Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Census Bloodbath: A Nightmare at Hamilton High

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Year: 1987
Director: Bruce Pittman
Cast: Wendy Lyon, Louis Ferreria, Lisa Schrage
Run Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

This movie exemplifies why I love the Prom Night series. A solid seven years after the original, which was a fairly solid but bland slasher, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II comes screeching into the mix, throwing around a myriad of paranormal incidents and downright bonkers effects sequences that are completely 100% divorced from the idea of Jamie Lee Curtis' friends being picked off one by one.

Whereas Prom Night was more of a riff on Halloween, Hello Mary Lou owes just as much to A Nightmare on Elm Street as it does to Carrie. It just goes to show that after Wes Craven came along to put in his two cents with his phantasmagoric special effects masterpiece, all the big slasher franchises made wild right turns to follow suit.

The only character from the original that returns is Hamilton High School (Although it is played by a different building. The original let fame get to its head and had an outrageous asking price.), which we revisit during Prom Night 1957. Don't you dare forget that. 1957. 1957. 1957. It's 1957. There. You have just experienced the written transcript of the first scene. 

Mary Lou Maloney (Lisa Schrage) is a maneating vixen and has no qualms about leaving her prom date, Billy, in the dust to go make out with Buddy Cooper behind the stage ("It's not who you come with. It's who takes you home." - Literally the only tie-in with the original aside from the name of the high school). Billy gets jealous and decides to get even by releasing a stink bomb from the rafters as Mary Lou is being crowned Queen of the 1957 Prom.

Unfortunately things go awry and Carrie White Mary Lou accidentally burns to death before she can wear her crown. Cut to Vicki Carpenter (Wendy Lyon), an innocuous Hamilton High student, thirty years later. Although there is no title card to tell us that it's 1987, her hair gets the job done.

Thanks for the heads up.

Her mother is a devout Christian woman who doesn't tolerate such heathen things as motorcycle boyfriends and brand new prom dresses, the former of which Vicki has, and the latter of which she wants.

When her mom puts her foot down (she can't get money from her dad because he cosigns checks with his wife like a fool), Vicki goes to search the prop closet of the school drama department. Instead of finding an assortment of battered cutlery, an out of tune piano, and 800 trench coats like you would if you searched my high school drama department's closet, she finds an old trunk with memorabilia from PROM 1957 !!! !!! !!!

When her friend Jess (Beth Gondek) breaks one of the jewels off of the crown, she unwittingly releases the ghost of Mary Lou Maloney, who promptly strangles her with a prom cape (this is a thing in Canada maybe) and makes it look like suicide. Oh, and Jess is pregnant. Yeah, that happened. Things just got real.

Now that she's out, all Mary Lou wants is three things: revenge on the man who killed her, who is now the principal (Michael Ironside, an actual actor! What?), the title of Prom Queen, and a brand new body to celebrate in.

Poor sweet Vicki is slowly going insane with hallucinations of Mary Lou as she tries to possess her body. She is becoming more rebellious against her mother as the downright sacrilegious (and F-bomb spewing) Mary Lou starts winning the battle.

Also Vicki's friends die sometimes because this is a slasher movie after all.

Real quick, here's the Meat: Kelly (Terri Hawkes), who has a valley girl accent, pastel eyeshadow, and a mean demeanor (I was super confused, because in the previous film I kept mixing up Kelly the bland one with Wendy the evil one. As soon as I got that straight, this was thrown into the mix. Not cool, guys); Monica (Beverly Hendry), Vicki's best friend who laments not finding a date to the prom in the middle of shooting down a boy; Craig (Louis Ferreria), the motorcycle-riding principal's son who is also Vicki's loving boyfriend; and Josh (Brock Simpson, who played Young Nick in the original Prom Night), the lovable A.V. nerd.

A moment of silence for the death of the A.V. Club. Apple has ruined high school for us all.

That was a lot of words. Here's a picture of a scary horse to spice things up.

