September 21, 2017
Generally speaking, sequels pick up somewhere after the events of their predecessor, whether a few minutes, weeks, or years, and continue to tell the story. Some take place within the same cinematic universe, but with different sets of characters and circumstances (Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2/Blair Witch, 10 Cloverfield Lane). Others are prequels, telling the story that leads up to the events of the first film (Ouija: Origin of Evil, Annabelle: Creation). Still others, however, are sequels in name only. Such is the case with Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II.
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II begins in 1957 with Mary Lou Maloney (Lisa Schrage from Food of the Gods II) being caught cheating on her boyfriend just before she is crowned Prom Queen. Jilted boyfriend Billy (Mindfield’s Steve Atkinson) drops a stink bomb on her during her moment of glory, but the fuse ignites her dress and Mary Lou is horribly killed. Flash forward thirty years, and Vicki Carpenter (Kaw’s Wendy Lyon) digs around in the school theater’s costume room for a prom dress when her uptight mother won’t give her the money to buy one. She finds a trunk with Mary Lou’s old cape and crown, and is unwittingly possessed by the spirit of the long dead Prom Queen. Mary Lou uses Vicki to exact revenge on the adult Billy (Michael Ironside from Scanners and Visiting Hours), who is now coincidentally the principal of the school.
Those familiar with the original Prom Night will recognize that, aside from having its climax take place at a school dance, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II has absolutely nothing to do with the original. In fact, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II was originally called The Haunting of Hamilton High and was never intended to be a Prom Night movie. Directed by Bruce Pittman (Mark of Cain, Alien Tracker) and written by Ron Oliver (Prom Night III: The Last Kiss, Blue Demon), Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II embodies everything that is fun about eighties horror movies. The characters deal with all of the typical high school John Hughes type of stuff, things like bullying, snobbery, and sexual promiscuity, but they’ve got the added distraction of a malicious spirit to deal with. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is a campy exploitative fright flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but isn’t exactly a horror comedy either.
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II seems like much more of a sequel to Carrie than it does to Prom Night. Once Mary Lou’s spirit takes hold in Vicki’s body, she uses telekinesis to prey upon her hapless victims. Vicki’s mother is a watered-down version of Margaret White, not quite as fire-and-brimstone, but every bit the religious zealot. And the opening scene, Mary Lou’s prom, is almost a direct quote of Carrie’s fiery prom scene, just without the pig’s blood. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is really more of a supernatural thriller than a slasher.
Carrie isn’t the only movie that Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II channels, though. It’s also got a heavy A Nightmare on Elm Street vibe to it. Most of the reality-based scenes are set in a high school, with hallways and classrooms that are in sync with those of Wes Craven’s classic. When Mary Lou really gets going, there is a surreal, nightmare-like quality to the visuals. In one scene, Vicki’s satin sheets attack and grope her. In another, she is sucked into a blackboard that turns to vertically-standing liquid (an ingenious camera trick involving a water tank and some sideways forced perspective). Freddy Krueger would be right at home within some of the more startling dreamlike segments of Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II.
There is no shortage of fun and creative death scenes in Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II. Mary Lou’s spirit seems to play with her victims in an almost Final Destination-like way. For example, one girl who is accosted by the entity is first threatened by a flatbed paper cutter before being hung with the Prom Queen’s cape until, finally, she is thrown from a second story window (and, of course, everyone believes it was suicide). Killings are caused by everything from old-school Apple computers to tiny crucifix necklaces, with the film’s climax ending up looking like a cross between Cronenberg’s Videodrome and Carpenter’s The Thing. Lots of fun.
If there’s anything that Halloween III: Season of the Witch has taught us, it’s that sequels do not have to rely on their predecessors to be good. A chapter two or a part three can be just as effective without any ties to the original. Case in point: Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II.