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!

Feb 6, 2019

Sit on It and Click It

In this week's episode, "Sit on It and Click It," Anthony and I discuss the Mary Lou Maloney saga, aka Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987) and Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1990).

I've written about Prom Night II before, extolled its many virtues and revealed the special place it has in my heart. Watching it for this episode of Gaylords, I found that it only gets better as time goes on. It's truly and underrated—if not outright ignored—gem of a horror film. It's blackly comic, queasily horrific, and stupendously mean. And in Mary Lou Maloney, vengeful, undead prom queen, we have one of the genre's greatest (unheralded) villains.

We meet her in the film's opening scene, wherein she delivers a confessional on a dark and stormy night in 1957. It's your typical confession-type stuff: she hates her parents, she has lustful thoughts about boys, and she even sexes the boys up. Mary Lou doesn't take the priest's advice and offer contrition, though. She had a great time doing all that sinnin', and she's gonna keep on doing it. She writes “For a good time, call Mary Lou” on the confessional in lipstick. Take your 1950s mores and shove 'em! Mary Lou does what she wants with who she wants, and she's having the time of her life.

It all comes crashing down at the prom as she falls victim to a tragic stink bomb accident during her prom queen coronation. Mary Lou dies a horrible death, but that can't keep her down. When released from the old steamer trunk that holds her tiara, sash, and cape, Mary Lou's spirit possesses high school senior Vicki and sets about wreaking havoc up and down the halls of Hamilton High. Some of it is revenge for a life cut short, but mostly she just wants her moment in the spotlight. That stink bomb interrupted her crowning ceremony and dammit, she's gonna make it happen.

I love Mary Lou Maloney. She's the type of female character we don't often see in horror movies or otherwise: she's confident, she's gorgeous, she's independent, and she's mean. Hello Mary Lou plays with slasher tropes by making the title character compelling and unrepentant before she goes on her killing spree. She's not poor Kenny from Terror Train or the grieving Pamela Voorhees from Friday the 13th, normal folk driven to insanity by the wrongs done to them. Sure, Mary Lou had a very wrong wrong done to her at the prom, but she wasn't the typical “good girl” victim. She's not an accidental killer, manipulated by circumstance or outside forces. She's not possessed. She's just an asshole, and it's so damn refreshing.

This episode forced me to watch Prom Night III: The Last Kiss, a movie I'd sworn off forever. My NO THANK YOU, PLEASE was rooted in 1) my love for Prom Night II 2) the fact that Lisa Schrage doesn't return as Mary Lou, and 3) the cover.

I had a sneaking suspicion that it wouldn't end well for either of us. How could it? Turns out...I was right! I should mention that my co-Gaylord Anthony loves The Last Kiss, so hey, your mileage may vary from mine. But as far as I'm concerned, the Mary Lou Maloney Saga consists of only one movie, and that one movie is Prom Night II.

While I think Prom Night III's biggest crimes are crimes against Mary Lou herself, I wouldn't have much been into it even if it charted the undead escapades of, say, Betty Sue Baloney. Hello Mary Lou certainly has more than a whiff of A Nightmare on Elm Street about it, in particular Part 2, Freddy's Revenge. There's the entire possession/”There's a woman inside me!” angle and the dreamy quality of it, the way Mary Lou can manipulate reality to her liking. The Last Kiss goes hard on this concept and plays like one of the latter Nightmare sequels where, you know, Freddy turns people into meatballs or whatthefuckever. Maybe that is your bag! That is not my bag. Couple this with the film's full-on descent into comedy and I was not having the time of my life with Prom Night III.

And then there's Mary Lou. In Prom Night II, she's sassy, self-assured, and takes no shit. She doesn't really have a heart, before or after her tragic death. This latter-day Mary Lou, on the other hand, wreaks some supernatural havoc but she feels largely dull and neutered. She's obsessed with one average high schooler and kills everyone that gets in the way of their “relationship,” and along the way she dresses up as a housewife, an ice cream parlor jockey, a football player, a news reporter...I just don't know who this character is. Maybe if I'm feeling generous I could say that there's a touch of the “Mary Lou gets what she wants no matter what” in there, but I'm not feeling generous! I'm feeling the opposite of that! She is HashtagNotMyMaryLou, and I will not acknowledge her Great Value Freddy Krueger antics anymore.

Prom Night II: perfect queen, heartless goddess

Prom Night III: no, absolutely not, crime against humanity

Seriously, Prom Night III is a terrible film. If you like it, that's fine, we'll get past this bump in the road. It's nice to like things. But I'm throwing a big stink bomb at it and hoping for a tragic accident.


CashBailey said...

I never saw PROM NIGHT II, despite it being in every single video shop I went to growing up. at the time I was a bit of a snob and only wanted to seek out the horror 'classics', so I know now that I overlooked a lot of good stuff.

As for female killers, surely the most iconic of this age has to be Sadako (or Samara, if you will) from RING. Or am I just REALLY showing my age here?

Stacie Ponder said...

We forgot about so many, including Sadako/Samara! I'd say she's pretty iconic, if only for, you know, ushering an entire genre craze here in the States.

Man, PROM NIGHT II is so great. I love it. I know I've said that but I can't resist saying it every chance I get!

pers0na said...

Love the podcast, it is so goddamned funny at times I oughtta sue for you guys making me the weird person laughing uncontrollably on public transport. It is hands down the best pube buffet adjacent queer horror podcast in town.

A small practical suggestion if I may - I love the titles and descriptions are fun, but for ease of seeing what I've heard it would be great in the first sentence of the description list the film or major topics discussed as succinctly as possible (I have a shitty podcast app and recently switched phones so not sure what I have and have not listened to) , or I could just get a new podcast app, there's always that. This is probably just me being a technical goof. I am still mad I can't get you guys on my shortwave transistor radio over here in Sweden.

Also as the oscars are snubbing editing and cinematography, both of which are such vital elements to horror (and y'know cinema in general) it would be great to get a Gaylords of Darkness take on the best and worst examples of editing and cinematography in horror. I don't have the show's telegraph handle or a working knowledge of morse code otherwise I would have @'d you guys on there.

Thanks and keep up the great work!

Stacie Ponder said...

Thanks so much, pers0na! We should be using "hands down the best pube buffet adjacent queer horror podcast in town" on all our advertising! Well, when we actually start advertising I guess.

I can bump up the titles/topics, sure. I'm also trying to figure out the best place to have a running list of the films we cover on each episode. I'll post about it if I ever decide on something. And thanks for the question...we love questions!