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Prom Night III: The Last Kiss

1989, Starring Tim Conlon, Cynthia Preston, David Stratton, Courtney Taylor, Dylan Neal, Andrew Douglas, Jeremy Ratchford. Directed by Ron Oliver and Peter R. Simpson.

Guest Review by Rhett Miller

If Porky's is Canada's signature comedy series, then the horror crown goes to Prom Night. Four films strong, the Prom Night series achieved a rare feat, living through the tax shelter years in a twelve year run from 1980-1992. What is probably most notable about the series is that none of the films really connect at all, both in terms of story and genre. The original Prom Night is a slasher cheese-fest, Hello Mary Lou is a murky supernatural thriller, The Last Kiss is an aloof black comedy, and Deliver Us From Evil is a weird religious(!) slasher film. Deliver Us From Evil doesn't even take place at a prom, which proves that the "Prom Night" title transcended its roots to merely signify horror in the same vein as Tales from the Crypt.

If one were to try and find two related Prom Night sequels, it would have to be Hello Mary Lou and The Last Kiss. Despite their genre differences, both carry on the character of the sultry slasher, Mary Lou Maloney. Although an acting (Lisa Schrage to Courtney Taylor) and location (Edmonton to Toronto) change later, Mary Lou is still wrecking havoc at Hamilton High in Prom Night III: The Last Kiss.

The story continues on from the framework of Hello Mary Lou, when back in 1957, prom queen to-be Mary Lou Maloney was burned to death in a tragic stink bomb accident (say that with a straight face). Murdered unjustly, her soul remained within the halls of Hamilton High to punish those who brought her pain. After being crowned and finally put to rest at the finale of Hello Mary Lou, the titular femme fatale was doomed to a life in hell. What does hell look like, you ask? The Last Kiss would have us believe it consists of chains, strobe lights and awful disco music. As Mary Lou is shown at the beginning chained to this disco netherworld, it is clear that The Last Kiss is trying to distance itself from the original's disco aspirations, giving a visual personification to the 80s catchphrase, "Disco Sucks." With nothing but a pocket knife, Mary Lou cuts her chain and leaves hell to return back to Hamilton High.

She wastes no time in getting to her first victim, an old janitor whom she used to date back in the days of hair grease and Wolfman Jack. Perhaps it is fitting then, that she disposes of her former beau by a death by jukebox. Later, when the principal attempts to commemorate the new school gym (repaired after the fire accident so many years ago), Mary Lou makes her presence felt as she brings the principal to cut off his own finger. It appears nothing is able to quell the rage of the malicious Maloney, that is until Alex (Tim Conlon) bumps into her in the empty halls. It is love at first sight, as both skip the small talk and proceed to make sweet love in the dark high school halls (on an American flag, no less!) Mary has found love, and she will do anything to keep them together.

Alex, not sure if Mary is some pubescent fantasy or a reality, continues on with Mary Lou despite his ongoing relationship with Sarah (Cynthia Preston). Mary proves more than he can handle when she resumes her killing spree, since this time the kills are not for her enjoyment, they are gifts of a sort to Alex. When Alex bombs a test, Mary Lou changes the grade to an A+ and dispatches of the tubby biology teacher. In a scene that must be seen to be believed, Mary Lou stabs the teacher with ice cream cones and then continues on to make a banana split dessert of his insides. The quarterback jock and guidance counsellor also meet their ends to allow Alex a spot atop both the football team and the honor roll.

Although Alex has to bury all the bodies under the football field, his life is changed for the better, as he attains popularity with his peers and adulation from his parents. Like all good protagonists, Alex realizes that "hey, violence is not the answer!" and attempts to cut loose from Mary's rein and go back to Sarah. This of course does not go over well with Ms. Maloney, who seeks to win Alex back through some hard love: killing his friends. Spatula in hand ("I don't get mad, I bake!" Sarah asserts), Sarah and Alex look to banish Mary Lou once and for all, but the prom queen as other plans.

Prom Night III: The Last Kiss is an inexplicably weird movie-going experience. The kills are so over-the-top, complete with trademark sarcastic quips fitting of Freddy. There is never any attempt at real horror, it is all treated as dark, dark comedy. What is even more bizarre is how aloof the entire film seems. There really are no genuine emotions displayed, with every actor seemingly detached from the action. Upon running into Mary Lou in the school for the first time, Alex just makes love to her on the floor--no small talk, nothing. Then all of a sudden they are "seeing" each other, although no attempt is made by the film to establish even a remote emotional connection between the two characters. Even more perplexing are Alex's reactions to Mary Lou's murders. Upon finding his biology teacher dead, Alex merely shrugs without even an ounce of concern or compassion for his teacher's death. Perhaps it is an indictment of Gen-X generation gap, but I would consider it more of an example of an early post-modernism that had begun to creep into slasher films, something that can also be seen in fellow Canadian David Wellington's slasher The Carpenter.

Aware that this is supposed to be a continuation of the popular horror franchise, writer/co-director Ron Oliver (the one-time host of low budget tween shows YTV Hits and The Ron Oliver Show) attempts to make the film as far removed from horror as possible. Every character is an emotionless archetype the film is one big ironic joke. It is especially post-modern in its collapse of time and space. Mary Lou comes both from a classical 50s history as well as an early-80s disco background in order to exist in a late-80s conservative America. She is everywhere and nowhere, popping up whenever the plot requires her, but remaining invisible to the majority of the characters. Her weapon of choice is the jukebox, which is arguably the most concrete example of this distortion, as it contains music from different eras and locations. The timelessness of the film is punctuated at the finale, when Mary Lou bans Alex and Sarah into a 50s-era drive-in. Time and space have no constrictions in the realm of The Last Kiss Prom Night went po-mo.

The film may contain remnants of post-modernism, but that still doesn't make it any good. The film is one of those typical 80s direct-to-video films that is both too weird and mediocre to ever make it to theatres. Without a care for its story or characters, the film's detachment makes it tough to appreciate other than as a late-night timewaster. In the Prom Night pantheon, this is the weakest entry in the series. Although, if death by jukebox sounds appealing to you, then sit back and enjoy.

Keeping in tune with the rest of the Prom Night films, this was shot in Canada but makes all attempts to be American. The aforementioned sex on the American flag, as well as a Yankee Doodle cue upon the banana split revelation firmly show the film's attempted Americana. A remix of "American Woman" plays over the credits, which despite its titular Yankee lyrics is performed by the great Canadian band, The Guess Who. In a post-modern Canadian slasher, the irony behind the film's closing song does not seem out of place, and the film is basically as confused as the final song: American/Canadian, horror/comedy, good/bad, The Last Kiss really doesn't know what it wants to be. All this confusion makes for one true oddity of a movie. Prom Night fans will probably enjoy it, but all others should stick to the fine dairy of the original.

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