectory of the first Prom Night. I mean, there’s dead bodies in both of them and there’s the whole prom monarchy establishment going on but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Oh right, I guess that pretty much sums up the plot, doesn’t it? Yeah, for as baffling as it is that there was a group of people in the studio who thought to themselves that calling this a Prom Night sequel was a heckin’ great idea, it’s even more mystifying when you realize that of all the places they could have taken that story, they went with a supernatural slasher that has more in common with A Nightmare on Elm Street than its supposed predecessor. They didn’t even try to Jason Vorhees this shit, either. They legit just took a straight forward story about a killer set on avenging the death of someone they cared about and tacked on a sequel with a really straight forward plot about a mean girl ghost who wants her fucking crown, dammit.
For those of you who actually wanted to know what it’s about: Bitchy popular girl allows nerdy boy to be her prom date and ditches him to hook up with popular handsome boy instead. Jilted nerd decides to get some petty revenge but his attempts at embarrassing her are just as weak as his seduction technique as she is engulfed in flames when he bungles the prank. Popular girl ain’t going to hell without her costume jewelry crown, so her soul decides to hang out doing a whole lot of not haunting anyone until some poor jerk finds the non-charred parts of her last glorious moment before she got Carrie White-ed to death. Ghost girl now takes over the body of a girl with a dish rag personality and suddenly there is a lot more nudity. Cue teenager deaths and scene. See? Just like Prom Night! I mean, while the first one is about a live killer stalking and murdering a group of teenagers who were responsible for the death of a young girl six years earlier, this one has the ghost of Mary Lou Maloney murdering teens as a means of getting crowned after that whole getting burnt to death before she got to gloat about being prom queen. At least it’s not a direct rip off?
You might have noticed that I haven’t mentioned anyone’s character but that’s mostly because there really aren’t any. I mean, there’s the poor girl who gets possessed but she really is far more interesting when she’s Mary Lou anyway so she hardly counts. Other than that, you’ve got some roles that are filled by the most 80s looking people you will ever see. There’s the first girl to die, who has the best 80s hair. There are the typical tropes, including the girl’s best friend and the dorky guy who is itching to get laid and the current high school mean girl. Our possessed heroine’s parents are religious stereotypes that would make Stephen King nod with approval. Her boyfriend is, um, there. Basically what I’m saying is that you don’t watch this movie for the deep, engaging tale of humanity’s moral struggle to look at the deep encompassing fear of the unknown and the unrelenting worry that our existence is questionable and perhaps meaningless in the face of larger, looming realities. No, you watch it because Mary Lou makes a damn fun mean girl. And she gets even more fun when the film pits dead mean girl versus living mean girl. It’s a weird dynamic but I dig it. And to top it all off, you have none other than Michael Ironside as the school principal and Mary Lou’s dorky original date. It’s kinda weird not seeing him as a villain in this but he does a lot with what he’s given. His presence in the film is like a particularly decadent icing on a cake that wasn’t that pretty and the icing probably deserved to be on a better cake but it makes the whole thing that much more satisfying.
And lack of character depth aside, the kills in this film are actually kinda fun and interesting. If you’re new here, I am a big fan of inventiveness and I’m less interested in killer tropes that end in the sneak and stab variety, especially when it’s later series stuff. Given that this is both late (ish) in series and not at all in series, I suppose that counts. I will give points to the film also that the kills weren’t of the random variety either. Maybe that means that it has one more thing in common with the film it shares a title with but even that one had an accidental bystander kill. Mary Lou, for as psycho as she is, didn’t come back with the intent to become a typical horror ghost that walks the halls, looking for red shirts to pick off. (At least, not until the third film in the series but does it really count if they dropped even that element when they returned in the fourth instalment?) She is targeting her prey and even taunts them from her possessed victim. She only gets into it with the living mean girl of the school because she was trying to interfere with Mary Lou’s plans. For as shallow as those plans were, it’s also a film that commits to the whole thing. Mary Lou wanted her last gasp of glory. She wanted to be able to enjoy that last moment of being a teenager who had it all and even if you hated her, you still get what she was going for. And the gore effects of when she gets her way and becomes a real monster are pretty awesome as well. As far as horror villains go, she’s fun, she’s got some of the better lines you’ll find in a horror flick and she was interesting enough that the filmmakers brought her back (sorta) for the sequel.
By now, you should be getting the picture that this is pure 80s horror cheese. It’s got a laughable plot, silly dialogue, vague and mostly killable characters, the kind of scares that leave you laughing but oh how it’s drenched in that nostalgia. Everything about this film just screams the time period of the 1980s. The fashion and hair are part of it but it’s the setting too. The color schemes and the look of everything around them are everything that shows like Stranger Things are trying to capture. It serves as its own time capsule and that has its own charm to it. And further than this, if you get past the fact that it’s not truly a sequel, the truth is that it’s still a pretty entertaining film. It’s not ground breaking for the genre but I’m not kidding when I say that Mary Lou is entertaining as hell, the effects are well done and the story remains, for as shallow as it is, fun to watch.
So if you find yourself pining for a decade from your past or wanting a glimpse of it, you can do far worse than Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night 2 as a choice viewing. After all, if we’re being honest, of all the things to follow in the mighty footsteps of the original Prom Night, at least this one isn’t a horrible, bloodless PG13 in name sequel only kind of film. Something tells me that would go over like a lead balloon. Instead, let’s look at the past and enjoy Michael Ironside being hammy and Mary Lou being a queen bitch.
As always, thank you so much for joining for another Friday Nightmare Review! If you are itching for more horror content, consider checking out the story updates on Monday and meet horror hostess Dead Eye Dolly and her monstrous friends who are finding out that there’s more to horror hosting than she originally counted on. Until next time, hold on to your crowns and restless sleeps to you all!