Prom Night 3/4
Riding on the coattails of Halloween, Prom Night was a huge success and became Canada's most profitable horror film. It is therefore to no surprise that Canadian producers sought to milk the franchise for all its worth with a number of sequels. After Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II came and went with little recognition in North American theatres, the next two sequels, Prom Night III: The Last Kiss and Prom Night IV: Deliver us from Evil went direct to video. Long forgotten (or even ignored) by horror fans, these two films have maintained a relatively low profile over the years. Just before Artisan was saved from bankruptcy by Lions Gate, they quickly cleaned the vaults of all of their obscure titles. This double feature of Prom Night III & IV is the result, so let's step back and relive the prom.
Prom Night III is a continuation of Part II, featuring the sultry and seductive Mary Lou Maloney (this time played by Courtney Taylor) tearing her way through Hamilton High coeds. On her prom night in 1957, Mary Lou was the victim of a vicious prank gone wrong when she was lit on fire and burned to death. Now she lurks within Hamilton High, waiting for her next victim. She runs into Alex Grey (Tim Conlon), and her vicious tendencies are set aside as she falls in love. She expresses her love for him by killing all those people that stand in his way of high school success.
At first thinking it is all a dream, Alex plays along with Mary Lou's game. But when more and more teachers and coeds wind up dead, Alex tries to put a stop to his relationship with Ms. Maloney. As those of you remember from Part II, Mary Lou doesn't take too well to rejection, and will stop at nothing to win Alex back…even if it means death.
The Last Kiss is much different in tone than Hello Mary Lou, or any other horror films for that matter. It is a dark, dark comedy, full of satire on high school life and on the meaningless of late-80s teenage existence. This absurdity is demonstrated by the fact that none of the characters ever act with any emotion. Upon finding his biology teacher dead, Alex merely shrugs, and instead makes out with Mary Lou (to whom at this point he hasn't even spoken a word). When Alex's girlfriend finds out about Mary Lou she hardly reacts: "I don't get mad?I bake!"
The film is full of fun little one-liners, as Mary Lou is clearly channeling Mr. Fred E. Krueger throughout. As much as the premise is indebted to the Elm Street films ("I'm destined to live on a street whose name starts with a tree!") Freddy can never say he's killed someone by means of a jukebox. Prom Night III is notable for its ridiculously bizarre murders, like death by projectile record, electrocuting jukebox, or best of all, banana split(!) The whole film is one big joke, and as a result is fun to watch. But when it is all over it is as lasting as its characters' emotions (read: not at all). Those expecting the darker overtones of the previous film will be disappointed, and everyone else will be kind of bewildered at the absurdity of the whole film.
Prom Night IV: Deliver us from Evil is a valiant return to the darker roots of Hello Mary Lou, and a great little slasher on its own right. The story again beings at Hamilton High in 1957, but this time there is no Mary Lou. Instead, there is a psychotic priest bent up on punishing "the sluts and the whores!" Upon seeing a couple fornicating in a car outside prom, Father Jonas (James Carver) drives a crucifix through the girl's heart and sets the two on fire. Priests get word of Jonas' vicious actions, and instead of attempting to reconcile his religious issues, they chain him to a bed in the basement where they keep him sedated for over thirty years.
Father Jonas eventually escapes, and heads out again to punish the sinful. This time, a group of four graduating students are on a prom night cabin retreat, where they plan on drinking and having sex. But in the basement Jonas lurks, determined to sacrifice immoral teenagers for the good of his faith?
Deliver us from Evil is fascinating in the way it combines religion with the slasher conventions. It is an unwritten rule in slasher films that those who drink or have sex are killed, and in Prom Night IV this cliché is tied to the fact that the Catholic Church deems premarital sex as a major sin. So the killer this time isn't just killing for the sake of slasher conventions, he is doing it because he believes he is serving the Lord's plan of punishing the sinful. Director Clay Borris gives reason for all the madness, and uses the religious theme very well in the film. The music, consisting of sinister bells and violin riffs, is ominous and adds to the religious fear.
The film is notable for being a full out attack of the Catholic Church. Unlike most horror films of the 90s, this one holds nothing back, and scrutinizes the system with the full-handed sweep of the best 70s horror films. Father Jonas is not the exception in a generally good church. On the contrary, Jonas is actually a victim of the corruption within the church. It is learned early in the film that Jonas was molested by a priest as a child, which no doubt influenced his perverted morals and inner turmoil. Touched at such a young age, his sexual identity is thrown into confusion, demonstrated during a shocking scene where he scalps and wears the hair of one of his female victims.
