FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jan 5, 2007

Father Ponytail and the Exploding Barn

You'd be hard pressed to find a more slashery slasher flick than the 1980 Jamie Lee Curtis vehicle Prom Night. It's got virtually every element that defines the subgenre: an opening flashback that sets the "revenge" theme in motion, a holiday or special event around which to center the murders, archetypical characters, a Final Girl, ineffective/absent adults. The only slasher trope missing is the "remote location", yet all the elements add up to one dud of a movie- a "classic" dud, but a dud nonetheless. It's surprising, then, that such a mediocre flick would spawn 3 sequels...even more surprising is the fact that the three sequels have nothing to do with the first film...even MORE surprising is the fact that Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil (1992) has nothing to do with the two sequels that precede it, even. What's not so surprising, much to my chagrin, is that Prom Night IV is not a good movie.

We begin our sordid tale way back in 1957. It's Prom Night and a few horny teens are...gettin' down to business, if you catch my drift.

I mean they're doing it.

And by "it" I know...hee hee hee...I mean I don't mean the dishes.

Nor do I mean "The Hustle".

I mean they're having sex in the backseats of their cars. Sheesh, are you so naive? Anyway, along comes Father Jonas (James Carver) to "cleanse all the sluts and whores".

Man, it's always with the cleansing of the sluts and whores with these psycho types, you know? Oh, and by "cleanse" he means "kill". Father Jonas does some stabbing and is soon locked away in the church basement by the church elders. Yeah, they don't actually do much about Father Jonas's little cuckoo nutso killing act besides sort of sweeping him under the rug. You know how those wacky Catholics can be!

Suddenly, as if by magic, the year is 1991. Father Colin (Brock Simpson) is the new caretaker of Father Jonas; yes, Jonas is still alive. He's alive, he's apparently possessed, he's being kept catatonic by daily injections of mystery drugs, and he's wicked hairy.

Father Colin, the young upstart that he is, wants to see if he can "get through" to Jonas. First order of business: "getting through" all that Cousin Itt-flavored nastiness. Colin shaves Jonas's face and puts his hair in a stylin' 1992-era ponytail. Second order of business: stopping those stupid injections! Surely Father Colin can exorcise whatever's troubling poor Father Jonas.

Trivia interlude! Brock Simpson appeared in all four Prom Night flicks in different! Impress your friends with your newfound knowledge!

Now where was I...ah, yes. Father Colin is an idiot. With those mystery drugs out of his system, Father Jonas is back in black...and action. He kills Colin and is soon off to find some more of those pesky sluts and whores to "cleanse".

Lucky for Father Jonas, he's awakened on Prom Night! You see, Prom Night is the night when sluts and whores walk the earth. All you need to do to make them appear is hold a baby's-breath-and-carnation corsage in one long-gloved hand, drink Boone's Farm Strawberry or Mad Dog 20/20 from a champagne flute emblazoned with "Prom Night" in fancy script, rock back and forth methodically to "Seasons Change" by Expose, and say "Seven Minutes in Heaven" 5 times. Legend has it that a whore or a slut will appear right behind you!

Two modern-day horny couples decide to forgo Prom Night altogether, however, and have a weekend getaway old monastery. This decision raised some interesting questions for me as an audience member, among them:

*"Ye old monastery" doesn't really have anything to do with Father Jonas, so why make a big deal about it?

*Why is it snowing on Prom Night?

*How, o filmmakers, will you hold my interest for the next hour-plus now that you've segregated these four characters? You've got 70 minutes to kill off four people. Snooze.

*Why would you even opt to segregate four characters in a horror movie when there's a whole gymnasium full of horny teens ready to meet the business end of Father Jonas's cross?

*Why hasn't Father Jonas aged in 40 years? For that matter, why bring in the whole "possession" angle when he looks normal and only sort of glares at people? I know possession. That's not possession. That's just being weird.

And so on. Eventually, Father Jonas gets around to killing three out of the four horny teens. Our Final Girl Meagan (Nicole de Boer) goes mano a mano with the padre and ends up...setting him on fire in a barn. Or a shed. I couldn't tell. Then this happened:

...and you know, it almost made up for some of the general crappiness of the movie. I'm tellin' ya, no matter where or when I see it, there's no time that the person runs towards the camera whilst escaping a burning building and then the person has to leap because the building totally just blew up bit doesn't bring a smile to my face. So to find it in that most unexpected of places, a slasher flick, well, it tickled me.

Sadly enough, Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil needed about eight more explosions to make up for the otherwise dull proceedings. I give it 3 out of 10 hey, I should totally write a children's book based on the title of this post!s.


The Best and Wost Final Girl's said...

Hey Stacie, first post ! love ur site and LOVE Dallas.

I also Love this movie though, I think u were just a little bit harsh with it. The use of monks chanting as the soundtrack was really effective and I think the whole jonas being a product of the evils of molestation within the church was kinda breaking a taboo, making it all the more frightning. but thats just my opinion, actually This is my favorite slasher film and its a part 4 ! lol.

and to answer ur previous retorical (?) question the reason jonas goes to the monastary/cabin in 1991 is because that is the same monastary we saw in the begining- kinda of safe haven or w/e

Stacie Ponder said...

Welcome, Josh...any friend of Dallas is a friend of mine. :) Sorry your first post is because of me talking smack about your favorite slasher flick!

Thanks for clearing up my issues with Ye Olde Monastery...guess I missed that point.

