Back in 1987, we were blessed with a miracle. No, I’m not talking about the Texas rescue of Baby Jessica or the introduction of Red Bull (which, when mixed with vodka, fueled my early 20’s). I’m not even talking about the sexual revolution that was the “Sexy Sax Man” in The Lost Boys or the debut of Uncle Jesse’s mullet on Full House. No, I’m talking about a little movie called Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II.
Now, Hello Mary Lou is not a good movie. I’m sorry to break the hearts of the literally dozens of fans I have around the world, but it’s true. I’m not here to defend the movie itself. It was a blatant cash grab that was attached to Prom Night seven full years after the Jamie Lee Curtis vehicle was released. The only thing it has in common with the first film is… the name of the school? The fact that there is a prom and that it happens to occur at night? Not much, is what I’m trying to say.
So, if I’m not going to try to defend the movie, what are we doing here? It’s simple. While the movie may be indefensible, Mary Lou herself is not. I’m here today to represent and defend the true protagonist of the film and clear her name from the maligning she received in Prom Night II.
Mary Lou Maloney was a high school senior in the year 1957 when her life was tragically cut short by a jealous man. You see, Mary Lou liked to have a good time. This is clearly evidenced by the opening scene of the film, wherein she enters a church to give confession. As she sits down with the priest, she says:
Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been three months since my last confession. I’ve disobeyed my parents. Many times. I’ve taken the Lord’s name in vain. Many times. I’ve had sinful relations with boys at my school. Many boys. Many times. There’s one more thing: ‘I loved every second of it.’
As you can tell, Mary Lou is someone who likes to get a rise out of people. As she is talking, she writes a “For a Good Time Call” message inside the confessional in lipstick. She is a troll, and she is having the time of her life. She’s beautiful, she’s vivacious, and she’s ready to enjoy her life. The film tries to make this trait look like something distasteful. Maybe defacing a church is, um, not great, but we shouldn’t demonize her for having sex with multiple partners.
Unfortunately for Mary Lou, she crossed the wrong man in her quest to enjoy life to the fullest. While at the prom with her date, Billy Nordham, Mary Lou got pulled away by the hottest boy in school, Buddy Cooper. He gave her a few drinks under the stage and they started to get frisky, like any horny high schooler would. This blew Billy’s mind, however, and he immediately got physical with Mary Lou. He grabbed her arm, claiming ownership of her body and her person. “You came here with me“, he snarled through clenched teeth. “It’s not who you come with,” she answered back with a smirk, “It’s who takes you home”.
“Mary Lou is an independent woman who will not be tied down or possessed by any man..”
Mary Lou is an independent woman who will not be tied down or possessed by any man, which enraged Billy. After some nerds ditch a stink bomb in the bathroom trash can, Billy decides to ruin Mary Lou’s night by setting it off as she is crowned Prom Queen. He waits in the rafters after name is called and lights the fuse. He drops it onto the stage, but his prank doesn’t go off the way he hoped. The fuse sets Mary Lou’s dress ablaze, burning her in front of the entire student body. Billy, afraid to get caught, does nothing. Buddy, who was her lover not 10 minutes earlier, does nothing. They watch as Mary Lou is cooked in her dress, crocodile tears streaming down their faces.
Fast forward 30 years, and it’s prom season again! Billy is now Mr. Nordham, principal of the school he once murdered in. Buddy is now Father Cooper, a priest wracked with guilt over his willingness to use a young girl’s body for pleasure but not lift a finger when that same body is on fire. The film follows the virginal Vicki as she prepares for her senior prom. She has a loving boyfriend, the murderous principal’s son. Her mother is a religious nut who is hellbent on suppressing her budding sexuality, but she finds solace in the love that her father shows her. She has friends, she has a future.
