The Canadian horror film Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987) is one of those films that is actually better than the first picture in its franchise. The eighties were a golden age for horror and of those films Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is one of the best, even though that recognition was a long time coming. It was video store culture that grew the cult fan base of Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II that eventually solidified its status. By the late nineties Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II had so permeated popular culture that it even inspired the episode “I Only Have Eyes For You” of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II barrows elements of Carrie (1976), A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984), Poltergeist (1982) and Night Of The Creeps (1986) then rearranges them into an entirely new vision of adolescence run amok. From the sexualized rocking horse to the nightmare of oily spider webs, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II takes a highly expressionistic approach to its fantasies that, as visual cues and signifiers, subvert the popular lexicon of high school movies. When Vicki (Wendy Lyon) is possessed by the ghost of Mary Lou (Lisa Schrage) it is a kind of sexual awakening wherein a literal new identity materializes that is defined by unique desires of its own.
Horror films, trading in the spectacles of sex and death, have always been a haven for the discourse surrounding female adolescence. Horror movies like Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II code this discourse within the conventions of the genre (nude bodies, blood, the masculine gaze, etc.) so that audiences are either subconsciously affected by this subtextual discourse or they embrace this subtext with such enthusiasm that it becomes text. This isn’t to say that Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is entirely feminist, but merely to suggest that films like Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II could often approach these themes more openly and with more depth than other commercially viable genres.
In a way Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II could be seen as a film about female adolescents struggling to break free from the societal structures of the fifties that have persisted. Bill Nordham (Michael Ironside) seems to have gotten away with murder until Mary Lou returns from the grave, thus exemplifying the revenge narrative. Accountability, reciprocity, and moral shame loom large in the relationship between the eighties and the fifties that Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II presents. Mary Lou’s aggressive sexual nature and autonomy flaunted societal conventions of the fifties and ultimately led to her murder. In her bid for revenge, she not only targets those literally responsible for her death but also those who represent the moral codes of the fifties.
The social and political discourse in Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is almost entirely conveyed in the visual intertextuality of the film. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is a kind of road map of female centered horror films that charts the sub-genre’s development from Carrie through to Nightmare On Elm Street. Director Bruce Pittman’s set pieces with their specific production design make the aesthetic connectivity between these older films and Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II totally unmistakable.
So in addition to being one of the most enjoyable horror films of the eighties, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is also one of the most complex. In the canon of post-modern genre filmmaking Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is one of the most influential. Beyond simple copycats, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II has inspired a plethora of similarly themed and executed films built around women such as The Craft (1996), Scream (1996), and the aforementioned television series Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II is true classic filmmaking.