By the time they finished off the PROM NIGHT series it was 12 years after the original. The ’80s horror cycle that had given rise to Mary Lou Maloney had petered out. This was a year of studio auteur horror (BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, RAISING CAIN, DEATH BECOMES HER), genius cult directors getting to work with more resources (DEAD ALIVE, ARMY OF DARKNESS), shitty horror with morphing (Stephen King’s SLEEPWALKERS, not Stephen King’s THE LAWNMOWER MAN) and in my opinion the best horror movie of the decade (CANDYMAN). The PROM NIGHT series was part of another trend of lesser or totally unwanted sequels, arguably including PET SEMATARY TWO, HELLRAISER III: HELL ON EARTH, HOUSE IV, STEPFATHER 3, WITCHCRAFT IV & V, 976-EVIL 2, CRITTERS 4, AMITYVILLE 3: IT’S ABOUT TIME, BASKET CASE 3: THE PROGENY, THE GATE 2: TRESPASSERS and SCANNERS III: THE TAKEOVER (and some might say ALIEN 3).
PROM NIGHT IV: DELIVER US FROM EVIL, the finale of the original Canadian PROM NIGHT series (so far), ditches parts II–III‘s story of the avenging prom queen ghost for some new religiously themed horror about some Catholic school students and their boyfriends from Hamilton High who get dressed up and rent a limo and do not go to prom. (So there is no disco, no rock, no Maestro Fresh-Wes, no popular music at all.)
The amazing thing, continuity-wise, is that their story, just like the Mary Lou chapters, starts in a prologue that takes place at the 1957 Hamilton High prom. I don’t think it’s a short cut, because as far as I could tell there isn’t any re-used footage, they re-staged a ’57 prom. A couple we didn’t know about before sneaks off to a car for backseat sex, and then an evil priest slashes the girl (Krista Bulmer, FEARLESS TIGER)’s throat, stabs the guy (Phil Morrison, GLADIATOR COP), says “Join your slut,” and blows up the car.
It’s kind of unclear whether this is supposed to have happened in the school parking lot or if they drove to a different location first, but I still think it’s unusual that everybody in the other movies knows about Mary Lou Mahoney burning to death at the prom and there’s not some “well, actually” knowitall telling us that there were two other people from the same prom who also got burned up that night.
Anyway this controversial cleric, who we later learn is Father Jonas (James Carver, “Bordello Doorman,” SHANGHAI NOON) retreats to some sort of underground area of St. Basil Seminary to self-flagellate and talk in a spooky voice until a priest named Father Jaeger (Kenneth McGregor, Magneto’s father in the first X-MEN) calls him an abomination.
“Abomination?” Jonas asks, and then sarcastically imitates a scared child’s voice: “Don’t touch me. Not there. He’s too young!” He seems to have stigmata, and he grabs the Father’s face with his bloody hands, kisses him on the lips and cackles. I can’t tell if this is supposed to imply that Jonas was molested by this priest, or another priest, or whether it’s an EXORCIST type thing where he’s just trying to upset him by saying foul, suggestive things. But it’s another example of the literal homophobia as seen in the locker room scene of part III – not necessarily anti-gay-people, but using a guy trying to kiss you as a scary thing. (This happens in a weirder way later when the main character’s best friend caresses her while she’s in her underwear, then laughs and says it was a joke. “I read an article in some woman’s magazine about how to tell if your best friend is gay. I couldn’t resist!”)
In 1991 we learn that Father Jonas is chained to a bed deep under St. George Church with bug-eyes and a Rip Van Winkle beard (but definitely not looking 35 years older). Since Father Jaeger has acquired a case of the about-to-die cough, he informs the poor sucker newbie priest Father Colin (Brock Simpson, Young Nick from part I, Josh from Part II, Officer Larry from Part III) that it will now be his life’s work to tend to this “evil beyond imagination” and keep it a secret. Being of a new, more liberal generation I guess, Father Colin feels bad for the guy, shaves his beard, and skips sedating him, at which point Jonas escapes and goes on a rampage.