After some snooping in the theater department, Vicki stumbles across an old case from 1957. As she opens it, she finds Mary Lou’s tiara and unknowingly unleashes the dead Queen’s spirit onto the halls of academia. That’s when things start to get a little wild. The spirit of Mary Lou begins to possess Vicki, turning the cafeteria and hallways of the school into nightmarish landscapes. She becomes more sexual. She becomes more outspoken. She becomes… more. Some may use this act as an indictment of my client, but I disagree. Not only does Mary Lou’s possession constitute a reasonable act of revenge against those who murdered her, but it also gives a young woman the strength and power to become herself.
Mary Lou was brutally murdered. She was burned to death by a jealous boy. The boy who helped cause this cowered in fear at the sight of her charred flesh. He did nothing to help her. Nobody did. Any revenge that Mary Lou exacts upon that school and the descendants of those that ended her life is completely justified. To carry out this revenge, she must enter the body of Vicki and get close to those that killed her. If you still feel that she should not have attempted this, pay close attention to the behavior of Principal Nordham at the end of the film. When he is made aware of the possession, instead of ending his own life and saving the school, he shoots and kills yet another teenage girl. Ladies and Gentlemen, if there is any true villain in this movie, it is him, and not my client.
As for Mary Lou’s actions while inside of Vicki, it’s a mixed bag. Does she make out with her father? Yes. Does she call her boyfriend a disgusting homophobic slur? Yes. Does she murder a pregnant teenager because she had the audacity to touch her tiara? Yes. Does she walk around way too naked and squish her best friend in a locker? Yes. I never said that Mary Lou is perfect. No one in this world is. While she does some deplorable things while in possession of Vicki’s body, she also stands up for her and gives Vicki the strength to finally stand up for herself.
There are a lot of unwanted hands being placed on bodies in this film. Vicki is accosted in the nightmare hallway by a grabby ghost. She is attacked by groping hands in her bedroom. The blackboard in her detention room sprouts hands that grab and pull at her body. Forcing her to do what she doesn’t want to do. In her home life, her mother acts as the unwanted hands of the family. She is controlling everything Vicki does, using her ghostly fingers to force her will upon her daughter. As Mary Lou takes over her body, Vicki finally has what it takes to stand up against those groping hands. When her Chemistry teacher disgustingly grabs her butt in the middle of class, Vicki/Mary Lou burns his crotch with a Bunsen burner. Without Mary Lou inside of her, Vicki would have continued to be a victim to her mother, her teachers, and those that prey upon the weak.
Mary Lou Maloney is not a perfect person, nor is she a perfect ghost. Without Mary Lou, however, Vicki would have had no recourse against her abusers. She never would have stopped her mother from torturing her with Jesus, and she never would have slapped her tormenting bully. She never would have had the courage to scorch her pedophile teacher’s genitals or to hold anyone else accountable for their actions. That is ultimately what this film is about. While there were innocent lives lost in the battle, the war against those who feel that they can abuse and get away with it was won by Mary Lou Maloney.
Do you feel like it’s ok to blackmail a girl into oral sex just because you have some power over something she wants? Well, then you’re going to get your face lightning-ed off by a computer. Do you plan on controlling your daughter’s life through religion and guilt-shaming? Guess what, get ready to get tossed through a door. Do you feel like you can murder two teenage girls and then hide in the shadows like a coward? Sorry, but Mary Lou is going to chest-burst her way into the real world and make sure you pay for your crimes.
Mary Lou Maloney is not the villain in Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, she is the protagonist. She is the final girl. Sure, she did some questionable things, but they served a purpose. Female independence and the unwillingness to allow abusers to get away with their abuse is a worthy cause, and Mary Lou saw it through to the end. She waited for 30 years in purgatory for a chance to come back and make those who harm others pay for their actions. She gave power to the powerless, and gave a voice to the once voiceless. She proved that it is ok to explore your sexuality, and that you really shouldn’t be burned alive because of it.
The verdict is in your hands, Ladies and Gentlemen. I hope that you will look past the questionable things that Mary Lou did in her quest for justice, and realize that her actions and motives were just. Issue your verdict on Twitter @NOFSpodcast or in our Facebook Fiend Club. While you’re at it, bookmark our homepage at Nightmare on Film Street so you can keep up with the hottest horror news, reviews and retrospectives the internet has to offer.