Tim Conlon - Alex Grey
Courtney Taylor - Mary Lou Maloney
Cynthia Preston - Sarah Monroe
David Stratton - Shane Taylor
Dylan Neal - Andrew Douglas
Jeremy Ratchford - Leonard Welsh
Genre - Horror/Comedy/Supernatural/Slasher
Running Time - 97 Minutes
One of the oddest horror franchises ever has been the PROM NIGHT series. While other franchises tend to maintain a level of consistency on some level, this Canadian horror franchise’s only common element is that each film usually revolves around a prom, and appearances by actor Brock Simpson. 1980’s PROM NIGHT was definitely an attempt to capitalize on the massive success of 1978’s HALLOWEEN, even casting HALLOWEEN lead Jamie Lee Curtis as the film’s Final Girl. While a popular slasher film for its time, it felt like a standalone movie that didn’t necessitate a follow up. However, HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II was released seven years later, lessening the slasher elements in favor of a more supernatural/possession film that seemed inspired by both THE EXORCIST and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Even though not necessary, HELLO MARY LOU manages to be more entertaining than the first one, making it the favorite for many when it comes to the franchise.
I guess believing that the sequel’s villain, Mary Lou Maloney, could be the franchise’s star, producer Peter Simpson and writer Ron Oliver decide to make her the focus again for 1990’s PROM NIGHT III: THE LAST KISS. That’s all fine and all, but if you’re expecting a true continuation of the second film, you’re not going to find it here. In fact, this is a weird sequel that wants to spoof itself to make the audience laugh rather than feel scared. The fact that it doesn’t even earn to right to even make that move at this point in the series, while failing at what it’s trying to accomplish for the most part, is even more baffling.
After escaping hell with the help of a nail file, Mary Lou Maloney (Courtney Taylor) returns to Hamilton High for revenge. One night, she stumbles upon very average student Alex Gray (Tim Conlon) on school grounds. Instead of killing him, she seduces him and has sex with him. Having enjoyed this tryst, Mary Lou begins helping Alex with his grades and with his position on the football team to make him a star student. Even though he has a girlfriend (Cynthia Preston) who doesn’t care how average he is, Alex falls for Mary Lou and gets in a relationship with her. This benefits Mary Lou, as she has had to murder any teacher, counselor, or student in Alex’s way to make him look above average to his friends and parents - causing Alex to bury the evidence under the football field out of loyalty.
Unfortunately, Alex grows tired of being Mary Lou’s accomplice, breaking up with her and going back to his girlfriend. Not one to be dumped, Mary Lou decides to take revenge on Alex and his girlfriend on their prom night, making sure that no one will have him if she can’t.
Like I mentioned earlier, PROM NIGHT III: THE LAST KISS is a strange follow up to HELLO MARY LOU. It has the same character in Mary Lou Maloney, but it doesn’t really continue from the events of the previous film. In fact, one scene practically uses the previous film’s events as a punchline - almost as if what we take as canon is nothing but a joke and doesn’t mean a whole lot in the end. And while certain moments like this one do bring a chuckle and some amusement to the viewing experience, it also drags PROM NIGHT III down because everything is played for laughs.
Like HELLO MARY LOU, THE LAST KISS is inspired by A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. The only difference is that HELLO MARY LOU was inspired by the scarier early films in the franchise, taking the supernatural and murder stuff seriously to tell a good story. THE LAST KISS seems inspired by the more mainstream NIGHTMARE films [such as THE DREAM MASTER and THE DREAM CHILD], which were played more for laughs. But say what you want about those NIGHTMARE sequels - at least they tried to balance the comedy and the horror. THE LAST KISS doesn’t bother trying to scare anyone, treating the entire story as a joke that’s not all that funny.
It also doesn’t help that the script itself is not all that well-written. In fact, the Mary Lou character seems to have changed quite drastically since the second film. In HELLO MARY LOU, she was a pretty promiscuous and selfish girl who wanted revenge on those who wronged her by possessing another student. She took no prisoners and was presented as a serious threat that made that film entertaining. In THE LAST KISS, she’s a love-struck spirit who murders people because she feels it’ll please her living boyfriend. And when he dumps her, she feels scorned. She never cares about being Prom Queen or murdering whoever else was at the scene of her death. She’s that bitchy and clingy ex-girlfriend that made you start screening your phone calls and start thinking about that restraining order. And like Freddy Krueger, she quotes one-liners that pertain to her particular murders. But they seemed forced rather than natural, which is a credit to Robert Englund more than anything else. Actress Courtney Taylor doesn’t have the ability to deliver lines like that, making the jokes seem flat.
Even worse is that our main “hero”, Alex, is pretty much an unlikable prick. He’s a pre-med student who is pretty much an underachiever. He has a beautiful girlfriend who loves him, yet wastes no time in cheating on her with a dead person. And when said “dead person” murders people for him, he sees it as no big deal until he’s tired of burying the bodies for her. At one point, Alex even admits that he enjoyed what he was doing with Mary Lou without a sense of guilt. What’s worse is that no one even punishes him for his actions. His girlfriend never finds out. His best friend just shrugs it off. Alex never learns his lesson from the acts he has committed. Nothing about this character is worth rooting for. So why should I care about who I’m watching PROM NIGHT III for?