Our main character is nice girl Meagan (Nicole de Boer, JUNGLEGROUND, CUBE, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine). She and her rebelliously slutty best friend Laura (Joy Tanner, Degrassi: The Next Generation) are the Catholic school girls who get invited “to the prom” by their pretty much interchangeable boyfriends Mark (J.H. Wyman, writer and producer of THE MEXICAN and DEAD MAN DOWN) and Jeff (Alle Ghadban, “Guy” on Saved by the Bell: The College Years episode “The Rave”). Instead they take the limo to Hamilton High and moon the prom-goers, then sneak into what was once St. Basil but is now Mark’s parents’ summer home.
In the limo they have a meta-toast: “Here’s to prom night.”
“To Jamie Lee Curtis!” says whichever one of the boys. Judging from the laugh this might not have been in the script by Richard Beattie (MAXIMUM CONVICTION, True Justice, CARTELS, MERCENARY: ABSOLUTION).
In the tradition of Michael Meyers, Father Jonas escapes and we know where he’s going and there’s dread and what not. He hitchhikes and the guy who picks him up is one of those horror characters where it seems like everyone involved temporarily forgot that they had met humans before and knew the types of things that they would say in normal human conversations. This guy offends sex-hating Father Jonas by saying “I like to get laid on Friday night. Right? Sorta leave the weekend open. Jesus I love Fridays!”
But the Father gets there pretty fast and doesn’t do anything for a long time, so you have your standard heavy-breathing POV shots through windows, going into the dark wine cellar with candles, being watched while going out to grab some fire wood, threatening phone calls, someone in the room while she’s taking a shower and he’s getting champagne, and every other thing like that that was ever invented and done so many times that it barely registers anymore.
This is by far the least enjoyable of the PROM NIGHT series, which is not a great series, but that doesn’t mean this is a totally worthless movie. I think de Boer and Tanner are both pretty good, giving a pretty good presence to stock characters. Meagan is nervous about having sex for the first time, trying to make sure she looks good in her fancy underwear. Laura is the opposite and is delighted to say things like “You should get down on your knees and thank Jesus that one of you is experienced. There’s nothing worse than two virgins tryin to fuck!”
Of course they do go at it, and the sound of sex moans travels through a vent to Father Jonas’s secret chambers below, much like the similarly sexually repressed killer in SEE NO EVIL. The movie mostly follows the conservative have-sex-get-killed code of so many ’80s slasher movies, but it doesn’t seem to want you to judge these girls, and losing her virginity doesn’t stop Meagan from being the Final Girl. Sure, she has to see her friends’ bodies being burned on crosses, and pull glass shards out of her bare feet like John McClane. And respect is due for the size of the explosion she causes. For her, sex does not equal death.
Director Clay Borris had done QUIET COOL (1986) with James Remar, but he mostly worked in Canadian television. Like virtually everyone in front of or behind the camera in any of these PROM NIGHTs, he was involved in the shows Rin Tin Tin: K-9 Cop and Forever Knight. Maybe he made his biggest mark as the second unit director for WRONG TURN.
I’m not sure I understand what DELIVER US FROM EVIL is trying to say about Catholicism. It’s definitely a theme, not just with Father Jonas but the school the girls go to and a scene where one of the boys’ idea of a fun dinner game is “confession.”
“We’ll all tell each other our deepest, darkest secrets.”
And what was up with the killer having stigmata? I’m pretty sure he’s not supposed to be a saint, but it seems too holy to be a sign of possession. And either way, I don’t think anything supernatural happens again after that, he just seems like a crazy, judgmental asshole.
What was up with the priests-molesting-kids theme? It’s brought up in kind of an incoherent way, and then the idea of the church keeping their killer priest a secret seems like an obvious parallel to the then-rumored, now-infamous cover ups of predatory priests within the Catholic Church. But is it saying that it’s bad to keep a secret, because it will eventually get out, or is it saying that this young priest should’ve tried harder to keep the secret, because it got out? If he would’ve kept giving the sedative like the church expected of him then a bunch of people wouldn’t have been murdered. That doesn’t seem like a good moral for a movie to have. And how did he make the leap from “I was molested by a priest” to “I look for sexually active women to murder and call whores”? I don’t see a thematic consistency there.
Also, where does it snow during prom season?
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.