Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II

In an earlier post, I asserted that the mission statement of this blog was to revue things that are jawsome, or to revue things that are not necessarily jawsome in a hopefully jawsome way. The subject of tonight's post, the 1987 horror movie Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, falls in the latter category. I could not in good conscience call this movie jawsome, or even good, but it does have a certain charm.

I haven't seen the original Prom Night, but from what I hear on The Internet, that doesn't matter, as aside from sharing a setting, an actor (as a different character), and the catchphrase "It's not who you come with; it's who takes you home," the two are completely unrelated. Prom Night 1 was apparently a straightforward slasher flick, fairly well respected in the genre and set for a remake in 2008. But I don't care about it.

In the world of 1980s horror, you were either a Jason man or a Freddy man. Unless you were a woman. I would count myself firmly among the Freddy camp. Prom Night 1, it would seem, was more of a Jason kind of movie, but Prom Night II: Electric Boogaloo is a rare case of a franchise changing teams mid-race (please pardon my mixed metaphors) and ripping off A Nightmare on Elm Street pretty directly with a supernatural villain and lots of surreal, dream-like sequences (though in this movie they're not dreams). Throw in a 1950s theme with appropriate soundtrack, a pinch of incest, and a dash of showering lesbians and you've got a recipe for wackiness.

The story of Prom Night II: Twenty-Three Skidoo starts in 1950-something at the high school prom, where the titular Mary Lou is floozying it up and making out with some guy, much to the dismay of her prom date, Bill. Demanding vengeance, Bill decides to dump pigs' blood on Mary Lou during her coronation as queen o' the prom. Sorry, did I say pigs' blood? I meant a stink bomb. Unfortunately something goes wrong and Mary Lou's apparently kerosene-soaked prom dress immediately goes up in flames, roasting her alive.

Flash forward to the present (the '80s), where we meet Vicki, a moderately not-unattractive blonde girl with an unfortunate hairstyle and an overbearing mother who's all set to be queen o' this year's prom (Vicki, not her mother). Some boring stuff happens, and Vicki's classmate Josh, who is basically J.T. from Degrassi, is introduced, making a radio out of a potato and saying, "This moment will be inserted into the anals [sic] of science history, and I think we all know how painful that can be." Which should give you some idea of the comic sensibilities of this film. (Okay, I'm underselling it; there actually are some decent jokes in the movie.)

We now learn that Bill, the guy who set Mary Lou on fire, is now principal of the high school and has a son who doesn't want to go to college and sometimes forget to eat. Oh, and that son is dating Vicki.

For some reason that I either missed or they just didn't bother to tell me, Vicki goes down into a spooky basement or something in the school... oh yeah, I think she's trying to find a prom dress because her mother won't let her buy one, and I guess they keep dresses in the school basement. Whatever, it doesn't matter. The point is she finds a mysterious chest and opens it. Little does she know that she's freeing Mary Lou's soul! Which was sealed in the chest for some reason, along with the official prom queen tiara and cape, which Vicki takes.

Next we get a bit of melodrama as Vicki's even-more-unfortunately-coiffed friend Jess reveals... very... slowly... that some guy impregnated her and won't call her back. Fortunately she won't have to worry about this for long. We're about twenty-five minutes in and it's time for the first official murder! (Mary Lou's origin story doesn't count.)

Jess fiddles with the tiara, which pisses off the ghost and all hell breaks loose. By which I mean some bags of shredded paper burst open and some paint falls off the shelf. Then the prom queen cape attacks her and drags her toward a paper cutter. You wouldn't be faulted for thinking she's about to get her head chopped off... but no! It's the classic misdirect, and she actually just ends up hanged by the cape instead. Oh, and then after she's dead, she gets thrown out the window for good measure.

Naturally everyone assumes that Jess killed herself and then threw her own corpse out the window, and some asshole priest uses her funeral to espouse his views about violence in the media (what?). Vicki finds herself mysteriously drawn to Mary Lou's grave.

