The video rental business was booming throughout the ’90s. From mom-and-pops to huge chains and even several well-known grocery stores, it seemed like everybody wanted in on the action. With the increasing rise and revenue of VHS rentals, filmmakers saw a big opportunity: bypass theaters altogether and release movies directly to the video market. The horror genre, which is well known for smaller budgets and a rabid fan base, was ripe for success within that relatively new business model.

This month I’m taking a look back at Prom Night III: The Last Kiss, which continues the campy/scary/funny tone that was set forth by its immediate predecessor, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II. This time, the ghost of Mary Lou Maloney returns from the grave and immediately becomes smitten with high-school student Alex, who falls into an increasingly dangerous game of bargaining amid Mary Lou‘s deadly bidding.

Prom Night III stars Tim Conlon (Angels in the Outfield), Cynthia Preston (Pin), and Courtney Taylor, who takes over the role of Mary Lou Maloney from Prom Night II’s Lisa Schrage. Screenwriter Ron Oliver returns from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, this time serving as director. But most importantly, Prom Night III: The Last Kiss marks the first film of the series to be released as a direct-to-video title.


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Structurally, Prom Night III is set up to be a tragedy. Halfway through the film, the relationships that Alex has with his girlfriend, Sarah, and best friend, Andrew, have both fallen apart. On the other hand, Alex continues to get all of the materialistic things his heart desires. One of the central themes in Prom Night III is that of greed. At the beginning of the movie, through Alex‘s own eyes, he is just an average guy, but he makes it clear that he is willing to go to great lengths to be what he considers to be better. In exchange for hiding the bodies of the people she kills, Mary Lou helps Alex achieve his goals.

Eventually, Alex comes around to a more rational way of thinking, and the second half of the movie evolves into a story of teenage obsession. Alex has shunned Mary Lou, but she will stop at nothing to keep his affection for herself. Until now, the reason for Mary Lou‘s desire has not been made clear. The previous film climaxes with a scene in which Mary Lou is crowned prom queen. The scene can leave the impression that Mary Lou’s death on prom night in 1957 is the whittled-down, primary catalyst for her current evil deeds, but The Last Kiss is eventually more revealing.

 

 

With an unexpected third-act setting, Prom Night III veers into something else. Events in the last few minutes of the movie suggest that Mary Lou‘s murderous actions are not solely out of revenge. As prom queen, Mary Lou has a twisted and purely self-centered plan to make Alex her king. And it is not only Mary Lou who the filmmakers add additional context. After spending so much time developing Alex‘s character, it’s an interesting choice to focus on someone other than him to serve as the story’s ultimate hero. By this point, Mary Lou has pulled Alex into a supernatural realm located underneath the school’s gymnasium, and it is up to Alex‘s girlfriend, Sarah, to save the day. The structural move pits the two girls against one another, both of them with a common goal: Alex.


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The kills in Prom Night III are entertaining, gory, and gleefully over the top. Courtney Taylor, as Mary Lou, steals the show each time she appears on the screen. The movie also features a ton of practical effects that are paired with old-school neon lightning, a visual touch that will please most fans of late-’80s/early-’90s horror. Director Ron Oliver nails the style and tone of the film, infusing moments of 1950s sentimentality, and setpieces. Of course, all of this can easily be viewed as style over substance, but for those fans who looking for something with a little more depth, there is a surprising amount to delve into here.

 

 

It’s a shame that Prom Night III: The Last Kiss has never garnered as much attention as its direct predecessor. Once again, Mary Lou Maloney proves to be an entertaining and likable horror villain that could’ve easily appeared in several more sequels. She would’ve been a great horror villain to continue life on video store shelves throughout the ’90s but sadly, the series continued with an unrelated sequel in 1992. I, for one, would have loved to see the character return but sadly, the Mary Lou saga was cut down in its prime.

Are you a fan of the Mary Lou Maloney entries in the Prom Night franchise? Which is your favorite? Let us know your thoughts on Twitter, in the official NOFS Subreddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!