Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1990)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2013-04-24 04:02

Written by: Ron Oliver
Directed by: Ron Oliver, Peter R. Simpson
Starring: Tim Conlon, Cynthia Preston, and Courtney Taylor

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

ďWhat am I talking about? I just stuffed my dead biology teacher into the cupboard. Things are not allright."

By 1990, anyone involved with reviving a dead slasher had given up any pretenses about logic, and good on Ďem for it. Such an approach led to homicidal maniacs being resurrected by fortuitous lightning strikes and flaming dog-piss in an escalating battle to determine who could make the least sense; even Halloween 5 threw its hat into the ring by highlighting the restorative powers of an old hermit a year earlier.

Fittingly, however, Prom Night III might take the crown: even though spectral psycho Mary Lou Maroney appeared to be undead and well at the end of the previous film, this follow-up finds her trapped in a hell thatís damned her to an eternity surrounded by 80s aerobic dancers. Hardly a fate befitting a 50s prom queen, Mary Lou (now played by Courtney Taylor) breaks out her trusty nail file and saws her way right out of her shackles. When thereís no more malt shop tunes in hell, the dead will dance on earth, I guess.

This is all the opening scene, so thereís very little pretense to The Last Kiss at all, as it immediately marks itself as a silly, brain-dead slasher with a sequence that culminates in a janitor being roasted by a jukebox. From there, whatever passes for the plot finally takes shape when Mary Lou targets Alex Grey (Tim Conlon) as the new object of her affection. Painfully average, Alex yearns for more even though heís got a trustworthy best friend (David Stratton) and a steady girlfriend (Cynthia Preston), so Mary Louís intrusion into his life is like a breath of fresh air that involves steamy sex, motorcycle rides, and dumping the bodies of Mary Louís victims. Thereís always a catch when youíre dealing with crazy chicks.

At this point, youíve probably gathered that Prom Night III dispenses with all pretenses; hell, it doesnít even bother with being a horror movie, which is just as well for this series. After all, even the straight-laced original is difficult to take seriously (in spite of an admitted mean streak to its storyline), and the first sequel noticeably amped up the camp elements with a splat-stick approach and a Freddy Krueger-inspired villainess. If that film recalls Freddyís Revenge, then The Last Kiss is reminiscent of later Elm Street sequels like Dream Master and even Freddyís Deadóit goes that broadly at times, what with Mary Lou dispensing of her targets with ice cream cones and footballs. She even prominently brandishes the fingernails on her right hand and provides plenty of corny one-liners, most of which will send your eyes furiously rolling to the back of your skull.

Even when Mary Lou isnít around, Prom Night III is pretty much a teen comedy with the usual trappings: Alex is stuck between the wishes of his long-time friend and his girlfriend, both of whom want his company on a trip during summer vacation, his grades (and chances of going to med school) are slipping, and he clashes with the student body president/obligatory jerkass (Dylan Neal). Mary Lou sees herself as the answer to all of Alexís problems, and the film feels like a bloody riff on Meatballs 3, where a dead porn star returned from the grave to help a hapless nerd (Patrick Dempsey!) get laid. Obviously, Prom Night III isnít exactly the same, but it still (mostly) plays its outrageous concept for laughs. For example, the most suspenseful scene in the movie straight out of a sex comedy: after boning the ghost of Mary Lou and staying overnight at school, he finds himself wearing only the Stars and Bars as he desperately tries to make it to a restroom in order to change and avoid suspicion. Most of the humor is of that juvenile sort, but itís hard not to chuckle at the droll non sequitur intercom remarks that actually echo Bill Murrayís announcements from the original Meatballs.

The heightened silliness allows for some obvious gaps in logic, such as no one noticing that Mary Louís victims are disappearing until four or five of them are knocked off. A similarly carefree attitude permeates the rest of the film. Prom Night II scribe Ron Oliver is promoted to the directorís chair along with series producer Peter R. Simpson, and their combined effort isnít as polished as their predecessorís; everything is generally competent, but the movie only truly comes to life whenever Mary Lou is involved in the proceedings. While Lisa Schrageís turn in Hello Mary Lou resulted in one of the more memorable slasher villains, Taylor isnít a huge step downósheís certainly sultry enough (the shoddy ďburnĒ makeup looks like sheís been puked on, though), and sheís great as a shamelessly soulless bitch who wonít let anything come between herself and Alex. Itís arguable that a few tweaks to the script could easily turn this into a film that isnít even connected to the franchise; save for Mary Louís backstory and the Hamilton High setting, itís hardly a direct follow-up the previous film.

In fact, Prom Night itself is completely incidental to the proceedings despite a subplot that involves the school breaking in a new gym in the hopes that itíll break the decades-long curse of the old one. The prom itself gets some lip service throughout when Alexís girlfriend threatens to dump him and take a nerd (Jeremy Ratchford) instead, but the expected Prom Night climax is ditched for a trip to a cheap, carnival funhouse version of hell. Here, the film confirms its utter stupidity by arming its heroine with a flamethrower (that spits out obviously animated fire) to fend off the legions of the underworld, which is sort of like equipping yourself with a water hose to do battle with Jaws. I love pretty much every second of it, naturally, especially since the film gathers a bit of pulse around this point (thereís a cool, Raimi-esque shot that finds Mary Lou chasing the girlfriend through the school hallways that provides a rare stylistic flourish).

Prom Night III is a perhaps unexpectedly effective splatter effort from an era where this genre was on the decline (some might even say dirt was being shoveled onto its grave by this point). Itís a slasher that attempts to be funny and doesnít always succeed, but itís hard to say that it isnít simply fun nonetheless; as the years go by, Iíve come to enjoy these types of slashers more and more. Even though the gore here is simply decent, the script devises some ridiculous methods of dispatch and has Alex dump them into the football field, thus spoiling the most sacred high school ground. The gore itself actually is a bit more impressive in the original cut of the film, which sadly hasnít made its way to DVD in the U.S. Instead, Artisanís threadbare release includes an edited version that cuts out bits of gore in some sequences, such as an opening gag with scissors thatís rendered nigh incoherent. The transfer itself isnít that great, either, as itís obviously sourced from a murky tape (it even jumps like an old VHS at some points); the only good news is that it does come packaged with Prom Night IV, but itíd be nice if the uncut version shows up at some point, however unlikely that may be. Perhaps even more unfortunately, this was the last dance for Mary Lou Maroney, whose short but sweet run would end after two outings. Say what you want about her, but she went out on top at a time when some of her more famous slasher contemporaries were slumping. Buy it!

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