When I was a kid, “Hello Mary Lou” was one of my all time favorite horror movies. It was a sequel to a film I didn’t see until many years later, and it was always presented in edited, cut for time versions on Channel 11 WPIX in New York, but I sure as hell loved it. It was just a wacky, occasionally creepy movie that was so much crazier than I originally thought it was. The only theme that “Prom Night II” has in common with the original slasher movie is the overtone of revenge from days past. That is about as far as it goes, as “Prom Night II” takes a massive departure from the original premise involving an axe murderer out for revenge stalking high schoolers leading in to a disco centric prom with Jamie Lee Curtis front and center.
Following that up with what is basically a horror movie about revenge, possession, the supernatural, and everything else allows for a weird, albeit entertaining experience. There have been a ton of instances like this throughout the eighties with studios just tagging any name brand on to a movie and calling it a sequel. There was “Troll” and “Troll 2,” there was “The Exorcist” and the vastly different “The Exorcist: The Heretic,” and can anyone explain why “Meatballs 2” features an alien? Yes I know, “E.T.” was popular and junk. In either case, for merely being a sequel in name only, and a horror movie that borrows heavily from “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “The Exorcist,” “Poltergeist” and “Carrie,” “Prom Night II” is a shockingly good horror movie. I’d even say it’s better than the original.
It’s that pure eighties horror entry, that also doesn’t mind flaunting the whole decade’s obsession with the sixties. The main hook of the film is Ricky Nelson’s “Hello Mary Lou,” which is also the name of the film’s cunning demonic villain. Mary Lou Maloney was a young popular girl in 1957 who, during the big prom at Hamilton High, is caught by her boyfriend Bill cheating on him with Buddy. As she’s crowned prom queen, jilted lover Bill decides to get revenge by hitting her with a stink bomb during her crowning. The stink bomb accidentally sets Mary Lou’s dress on fire, viciously burning her alive in front of everyone. Thirty years later, ex-boyfriend Bill (The great Michael Ironside) is now the principal of their high school (Who knows why?), and her ex-lover Buddy is a priest.
Both men have committed to blaming themselves for her death. Meanwhile the 1987 Hamilton High student body is preparing for prom night and student Vicki Carpenter (Wendy Lyon, who is fantastic) is looking for a dress after being denied one by her overly religious mother. She finds an old trunk in the school attic that houses the Prom Queen crown from the past prom and Mary Lou’s old dress (Why, exactly? Move along, folks, nothing to see here. Move along). She accidentally unleashes the angry spirit of Mary Lou Maloney from the chest, and soon enough the students all start dying horrific deaths. Even worse Vicki is being plagued by horrific nightmares, and slowly realizes that the spirit of Mary Lou Maloney is taking over her body.
Mary Lou is hell bent on revenge, and she begins using Vicki as a vessel to help her carry out some horrendous murders, as well as eliminating some of Vicki’s own rivals. Along the way there are some gnarly deaths scenes as Mary Lou Maloney unleashes pure sadistic hell on everyone. There’s even a fantastic death scene where the possessed Vicki telepathically crushes rival Monica who is hiding in a gym locker (“A wop baba loo bop, wop bam–!”). It’s a quick, gruesome, but incredible death scene and one that just doesn’t get talked about enough. While “Prom Night II” is basically all over the map, the hodgepodge of horror movie tropes works very much in favor of the narrative and overall tone.
There’s a possession scene, a poltergeist scene, a moment involving a demonic toy, a ton of callbacks to Brian DePalma’s “Carrie,” and the ending is almost identical to the final scene of “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Except it is a lot cooler and makes a lot more sense within the context of the narrative. There’s just so much to enjoy with “Hello Mary Lou” as despite its derivative premise, it takes the whole idea to new levels while embracing the inherent camp of the whole concept. Despite the film’s age, the final scene involving Mary Lou’s big unveiling in the prom is fantastic and the special effects are still rather gruesome. “Hello Mary Lou” is a great bit of eighties revenge horror that deserved to be up there with “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Night of the Demons.”
It’s one of the very few horror movies from the eighties to feature a very well drawn out, ferocious, and sexy female horror villain (You have to love Lisa Schrage). “Hello Mary Lou” definitely warranted a direct follow up that branched out in to its own series. To add to the fun it can be fully appreciated as a loose follow up to the Jamie Lee Curtis slasher, or as its very own horror entry. Either way, I hope in an alternate universe we were able to get at least five “Hello Mary Lou” sequels with Ms. Maloney raising hell on high schoolers at Hamilton High.