Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II

Who knew there were four, count ’em four, Prom Night movies? In what’s probably the least heralded slasher franchise ever, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is a singular achievement and best series entry, which might be the most back-handed compliment ever doled out on this site.

This minor Canadian classic lurches out of the gate with, what else? A prologue! Prologues are so ubiquitous in horror, that there are even prologue sub-sets. Here, much like in Pledge Night or The House on Sorority Row, it’s a PRANK GONE HORRIBLY WRONG.

We’re hangin’ at Hamilton High, where the “high” could not only stand for highschool but double as a reference to the foreheads of the seniors, who look aged beyond their years. It’s the 60s, we’re male pattern baldness-boogieing to the strains of Little Richard, and one rambunctious fellow, Billy, thinks it’d be hilarious to let off a stink bomb. Was this a thing? Perhaps before our time? (That 70s Show also featured an episode where a stink bomb was deployed by Fez). No matter.

The incendiary devices goes off during the high school dance, lighting up the curtains and immolating the prom queen, who burns in a kind of effigy: A-Wop-bop-a-loo-lop a-lop-bam-boo and she’s toast. Burnt toast.

Flash forward to the 80s, and Billy the stink bomb tosser (who’s also a tosser, Brit slang-wise) is now the principal! And lucky viewers are treated to the unhinged Canuck b-movie staple, Michael Ironside portraying him…

And he and the rest of the school community have to cope with restless spirit of the titular prom queen, who is not to be trifled with. Chimerical Mary Lou inhabits the body of blonde high-schooler Vicki, and starts killing off her friends.

Prom Night II has a dreamlike quality, and there are parallels to A Nightmare on Elm Street, particularly the first and the third. These qualities really push it into another category of film, rather than the more straight ahead slasher that was its predecessor. Of particular note, the rocking horse sequences, where of course, equine archetypes are a surrogate for power and burgeoning sexuality.

There’s a truly unique and innovative kill, which we proudly chronicle in our book, Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons.

Hurt locker, fo’ sho’.

*** (out of 5)

[Check out our discussion of Prom Night II on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]


Chopping Mall

What beats a lightning bolt as a plot device? It’s been used to catalyze countless sci-f plots. And that’s all that’s required to make robotic security personnel go haywire in Chopping Mall, a film that features a whole lot of mall, and not much in the way of chopping.

The brainchild of genre icon Jim Wynorski (who gave us, among other titles, Sorority House Massacre II, Big Bad Mama II, and The Return of Swamp Thing) Chopping Mall has as its source material, a narrative that has a long and storied past in the world of dystopian fiction: a clarion call about the warning of technology gone awry.

With some futurists warning as recently as September, 2017, that about half of all jobs will soon be automated, this is a deep well to draw from to this day, and puts Chopping Mall ahead of its slasher genre-mates, with which it shares some structural similarities.

In the 80s, shopping malls were coming into their own, eating up suburban real estate and becoming de facto community centers and hang-out spots, supplanting the drive-in a decade prior, and the malt shop before that.

In Chopping Mall, management for a run-of-the-mill mall install a new robotic security system. They’re basically assisted living scooters crossed with Dr Who Daleks (minus the bubbles), but with a more aerodynamic shape and slitty lit-up “eyes.” They’ve been programmed to ask questions first (“ID”), and shoot later. Unfortunately for some after-hours mall staffers, as well as some teen partiers, this functionality gets buggered and backwards by electrical short.

So let the killings begin!

Teen furniture store staff conspire to drink beer and engage in sexual hijinks after-hours (after all, they’ve got it made when it comes to beds). The crew includes the legendary Barbara Crampton as Suzie, and Kelli Maroney (Fast Times at Ridgemount High) as Alison. And there is also some fratty canon fodder and the requisite nerd.

They must test their mettle against the killer bots (this film was initially released as the more accurate, Killbots).

A Julie Corman production (she of Candy Stripe Nurses and the terrifically buggy, The Nest, which we podcasted), Chopping Mall has some cheeky, overt references to other films, such as Eating Raoul, a Really Awful Movies site favorite.

And it’s equally as fun.

***1/2 (out of 5)