Review Date: March 7, 2004
Released by: Alliance Atlantis
Release date: 5/1/2003
MSRP: $9.98 (Canadian)
Region 1, NTSC
Full Screen 1.33:1 | 16x9: No
The belated sequel to the original Jamie Lee Curtis cheese-fest, Prom Night II
was released to lukewarm box office in the fall of 1987. Through heavy play on various Canadian movie stations though, it has amounted a sizable following over the past sweet sixteen years. Alliance Atlantis has thankfully taken the time to plop this one off on DVD. So is this a prom to remember, or should you just stay home? Put on your favorite tux and let's take a trip back to 1957.
It is the night of the prom, 1957. The gorgeous and promiscuous Mary Lou Maloney (Lisa Schrage) prepares for the festivities by making a little trip to confession. It is there that she admits her sins, which consist mainly of sleeping around with countless boys. As if that weren't bad enough in the slasher world, she actually enjoyed them and had no regrets. While at the dance, she stands up her boyfriend Bill Nordham (Michael Ironside) for a quickie in the back with Buddy Cooper (Richard Monette). This doesn't sit to well with Billy, and as she is being crowned prom queen he throws a stink bomb(!) at her, but the prank goes terribly wrong, covering Mary Lou in flames. Nobody helps her, and she burns in front of all her classmates.
Thirty years later, in 1987, Vicki Carpenter (Wendy Lyon) and her friends prepare for their prom night. Things get off to a bad start though, when one of Vicki's friends is found dead. People assume it was a suicide, but Mary Lou is back from the grave and more than involved. Her spirit has been unleashed, and she seeks a surrogate body to allow her to avenge her death and experience the prom night she never finished.
Mary Lou's accidental killer, Bill, is now the principal of the school (small world, eh?) and his son is going steady with Vicki. Through Vicki, Mary Lou will be able to live out her fantasy and get back at the far from benign Bill. As Vicki is taken over, more bodies begin to pile up within the confines of the school. Bill must come to terms with his shocking past and confront Mary Lou one last time. The confrontation however, could be deadly?
Prom Night II
is an entertaining smorgasbord of a film, borrowing plot points and story devices from several more successful horror films of the past. The revenge plot and the prom gone wrong are right out of Carrie
, the possession of an innocent girl by a demonic being out of The Exorcist
, and the dreamlike imagery and trickery is exactly what made A Nightmare on Elm Street
famous a few years prior. It may not be original, but it plays out like a "best of" episode from classic films of the past.
Adding to the fun are the knowing references to the very films and visionaries that the movie borrows heavily from. Vicki's last name is Carpenter, and at one point she torches the crotch of a Mr. Craven. Her other teachers names are Mr. O'Bannon, Mr. Romero, and Mr. King and Eddie Wood, Matthew Dante, Jess Browning also make appearances. True, listing your sources does not make your material any more original, but it is nice to see the filmmakers tipping their hats. It is also fun to try and spot all the film related references littered throughout.
Referencing aside though, this remains a solid and creepy horror film. Definitely the scariest entry into the solid Prom Night
series, the film is high on atmosphere, sustaining a pulsing and nightmarish mood throughout. The film drifts in and out of dreams, but the entire film has this sort of surreal quality, with a non-stop synth screeching that drowns out many of the scenes.
Like any scary nightmare, Prom Night II
also probes the repressed passions of everyday life. Some of the most shocking and unsettling scenes are layered with heavy connotations, be it lesbian or incest desires. There is a scene where Vicki (under the possession of Mary Lou) makes out with her father. Daddy seems to kiss back though, and the scene plays out much longer than expected. Regardless or not if any of the subtext reverts back to Sigmund Freud, it makes for some disturbing viewing.
Adding to the whole bizarre feel of the film is some convincing and competent effects work. The actual dream segments are staged nicely, and there are a few bits of good gore effects, particularly at the end. The end, although again derivative of A Nightmare on Elm Street
, is great and definitely leaves the film on a good note. What carries the film through some of its lesser sequences is the fine acting by Lisa Schrage as Ms. Mary Lou. She may not have much screen time, but when she is on she is gold.
It would have been nice to see a movie pickup where the original Prom Night
left off, but Prom Night II
takes the series in a new and very satisfying direction. Part 3 would continue the great character of Mary Lou, minus the unsettling tone of this film. Although it may exist in the original's shadow, Prom Night II
deserves to be appreciated on its own merits. It may not win votes for originality, but it certainly makes up for it with atmosphere and execution. This film stands as yet another underrated relic from the then thriving Canadian horror film industry of the 1980's.
There has been much debate as to whether or not this 1.33:1 full screen transfer is cropped or open matte. The film definitely went theatrical (unlike the other sequels to follow), so it was more than likely projected at 1.85:1. The transfer here appears, upon close inspection, to be in open matte. There is headroom throughout almost every frame, and no scene seems to suffer from any lost images on the sides. The screenshot to the left shows some text which fits tightly in the confines of the full frame. There is some extra bit of writing on the very bottom, which would be cropped in its theatrical run. While an anamorphic transfer would have been best, I highly doubt that viewers will be missing anything on the sides with this transfer.
As for the transfer itself, it is decent. Colors are consistent despite being muted and somewhat understated. The film was shot low-budget, and it certainly looks it from the transfer. There are intermittent specs throughout the transfer, but for the most part the transfer is clean. Black levels are fairly week, and there is a slight grain to the picture as well. Compared to past VHS tapes and television broadcasts though, this is the best Prom Night II
has ever looked. It is far from perfect, but it could be a lot worse. Fans of the film will be sure to accept this transfer.
Also of note, the back of the box laughably boasts a "Full Frame aspect ratio enhanced for 16x9 televisions." Don't be fooled, the transfer is 1.33:1 and lacks the added resolution of a widescreen anamorphic transfers.
Prom Night II
's English mono audio is about on par with the video: decent but nothing special. The sound is flat and definitely appears its age (especially with that horrible new age music throughout). There are times when a distant hiss is audible, but for the most part the sound is clear and clean. The dialogue never gets dominated unintentionally by the moody score. A perfectly servable mix for a film of this kind.
No supplements are included on this DVD. Perhaps their invitation got lost in the mail?
Prom Night II
may owe much of its success to films like Carrie
and A Nightmare on Elm Street
, but on its own it is an entertaining little gem. At times surreal and even disturbing, this is a good change of style from the original. The image and audio quality are serviceable but nothing more, and there is sadly no supplements included on this release. Still though, fans of 80's horror need to check out this little sleeper. At only $10.00 Canadian (check out DVD Soon), there is no excuse to pass up a date with this disc.
Movie - B+
Image Quality - C
Sound - C
Supplements - N/A
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English Dolby Mono