But the prom must go on! One of the other prom queen nominees or whatever makes a snide remark about Jess, and Vicki flies off the handle. This is foreshadowing because -- I'll save you the suspense -- she's gradually being taken over by Mary Lou's spirit or whatevs. She starts having hallucinations about a dark, nightmarish Silent Hill version of the school, where the Fonz attempts to rape her.

Meanwhile, the nerdy comic relief J.T. guy asks a girl out, which I guess is supposed to make us like his character more, or maybe just remind us that he's in the movie, because to be honest I had forgotten. Then Vicki gets brained with a volleyball, resulting in more creepy hallucinations with everyone calling her Mary Lou and the volleyball net turning into a big spiderweb that she gets caught in. Principal Bill hears her yelling "I'm not Mary Lou" and is disturbed, so he goes to the basement/dress storage room and somehow figures out that Mary Lou's soul escaped from the chest, though I don't know how he knew it was in there in the first place.

On account of getting beaned, Vicki gets the rest of the day off from school, but her psychotic mother decrees that she must spend it confessing stuff to a priest in a pointless scene. That evening she has some more Mary Lou-related hallucinations, in case you haven't figured it out yet. Then her really fucking creepy rocking horse comes alive, unseen hands grope her under the sheets (or something), and her mirror turns into liquid in a gag straight from Evil Dead.

Well, that scene was pretty cool, but by this time the film's leisurely pace is starting to wear thin and you just want her to finish getting possessed and start killing people already. There are some more scenes that don't really add up to much. The priest tries to warn Bill (his former classmate) that Mary Lou is back and that "she can't touch me; I'm a priest," but Bill should be careful and find Jesus, but Bill's not having it. Meanwhile, Vicki complains to her boyfriend about the inconveniences of being possessed, and the mean girl convinces J.T. to rig the prom queen election via computer in exchange for sexual favors.

In an unrelated incident, Vicki slaps mean girl and gets sent to detention. Then, with some pretty cool effects, she gets sucked into the blackboard. She ends up in the basement/dress storage room, naked, and apparently this is the point where she's fully taken over by Mary Lou. Vicki Lou goes back to the priest for another confession, except this time she asks him to fuck her, then kills him. Apparently his crazy notion about being invincible due to his priestiness was inaccurate.

The next day, Vicki's classmates are confused because she's dressing anachronistically and being sassier than usual. J.T. is the only one who correctly assumes that it's because she's possessed. When Vicki Lou's chemistry teacher Mr. Craven (groan) gropes her, she blows the hair out of her face, causing something to ignite the teacher's crotch.

Next is the film's most famous (to me) scene. Vicki Lou and some girl get in a fight in the locker room. When the girl goes off to shower, Vicki Lou joins her and tries to make out with her. The girl gets creeped out and runs away, leading a very nude Vicki Lou to stalk her throughout the locker room while singing the Little Richard hit "Tutti Frutti" in a creepy way. When the girl hides in a locker, Vicki Lou uses her telekinetic powers to crush the locker that she's in like an aluminum can, causing what is presumably brain matter to sluice through the vents. Pretty gross. I actually saw this scene on television many years ago but didn't know what it was, and it left enough of an impression on me that I eventually decided to track down the whole movie.

Anyway, nothing can really top that scene, so I'm sorry to say it's pretty much all downhill from here. Vicki Lou comes to visit Bill and vaguely threatens his son, then goes home and makes out with Vicki's father, which unnerves her mother, whom she telekinetically pushes through the front door, possibly killing her but I'm not sure. Bill knocks his son unconscious with his own shoe, then goes to dig up Mary Lou's grave, but finds preacher-man buried in it instead. Why would Vicki Lou take the time to swap them out? How would she know that he would dig up the grave? It seems like a pretty random and stupid thing to do, but I guess maybe from having dated him, she knew that he was the kind of person who, upon finding out that the girl he killed was possessing his son's girlfriend, would go and dig up her corpse. That's pretty impressive forethought.