I'm sorry I'm still on plot summary, but this movie endlessly fascinates me.

Mary Lou finally accomplishes possessing Vicki through a variety of special effects setpieces (including a Water Fountain of Blood, a weird cockroach-filled dystopian lunchroom, a whirlpool chalkboard, and Evil Volleyball.) and the new Vicki spouts 50's slang and oozes sexuality.

Maybe this is a good time to mention her four minute nude scene. Maybe not. OK, I'll wrap up quick. Mary Lou and Billy are trying to kill each other, and Craig is trying to save Vicki and get rid of Mary Lou for good. 

Things get super weird and Mary Lou kills a series of people and rigs the election, but before she can be crowned Bill shoots Vicki's body, at which point Mary Lou's corpse bursts out of her skin to attack the prom and kill Craig but his father shows up to give Mary Lou the crown and they make out and she fades away and then her grave explodes and then there's a tacked on shock ending.

Whoops, spoilers.

Ain't no thang.

Do I even need to mention the performances are mostly bad? I haven't been noting that in these reviews, I just figured that was a given. Likewise, the directing has lost its personality and spark. Although there is a clear predilection for looming shots of buildings, the forces behind the camera feel mostly anonymous. Fortunately, it's what's in front of the camera that's important.

Like this little beauty.

Watching the film over again makes me wonder if I should include A Nightmare on Elm Street in my body count calculation because this film clearly murdered that one and rifled through its pockets. Vicki is attacked by bedsheets, Mary Lou scrapes her nails against a locker like Freddy's claws, the hanging scene is exactly like Rod's prison cell, and the plot is also eerily similar to the sequel, Freddy's Revenge in which Freddy takes advantage of a boy's burgeoning sexuality to take over his body and murder people.

The clincher? The science teacher is named Mr. Craven.

Right through the heart.

With the religious undertones of Carrie and the everything of Nightmare, this film could easily be a ripoff but it has so much energy and kooky charm that it plays it off perfectly.

Although there are spurts of post-Jason Lives meta comedy (a Linda Blair reference, a funeral sermon mentions the negative impact of violent movies), this movie plays it straight, much to its benefit. It is so much more fun when your stupid movies spend more time being stupid than making fun of their own stupidity, although I do love myself some meta humor.

It's cheesy, it's fun, and Schrage eats it up despite her limited screentime. There's a scene where she goes to confession and it's honestly one of my favorite cheesy movie scenes in the entire world. She's gorgeous and hammy and perfect, embracing - and embodying - how loopy the whole thing is and when I said Hello Mary Lou, I had to say Goodbye Heart.

It's a Prom Night I want to remember forever.

Cassidy: "Why does something have to blow up at the end of every 80's movie?"

Killer: Mary Lou Maloney (Lisa Schrage)
Final Girl: Vicki Carpenter (Wendy Lyon)
Best Kill: A girl hides in a locker, but is crushed into a jelly. A wop bop a loo bop, a lop bam boom.
Sign of the Times: Ladies and gentlemen... Jess.

Scariest Moment: This freaking rocking horse

Weirdest Moment: Vicki (possessed by Mary Lou) makes out with her dad.
Champion Dialogue: "She looks like she's in a fashion coma."
Body Count: It's hard to tell because the ending is a little wonky, but I can feel pretty confident saying 8, counting Mary Lou.
  1. Mary Lou burns to death at her prom.
  2. Jess is hung by a prom cape.
  3. Buddy is stabbed in the face with a crucifix.
  4. Monica is crushed inside a locker.
  5. Virginia is blown through a glass door by telekinesis.
  6. Josh is electrocuted through a computer.
  7. Kelly is impaled by a falling light.
  8. Principal Bill is possessed by the spirit of Mary Lou. 
TL;DR: Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is weird and wonderful.
Rating: 7/10
Word Count: 1477
Reviews In This Series
Prom Night (Lynch, 1980)
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Pittman, 1987)
Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (Oliver/Simpson, 1990)
Prom Night (McCormick, 2008)

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