Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987)

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*. At the end of this movie a cop standing outside of Hamilton High, watching the carnage from prom night being removed, remarks “I don’t know what we got here. Something strange.” It is a sentiment that I think most people watching would agree with.
*. Hello Mary Lou is a hard film to categorize, not because it was thinking outside the genre box but just because it’s an unholy mess from beginning to end.
*. For starters, it has nothing to do with the first Prom Night. Absolutely nothing. They’re both set at a Hamilton High, but the first movie was shot outside Toronto and the second in Edmonton, so they’re not even the same school building.
*. So why is it Part II? Peter Simpson, the producer of both films, originally wanted to call it The Haunting of Hamilton High, but had to change the title in order to get a distribution deal. He thought this probably hurt the film.
*. There were also problems with the director, and apparently half the movie had to be re-shot. Which may help explain the mess.
*. Once it gets going, the tone is all over the map. Is it a satire? A horror comedy? Confusion arises because it’s neither scary nor funny. I’m not even sure what it was trying to be.

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*. There’s little gore, but at the same time it’s not a movie that plays it safe. Taboos are broken left and right. For example: (1) Jess is superfluously introduced as pregnant, which should make her untouchable, and yet her big hair and parachute pants aren’t enough to save her when she gets thrown out a window. (2) Full frontal nudity is paraded in the women’s locker room. (3) The possessed Vicki can’t resist giving her dad a full lip lock, which he doesn’t try very hard to resist. Now I know none of this constitutes X material, but it is transgressive.
*. The presiding spirit is that of Wes Craven (it’s one of many in-jokes that Mr. Craven is the name of the science teacher here). Vicki’s nightmare visions of the school, her being sucked into the chalkboard, her demonic rocking horse with its lolling tongue, and the girl being crushed in her locker are all pure Craven of the Nightmare on Elm Street period.
*. The difference is that the Nightmare on Elm Street movies had at least a surface coherence, a dream logic. One can never be quite sure what is going on here.
*. There are, for example, more nods to the Exorcist than you’ll get from a Regan MacNeil bobblehead doll. But despite all the stuff with the priest, who strangely keeps a shrine to Mary Lou, this never feels like a devil movie, and in fact Mary Lou mocks the idea of there being any virtue in religion.
*. There are also nods to Carrie — but while Mary Lou is a victim, she’s also evil to the bone and so impossible to feel any sympathy for.

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*. And what are we to think of Bill? Michael Ironside is one hard-ass school principal, that’s for sure. Hell, he can even knock a man out with a shoe! But how culpable is he for Mary Lou’s initial demise? How does he feel about her thirty years later? Why does he mock his buddy the priest for affirming what he already knows is true, that Mary Lou has come back?
*. It was 1987 so of course the fashions are laughable. What’s really funny though is the way that when Vicki is possessed by the spirit of Mary Lou and comes to school dressed in ’50s clothes she looks perfectly normal, and it’s her gawking friends who appear ridiculous. They make fun of her outfit, calling it a fashion crime and accusing her of being stuck in a “fashion coma,” but they shouldn’t be talking. It’s not like Vicki is wearing a poodle skirt. Today it’s the cool kids of Hamilton High who look like pastel ghosts of prom nights past.
*. I did like the Mary Lou monster at the end, but overall I don’t think this film is worth bothering with. At times it’s almost so bad it’s good. But like all movies that are almost so bad they’re good, it’s terrible.

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