Next there's a weird scene where J.T. takes a picture of Vicki Lou at the prom and asks her if she's seen Monica, and she turns into a burst of white light. I have no idea what that's about, but it doesn't seem to affect anything, and the next time we see any of those characters they're just going about their business as usual. So, just ignore it, I guess.

J.T. goes to his secret nerd lab to hax0r the prom queen election results, as per his agreement with mean girl, who shows up and holds up her end of the bargain. Then she goes back to her date, who asks her if she has any more mints because her breath smells great. Gross. When J.T. changes the prom queen from Vicki to mean girl, Vicki Lou doesn't like it and electrocutes him through his computer.

After the most awkward possible reading of the line "Ladies and gentlemen, we're gonna pick the prom queen now," Vicki is announced as the winner. The mean girl is dismayed, and a guy asks her, "How'd you blow it?" See, because she blew that dude, get it? Meanwhile, Bill's son has recovered from the shoe attack and shows up at the school. Also meanwhile, Bill himself is up on the rafter above the stage as Vicki Lou is coronated. Is he going to recreate the stink bomb stunt and burn this girl alive too? As it turns out, no... he just shoots her. Just as his son arrives! But it's too late. She's dead.

But not really! The dessicated corpse of Mary Lou bursts out of Vicki's body (I guess that's where she put it after she took it out of the grave) and everything starts getting all Carrie on us. Oh, by the way, mean girl is randomly impaled with a neon light, so don't worry, she got her comeuppance for being mildly rude. Mary Lou makes a bunch of lights and stuff explode, and I guess this gives her energy and restores her body to mostly non-dessicated status. It also gives her voice a lot of reverb.

Well, Mary Lou rampages a bit and eventually chases Bill's son down to the basement/wardrobe department, where the priest's corpse (how did it get there?) tells him he's in deep shit. Mary Lou pulls the classic "pretend to be a loved one" trick and impersonates Vicki, and Bill's son falls for it, the poor dope. It seems that if she can get him pulled into the chest (the one her soul was stored in, I mean, not her breasts), then... well, I was going to say that she'd be free, but she seems pretty free already, so I don't know what she's trying to do, but basically he's in danger of being sucked into the chest. But at the last second, Bill shows up, puts the tiara on her head, and kisses her. Then there are a lot of bright lights and a crazy tracking shot, and something explodes. The implication is that Bill and Mary Lou are gone, somewhere. Now Bill's son opens the chest and for some reason Vicki comes out of it, even though we saw her get shot and die and a creature burst out of her corpse earlier. I think what they're trying to say is that the real Vicki was in the chest ever since that blackboard scene, and everything since then was really just Mary Lou looking like Vicki, which I guess I can buy.

Anyway, when Vicki comes out of the chest, Bill's son asks her if she takes sugar in her coffee, and she says, "No, that stuff'll kill you." That's a callback to an earlier scene where they had coffee, but it doesn't make any more sense in context. It has nothing to do with the current scene and is really lame.

Cut to: A cop saying, "I don't know what we got here! Something strange," in a way that just sells it. And that's his only line. Anyway, the survivors are leaving the prom. Bill is back, so I guess he didn't die after all... or did he?! He's going to drive Vicki and his son home, but he turns the radio to one of the soundtrack's dozens of songs that include the name Mary Lou! And he's wearing a ring that seems like it probably has some significance, but I wasn't really paying attention to that scene earlier. But at any rate I get the idea that the kids are probably not in a good situation as creepy Bill says, "Hey kids. They're playing our song! Let's cruise." and all the windows roll up and doors lock and they drive away to their doom in a direct rip-off of the end of A Nightmare on Elm Street, except nobody gets pulled through a door which was really the best part. Also, the car's license plate says "MARY LU2". Why the 2? Oh well. The end!

In conclusion, this isn't a very good movie, but for the most part it is at least entertaining, and has some pretty neat special effects set pieces. For me, cheesy horror movies like this live and die (no pun intended) on their creative death scenes, and this one delivers a few pretty decent ones, and it has a sense of humor without becoming a total parody of itself like the later Freddy movies. And if you're not into any of that, well, you can't go wrong with full frontal nudity.

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