Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
Right, we’re heading back to the eighties. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is another film I’ve been meaning to catch up with for a while. It’s one of those films I’d always see on the shelves of my local video shop back when it came out, but never paid much mind to.
While I have a certain fondness for slasher films, this came out at a time when I was burnt out on the genre. So, it seems, were the filmmakers. This is neither a sequel to Prom Night nor, really, a slasher film. It took me years to learn that, however, by which time the video shop was a distant memory. Happily, the film surfaced recently on Amazon’s Freevee service, allowing me to make Mary Lou’s acquaintance at long last.
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is currently available on Freevee in the UK.
Mary Lou is an archetypal bad girl, attending a Canadian high school in the 1950s. Her unashamed sexual promiscuity puts her at odds with both her priest, at confessional, and her boyfriend, Billy, at the prom. When Mary Lou cheats on Billy with his friend Buddy, Billy is so upset that he decides to ruin Mary Lou’s moment of glory, as she is crowned prom queen. This all goes tragically wrong, however, when the stink bomb he throws on stage sets fire to Mary Lou’s dress, immolating her.
Now, thirty years later, a new generation is preparing for senior prom. Vicki, forbidden from buying a new dress by her pathologically Catholic mother, goes rooting through the theatre props stored in the school’s basement. When she uncovers an old chest containing Mary Lou’s prom queen tiara, this, of course, raises Mary Lou herself from the dead.
Slowly, the spirit of Mary Lou takes control of Vicki, turning her into both a vessel and the instrument of her vengeance. She torments students and faculty members alike, including the now middle-aged Billy and Buddy. But, most importantly, 1987 is the year she will finally be crowned prom queen, no matter how many people she has to kill to make it happen.
While it may seem odd that Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II has no real connection to Prom Night, it is hardly alone in being a slasher sequel in name only. The most famous example must be Halloween III: Season of the Witch, an ill-fated attempt to turn the Halloween franchise into an anthology series. Despite being a fun and unusual film, fans shunned it for not being what they expected, and it has taken decades for it to receive any kind of critical re-evaluation.
Similarly, Silent Night Deadly Night 4: Initiation threw out the slasher formula of the earlier films in favour of an original and much weirder story. And while Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge sort of builds on the first film, it is such a different type of story that it almost feels like an intrusion from another franchise. Personally, I love seeing horror franchises take risks like this, but I do understand those who believe it a form of bait-and-switch.
Rather than a Prom Night sequel, what Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II really wants to be is Carrie. Here, we have an overbearing, joylessly pious mother, the disastrous pranking of a prom queen, and a teenage girl going on a telekinetic killing spree. The ghostly possession angle may be different, but there are too many similarities to ignore.
And as an aside, I wish more filmmakers capitalising on 1980s nostalgia would watch this film. This is far more like the more sombre ’80s I remember than the dayglo leg-warmer fantasia people we see in films made by people who only know the era from pop culture.
It also makes me feel very old to realise that if this film were made today, the flashbacks would take place in the distant days of 1993. Remembering how the 1950s felt like ancient history when I was young doesn’t help.
While it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, I rather enjoyed Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou. The tone is a little more serious than I might have liked, and it takes a while to build atmosphere, but it delivers when it counts. It seemed a bit odd that a film that seemed to centre on a high school prom didn’t spend much time on the event itself, but I’m not really complaining. The ending feels muddled and self-contradictory, although that was pretty standard for horror films of this time.
Despite many of the special effects being fairly primitive, there are a few especially unsettling scenes. Vicki’s glimpses into Hell are executed with simple set dressing and basic makeup, but they do the job nicely. The scene in which Mary Lou really starts to take over, binding Vicki with bedsheets before turning her hobby horse into a leering monstrosity, is especially strong. And the gross-out horror of Mary Lou’s physical rebirth is like some deranged mashup of Frank’s resurrection in Hellraiser and the tar man from Return of the Living Dead.
My only real complaint is some of the sexual skeeviness that was endemic in ’80s genre films. It’s not surprising that a scene in the girls’ locker room becomes an excuse for nudity, but I was a bit more put out when a previously sympathetic male character demanded a blow job from a girl who was clearly unwilling. There is also an uncomfortable connection between Mary Lou’s murderous cruelty and her sexual appetites. One scene suggests that she is bisexual, which is presented as part of her predatory nature. This is all very much of its time, but it’s still disappointing.
These qualms aside, if you’re in the mood for some exquisitely 1980s horror, with all that implies, Hello May Lou: Prom Night II is certainly worth 90 minutes of your life.
The October Horror Movie Challenge
Please do join in and share your own thoughts with us about this or any other films as the month goes on. You can usually find us on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Discord, or lurking in the dark corners of your home.
If you would like to play along at home, my provisional selections are:
- Dark August (USA, 1976)
- Huesera: The Bone Woman (Mexico/Peru, 2022)
- The Banishing (UK, 2020)
- Brooklyn 45 (USA, 2023)
- Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (Japan, 1995)
- Pyewacket (Canada, 2017)
- Grave Robbers (Mexico, 1989)
- You Might Be The Killer (USA, 2018)
- No One Will Save You (USA, 2023)
- The Sect (Italy, 1991)
- Last Night in Soho (UK, 2021)
- Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil (Spain, 2017)
- 47 Metres Down (UK/USA, 2017)
- The Oskars Fantasy (Philippines, 2022)
- In the Earth (UK, 2021)
- Something in the Dirt (USA, 2022)
- Blood Flower (Malaysia, 2023)
- Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Canada, 1987)
- Older Gods (UK, 2023)
- Come to Daddy (New Zealand, 2020)
- Shrew’s Nest (Spain, 2014)
- Totally Killer (USA, 2023)
- The Premonition (USA, 1976)
- Murder Me, Monster (Argentina, 2018)
- The Gruesome Twosome (USA, 1967)
- Talk to Me (Australia, 2023)
- Gaia (South Africa, 2021)
- Demon (Poland, 2015)
- Juju Stories (Nigeria, 2022)
- El Conde (Chile, 2023)
- The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (Hong Kong/UK, 1974)
A Final Note
If you have been enticed here by these posts, please do look around at some of our other film reviews. We also have a podcast, called The Good Friends of Jackson Elias, which occasionally covers horror films. If this appeals, you might want to check out some of the following episodes.
- The Night House
- The Changeling
- The Endless
- Our favourite Cthulhu Mythos media
- The Fly
- A Dark Song
- The Thing
- The Ritual
- The Wicker Man
- The Stone Tape
- Event Horizon
- The Witch
- INLAND EMPIRE
- Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions
- Maléfique and The Ninth Gate
- Re-Animator and From Beyond
- Repulsion and The Babdook
- Man Bites Dog, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and S&man
- A selection of weird films
- David Cronenberg
- The films that scared us most
If you dig through the archives, you will also find episodes about a wide variety of horror stories and games. Happy nightmares!