You're absolutely right about the 'molestation' angle, but as it was only really hinted at, I feel that it ended up being wasted potential. It really would have been something if Father Jonas had subsequently gone after the church or those who were implicit in the molestation rather than anonymous "naughty" teens.

If that were the case, then the church could have created an entire "He's possessed!" defense to explain Jonas's actions...instead, I think he really is supposed to be possessed, but he doesn't act anything but...determined. Out only clue to anything supernatural is that he hasn't aged in 40 years!

Another tactic that would have improved things, I think, is if perhaps a whole "Legend of Father Jonas" idea had been played up to give the kids (and the audience) something to be scared about. Instead, I think there's maybe an offhand remark about the monastary being "haunted"- I would have liked to have seen something akin to the campfire tales in Friday the 13th Part II or Madman.

I also think the filmmakers really shot themselves in the feet by isolating the 4 characters so early on. That left an awful amount of "down time" where nothing really happened. We got some "Father Jonas cam" shots, but that was about it. There weren't even any jumpscares or creepiness to tide us over. Then characters all die in a span of ten minutes.

I did like the bodies on the burning crosses bit and a killer priest is a bit of a novelty. The acting was decent enough- I thought Nikki De Boer did a pretty good job.

I didn't find the movie scary or suspenseful in any way, though, and those are usually my biggest watermarks for enjoying a horror movie. Surprisingly, there was very little gore or FX to speak of as well.

Sorry Josh! I think it's cool that movies can affect people in such varied ways. And it makes for some good discussions. :)

Anonymous said...

That IS a cool children's book title!
But the exploding barn ISN'T Father Ponytail's adventure! It's his sidekick!
A whole barn! That walks (or ambulates somehow-- something. Look! What am I, some bio-architect?! I'm just an IDEA man!)
Anyways, the barn has some strange gastrointestinal issues, and occasionally explodes, either wholly or in part.
Fortunately, he can reconstitute himself, but there's a running visual gag of him all patched up all the time.

Okay, maybe this concept is a little strange.
But, an inanimate object as living character is not unprecedented.
Besides, I always thought the barber chair from Sondheim's SWEEENEY TODD would make an interesting character. It's perfectly cast in the musical, because its seat is hinged (those unfamiliar with the story, Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, kills his clients by slitting their throats in his shop, then he pulls a lever and the victim disappears into the the meat pie shop downstairs, the seat dropping out beneath them.
And yes, the pies are made of people, but Charlton Heston does NOT play Angela Lansbury.)

Anyways, the poor chair auditions for other roles but never seems to be quite right... they're looking for something less clunky, more contemporary... the usual damn story..!

Anonymous said...

Man... that was really indulgent...
More in keeping with the post (uh.... kinda):
There was a locally made horror film (ostensibly) called THE MAIZE.
It's... well, to be generous... very bad.
Somehow though, the producer/writer/director/lead was able to get Lion's Gate to distribute the film as a DVD!
Lion's Gate! The same people who distributed HIGH TENSION and last year's Oscar winner for Best Picture, CRASH!
My mind is actively boggling! (ie. it's making that noise when you shake up the letters)
Anyways, it's set in a corn maze (Get it?), and stuff happens. Unfortunately, not enough stuff to justify the length of the film.
ANYways, on DVD, it's now called DARK HARVEST 2: THE MAIZE.
There's a scary looking scarecrow on the box art... and there is NO scare crow in the film.
The box art is much better than the film.

I'm a total asshole for being so blunt and negative about a fellow local filmmaker (okay, I'm actually a wannabe filmmaker who's assisted on a couple local films), but I will give the the guy a lot of respect for being a producer and being able to get this flick distributed.
I've seen this DVD available in Blockbuster and Borders.
Other than that, you've been warned.

The Best and Wost Final Girl's said...

Argh I guess my last comment didn't save o well, I’ll start over.

No offense taken Stacie, different films for different people. btw I'm writing this from Irving, Dallas, Texas as I speak :D

yeah I totally agree with u about the pacing, they even brought in marks brother to up the body count but it seemed kind of pointless.

and yeah I thought the fact that Jonas hasn't aged in 40 years was really suspending logic (although logic isn't always necessary in a film of this sort.) I would have liked it if the actor portraying Jonas was less robotic and lifeless and more of a piper laurieish character.

I also think the acting was ok from the three other teens but I didn't really care for them- it NEEDED character development.

but I did like nikki's portrayal as Megan, a girl who’s genuinely concerned on whether or not she should give up her virginity as its breaking her catholic faith.

one thing I do disagree on is the campfire tale idea. Making us know so little about Jonas made me wonder what the hell made this dude so crazy. knowing little about a killer is one thing I really like (something the remake of black Christmas really screwed up on :P)

The burning on the cross really affected me because I’m a very strong Christian and the idea that some psycho is actually thinking he’s doing gods work by "purifying" you it REALLY got to me.

Rachael said...

That shot of the girl flying through the air made me snort.

Anonymous said...

oh, you meant SEX by "they are doing IT."

i always thought IT meant SCRABBLE.

. . . no wonder my friends laughed when i said "i did IT with my mom," in seventh grade.

Anonymous said...

I think the title of this post was the name of rock band from 1967 or so.

Stacie Ponder said...

I LOVE the picture of her flying through the air. I don't know what people really look like when they're leaping away from an explosion, but I hope everyone is this stylish when they do it. Such FORM!

Amanda By Night said...

I love that photo too Stacie. It's hee-larious, but nearly as knee-slapping as the bad guy from Shark Attack 2 on his boogie board.

Still, she is wearing a lovely dress!