Canada: a country best known for its free Medicare, hunky Prime Minister, maple syrup porn, and, during the ’70s and ’80s, a much-abused film industry tax incentive program that sent The Great White North spiraling into a little place we like to call… The Midnight Void.
When the government decides to make a movie financier’s investment 100% tax deductible, things have a tendency to get weird. What began as a way to boost the local arts quickly turned into everyone making duty-free sex comedies, Ed Gein biopics, and Deliverance rip-offs. Lots of Deliverance rip-offs. Sure this tax shelter launched the career of David Cronenberg, but it did so with a flick about parasites that turn people into nymphomaniacs. And Canadian tax payers were not happy about their hard-earned dollars funding a movie about parasites that turn people into nymphomaniacs.
Thankfully, nobody listened them, and we got films like Tanya’s Island, where Vanity (of “Nasty Girl” fame) has a sordid love affair with a blue-eyed ape on a tropical island. In fact, these films became a genre unto themselves, one dubbed “Canuxploitation.” A tax-deductible cinematic avalanche that gave us stone-cold classics such as The Brood, Rituals, and Heavenly Bodies — which is consistently number one on any list of films about competitive aerobics.
But asking that all Canuxploitation films be Heavenly Bodies is simply asking too much. No, some are Prom Night. While Canada produced arguably the original slasher in Black Christmas — and easily one of the finest in My Bloody Valentine — they also delivered one of the dullest with 1980’s Prom Night. A film best known for (and only successful thanks to) its title, and the fact that it features Jamie Lee Curtis in a prom dress.
It was enough of a success that when the makers of The Haunting of Hamilton High finished their horned-up mishmash of Carrie and A Nightmare on Elm Street, some opportunistic producer told them “Actually, this is called Prom Night II: Hello Mary Lou.” To be fair, it does feature not one, but two prom nights. And unlike the original, they don’t make you wait, as things open on a scorcher of a prom night back in 1957…
Only before getting to the titular prom, we see the titular Mary Lou drop by church to give confession, where she reveals her “sinful relations with boys,” then declares “And I loved every minute of it.” She follows this up by scrawling a “for a good time call” message in the confessional booth, cementing herself as basically the coolest ever. Though maybe not the ideal vengeful spirit to have haunting your high school thirty years later — but more on that in a minute.
First we go through the motions as: Mary Lou arrives at prom, blows off dweeby boyfriend Bill Nordham, gets caught making it with a hotter guy, is burned alive on stage by a stink bomb Bill found in the men’s room, and has her soul transferred into a trunk somewhere deep within the school’s theater department.
You know, your usual first act stuff.
Now cut to: Hamilton High, 1987. Prom night is gearing up, Bill Nordham is principal (and now played by Revok from Scanners), students are making radios out of moldy potatoes, and innocent little Vicki Carpenter (Wendy Lyon) wants to be prom queen, like, so bad. How innocent is she? She’s a horse girl, and they don’t get much more innocent than horse girls. Only problem is her super-religious mother who opens her mail and believes church can cure a concussion has forbidden her from buying a new dress. And she can’t wear that old green one she has, not when her rival is wearing the dress Liz Taylor wore to the Oscars.
This sends her to the theater department’s prop room, where she opens the old trunk containing Mary Lou’s vengeance-seeking soul, and — as if prom week weren’t stressful enough — becomes sorta half-possessed, half-haunted. Also, the school is haunted too (but not as haunted as Vicki?). Anyway, students begin turning up dead, and Vicki’s started cursing, wearing makeup, and having visions of the cafeteria serving up severed heads. Oh, and the rocking horse in her bedroom has gotten super horny.
The local priest, sensing that something is amiss, perform an exorcism to expel the demon from their small town. Only it’s no demon, it’s the spirit of an over-sexed teenager from the 1950s, so the exorcism doesn’t take, and his bible catches on fire. Meanwhile, Vicki gets sucked into the blackboard during detention, and wakes up naked and sweaty in the prop department where she’s then fully possessed by Mary Lou.
With Mary Lou in full control, Vicki lights the science teacher’s balls on fire, strips down and chases after her bestie, and finally gives into her rocking horse’s lewd advances. But it’s all really just a warm up for a neon-lit prom night where Principal Nordham is packing heat, the resident nerd is murdered by his desktop computer, and Mary Lou herself will emerge in all her charred-skin, telekinesis-wielding glory. You know, lest we forget that this is all a crass attempt to cash in on Freddy Krueger and Carrie White.
So pin on your corsage, ditch the limo, saddle up, and ride that horny rocking horse to the only prom night that matters, the one right here at Midnight Void High. Oh yeah, and say hello to Mary Lou for me.