The other characters aren’t any better. They’re all stock characters that don’t evolve to more than they are. Sarah is the smart and beautiful girlfriend who loves Alex, flaws and all. She’s completely oblivious to her boyfriend’s actions, even when Mary Lou alludes to an affair with him. I will say she’s the only character worth getting a damn about, since she’s pretty bad-ass in the film’s final act and seems to be fighting for something. Shane, Alex’s best friend, is there - for some reason. The film sort of implies a homoerotic bromance between the two that never really develops. But Shane joined the football team because Alex did. And when Alex reveals the truth, Shane is only upset that Alex didn’t come to him about it. Oh… and Alex plans on spending the summer all alone with Shane rather than with Cynthia. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. But more could have been done with it. Andrew is just the classic bullying douche who also happens to be Class President and star of the football team. Leonard is the geek of the school, even though he seems to be more in shape than Alex and Andrew combined. And what’s the deal with Alex’s younger sister? She seemed really clingy on him. Was there an incestuous subplot that was totally forgotten in the final draft of the script? Just odd. And what about those teachers and guidance counselors who want to tear down the students rather than build them up? It’s comedy! Aren’t you laughing?
The screenplay does have its moments though. As sophomoric as they are, the announcements on the school loudspeaker did make me chuckle. For example, one states: “Today’s chess tournament has been cancelled; members are asked to report to the library to play with themselves.” It’s dumb but it got a reaction out of me. There’s also a terrible hip-hop rap song that’s so bad, I couldn’t stop laughing at how atrocious it was. And the final act, while bizarre and ending flatly, has some decent touches of character for those involved. I also found it amusing that a Canadian production tried so hard to be American. Maybe Canadians find sex on American flags erotic, I don’t know. But at least it was memorable.
The special effects, while not the greatest, do at least help elevate the film somewhat. We get an electrocution via jukebox. We get a pretty gnarly death involving ice cream cones through the hands and a blender through the skull. Someone melts via battery acid in a decent effect. Another person gets impaled by a metal football through the chest. A heart gets punched out. And we get a drill through the skull. The make-up effects, especially Mary Lou’s burn scars, look absolutely horrible - as if someone dripped pancake batter on her face and decided that was a cool effect. Unfortunately, you can only get the cool looking gore effects in the Uncut Version of the film. Otherwise, you’ll barely see most of them in the regular version - which won’t help making the viewing experience a little better.
The direction by Ron Oliver & Peter Simpson prove that a screenwriter and producer shouldn’t visually present a film. Even though I believe this was slated for a theatrical release, PROM NIGHT III ended up going straight to video [at least in the United States]. And boy, does this look like a straight-to-video film! Considering Oliver & Simpson had a hand in producing HELLO MARY LOU, which looked pretty great, it’s a shock how cheap this sequel looks. It looks and feels like a TV movie but with more elaborate effects. Nothing about the direction is worth discussing. There’s a scene with one of those 50’s student films that should look retro, but looks like everything else presented in the film. And there’s a hilarious scene with a visible boom mic in a kitchen. Otherwise the film is just there, which what a horror sequel shouldn’t feel like. It’s a long time where I’ve watched a film and I have absolutely nothing to say about the visual presentation. It’s not scary. It’s not even funny. It just exists. It’s watchable. That’s the most I can go with this.
The acting is pretty awful for the most part, which probably adds to the twisted entertainment of the film. I will say that Tim Conlon as Alex is probably the best actor in the film. As much as I disliked his character, he did play it well. I thought he had great delivery in his lines, had some charisma, and had nice chemistry with co-star Courtney Taylor. Speaking of her, Taylor isn’t a great actress, but she is sure easy on the eyes. I guess she played Mary Lou well enough for this type of film, but Lisa Schrage was much dynamic in the role. But she’s definitely eye candy [even having a quick nude scene at one point] and seemed to be having fun playing a psycho bitch. I give her points for trying. Cynthia Preston is much better as Sarah, giving depth to a character that probably didn’t earn any. I particularly liked her feistiness in the final act. The other actors are over-the-top in their deliveries to varying success. Only Dylan Neal has done a lot of stuff since, making himself a good career since the release of this film. While the acting was weak, at least the actors were enjoying themselves making this film. Their enthusiasm added a bit of entertainment and camp value to a crap film.
THINGS I’VE LEARNED WHILE ESCAPING HELL WITH THE HELP OF A NAIL FILE
- The school janitor drinks on the job. Well if you’re going to mop up puke, it might as well be your own.
- The school band plays a jazzy rendition of “La Bamba”. This truly may be the day the music died.
- The newly opened gym looks like it was structured after Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” music video. Let me hear your body talk, movie. Make a move on me.
- Alex and Mary Lou have sex on the American Flag. I don’t think anything was at “half staff” that night.
- Alex’s mom sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher on the phone. Good grief!
- Mary Lou murdered the school’s guidance counselor with battery acid. That’s too bad. She looked like she was melting with good advice.
- Mary Lou killed someone by tossing a football through their chest. I think Gisele married the wrong quarterback!
- Alex is hauled by the zombies of Mary Lou’s victims. As lousy as PROM NIGHT III is, at least the film is still more entertaining than the last few seasons of The Walking Dead.
- “If I can’t have you, nobody can.” And thus, Lifetime Movies were born.
- Some Skid Row rejects played at the prom. They deserve “18 and Life” for trying to kill glam metal.
THE FINAL HOWL
I remember enjoying PROM NIGHT III: THE LAST KISS a lot more when I was younger. However, the film has not held up for me all that well. The screenplay tries too hard to be a comedy, which it fails at. It’s not scary at all. The direction isn’t remarkable or memorable at all. But if you have the Uncut Version, the special effects and death scenes aren’t too bad. And while the acting isn’t strong, at least the actors are having fun with the material. If you want to watch a horror-comedy from this period, stick with SLEEPAWAY CAMP 2 & 3, or even A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER. Those films succeed in what PROM NIGHT III fails to do. Save that last kiss for a film more worthy than this one.