Like its attack on Christianity, the film holds nothing back in terms of deaths either. Some of the murders are truly shocking, like the aforementioned scalping as well as crucifix burning. Father Jonas is a truly menacing murderer, made even more vicious because he has a method to his madness. He is killing with the purpose of serving the church, and the fact that he believes he is doing it for the good of humanity makes it all the more scary. There are times when he looks like Rasputin (fitting, since no one is ever able to kill him!) and his obscene phone calls take a page right out of Black Christmas. Not only physically very threatening, James Carver really instills his character with a disturbed mentality which makes him undoubtedly one of the genre's scariest slasher villains.
The message of the film is also very powerful, as it states that corruption can never be stopped. It is no surprise that many victims of child molestation become molesters themselves, it is an ongoing chain of turmoil. In Prom Night IV, the injustice done to Father Jonas when he was a child is transferred on to the heroine, Meg (Nikki DeBoer), at the finale. Meg, like almost all Final Girls, is a virgin, and her sexual innocence mirrors Jonas' when he was molested by a priest as a child. Like Jonas, she will no doubt be scarred for life.
Prom Night IV: Deliver us from Evil is a creative, well-made and frightening slasher film. Considering how post-modern and jokingly The Last Kiss attempts to be, IV is a welcome return to the gritty slasher films of the late 70s. Although Prom Night IV remains fairly obscure do not be confused, it is one of the best slashers out there. Highly recommended.
Prom Night III: The Last Kiss is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio, and this transfer is quite awful. Firstly, the print is horribly censored - almost all of the gore from the original VHS release is choppily cut out. The back of the box says it is Rated R, but there is no doubt that a TV cut was used, and as a result this print is much tamer than it should be. Some of the better kills, like the final one at the end and the scissor cut of a finger are almost completely edited out. There is also less footage of Mary Lou topless in this cut too. A travesty.
Not only is the print heavily edited, but the transfer itself is muddy, dark, grainy and poor. There aren't many surface blemishes, but that is like finding a penny in a pile of shit, because the rest of this transfer is shoddy. There are even a few instances near the end of the film where VCR blips can clearly be seen. This was undoubtedly a video master that was used without any cleanup whatsoever, and it certainly looks it. This is one of the few instances where the VHS easily outshines the DVD.
Prom Night IV: Deliver us from Evil is also in full frame, but looks much better. The print is thankfully the R-rated cut, as all of the supple bloodletting is kept in tact. The transfer is still very grainy and lacking any sort of vibrancy. Colors are dark and dull, but overall it does look sharper than the VHS, if just barely. Thankfully there aren't any tape blips or other distractions like there were in The Last Kiss, but both films are still victim to a rush job by Artisan. Both films should look way better than they do here.
Like the video, the audio in Prom Night III is also edited. Artisan did so little work to locate a decent print of the film, there are even noticeable "bleeps" that can be heard throughout the film during swear words. "Bull shit" becomes "bull bleep!" and when there aren't bleeps the dialogue is just abruptly cut off instead. The track is supposedly 2.0 Dolby stereo surround, but you will be hard pressed to find any channel separation at all. Overall it is VHS quality, but since the original VHS isn't edited, it is definitely preferable to this.
Prom Night IV sounds much better than III, with a few noticeable zingers that come when Jonas jumps into frame (especially at the 1:25:40 mark). The track is a 2.0 Dolby stereo surround one, and there are a few parts of good channel separation, although most of the film remains centered in front. Paul Zaza's creepy score sounds good, if a little muted. Thankfully there are no bleeps to be heard on this film, everything sounds as it should.
Animated menus are all you get, which isn't a surprise considering Artisan's rush job on the entire DVD. Both films are presented on a the same side of the disc, but the disc is dual-layered (not that it makes a difference). The demand for these two films doesn't really warrant anything more, but it would have been nice to at least get trailers.
Prom Night III is a fun little dark comedy, ripe with satire and some shockingly bizarre murders. The whole thing is told with tongue planted firmly in cheek, so know what to expect. Prom Night IV is a much darker and much better horror film, adding a religious element not often seen in the slasher film. The killer is one of slasher's scariest, and its attack on the Catholic Church takes no compromises. It is one of the best slashers never seen, and definitely worth seeing.
Unfortunately, this double feature is tough to recommend. Artisan certainly didn't dress this disc up for prom. The films are featureless, and worse yet the print used for The Last Kiss is a cut version, full of audible bleeps and missing gore and nudity. Thankfully Deliver us from Evil is not cut, but both films still look poor and no better than their VHS counterparts. Artisan did not put any care into this release, attempting instead just to get it released before they were bought out by Lions Gate, but it is really tough to resist picking these two films up for a cheap $14.98 retail price. It can be got for half the retail price at most places. I am barely recommending this disc for the price and on the strength of Prom Night IV, but be aware that The Last Kiss is censored and the transfers are sub par.
Prom Night III
Movie - C+
Image Quality - F
Sound - F
Prom Night IV
Movie - A-
Image Quality - C
Sound - C
Supplements - N/A
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