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I didn't go to prom. Not because I was too cool for it (although I am), but because by the time I would have been attending, I was in something called continuation school. If you are not familiar with the term let’s just say it’s a wonder I can even put together a sentence, let alone pretend to review films. If we would have been permitted to have a prom, we at least would have had the other schools beat on baby bumps, controlled substances and stabbings. Everything I know about the high school prom comes from movies, and this leads me to believe that I got a better deal. In the films, the coveted dance is a source of all consuming drama. It is the night that changes everything, where people pull off the best prank, commit acts of extreme emotion or in other ways settle the score. The highschoolers of movieland wait their life for prom. It's the battle for prom queen, the moment the nerd makes his move or someone’s reason for revenge. Then, after the dance, there is always some kind of madness inducing party, a hotel filled with date rape or the schools gym itself descends into teenage chaos. From my perspective, the whole thing seems like a ridiculous amount of stress. Even though I'm glad I never had to live it in the real word, it's pretty fun to watch, in a sometimes fucked up way. Luckily there is no shortage of films on the subject, including the fourth film in the loosely connected Prom Night series, Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil (1992).
When we first we meet Father Jonas (James Carver), its 1957 and he’s is all hopped up on some serious Jesus juice. While doing a little extreme praying, he suddenly feels the urge to do some sinner soul saving (read--go kill some people). Luckily It's prom night at Hamilton High School, which even in 1957 is ripe with heathens and the like, so he has no trouble finding some wayward subjects to exercise. After slashing up a young couple in a car, who had snuck out of the dance for a ill fated smoking/groping session, he returns home to proudly tell God what he did. Unfortunately, he must have misunderstood God earlier, because when he gets back to the hideout all the other guys in robes are really mad at him. Flash forward thirty something years and the Catholic Church has kept Jonas in a chemically induced coma, strapped to a bed,under the church (just kinda growing a beard, but not aging, like Seagal in Hard to Kill). As part of the Churches Super Secret Crap Division, only the most devoted priests are assigned to his care (aka giving him his coma shot). When ( for for whatever reason) a new man of cloth was needed, a rising star in the church scene ,Father Colin (Brock Simpson) is reassigned to the job. The new guy, kind of a nutbag himself, instantly decides it's time for the sleeping serial killer to wake up and skips an administration of the knockout serum. Of course, Jonas pops right-the-fuck up, without so much as a bed blister, to get back to his bloody soul harvest. Better yet, it just happens to be prom night at Hamilton High again, where Megan (Nicole de Boer) and some of her friends have just ditched the dance to go hang out in the psycho priest’s old praying spot. Wholesome slasher style hijinks ensue including awkward love making, man handling and some sectarian ramblings.
The Prom Night franchise is one of many horror series that suffers from chronic identity crisis. It's first film (Prom Night 1980) was an almost artful rip off of Halloween (1978)
,which starred Jamie “laughs in the face of typecasting” Lee Curtis and even had a humorless Leslie Nielsen role, which would become rare in the 80s. The second (Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II 1987) was a wholly independent story that was retooled into a sequel, of sorts, shortly before its release. That film had a follow up (Prom Night III: The Last Kiss 1989) that continued it's story, more comedically, a few years later. The two films dropped the flushed out, dramatic style for an exaggerated tone with heavy reliance on the supernatural (a la Carrie). Like Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) and Return of the Living Dead III (1993), the attached series title mostly hurt chances of these films getting fair viewing of their own, but both have found audiences for themselves over time. The fourth in the series, Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil (1992), established a whole new story arch, magnified the religious overtones (only touched on previously) and dropped any intentional comedy altogether. Having mostly separate, independent plots the series is a more a makeshift anthology with a theme than a larger story in chapters. The only common factors in all three stories (presented in 4 films) is that the events all take place on prom night, and the school name-- Hamilton High School. The latter seems to indicate that the strange unrelated events are happening at the same school over the course of a few decades and also, more unbelievably, that prom of 1957 was the night of not only the accidental death of Mary Lou Maloney but the Father Jonas slayings as well. That means the school suffered multiple psychos, some varied supernatural possession and at least one killer ghost in less then a fifty year period, sometimes on the same night. It's kinda got a Sideways Stories from Wayside School thing going on, only a little more gruesome and less creative. The indications involving Mary Lou's return in 2 and 3, compared with the bits of religious magic mixed into this film, raise a lot of questions regarding this universe's metaphysical nature. Of course it is possible these are just similarly named schools or the same school in alternate dimensions, as well. I might be over thinking the plot connections of a slasher series that is half made of re-titled unrelated films, but it’s all less of a reach than trying to fit together the timeline behind the Puppet Master or Highlander franchises. Plus if J.J. Abrams can make a shared film universe by tacking similar looking monsters to end of science fiction movies that the big named studios have shelved, I can have my fucking Prom Night head canon.
In firm contrast to the self aware, lively timing of the previous two films ,Deliver Us from Evil seems to take itself pretty seriously. It has a frank, dry tone with attempts at more disturbing subject matter. It's a story seasoned with out of control morality and the darker sides of religion as opposed to the underline cautionary plots about schoolyard vengeance in the rest of the series. It ends up feeling more like a spiritual follow up to the first Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), with it's confused and judgmental zealot of a killer. The religious plot elements are somewhat heavy handed allusions to the tragic headlines of the time, and the over- all secrecy of the Catholic church. It juxtaposes together the semi realistic and silly religious shades effectively for the most part. Our poor, sick, murderous Bible-thumper, in this case, was not only touched by some bastard priest as a kid but is also possessed by some kind of demon, and there is no line defining his motivation. Maybe it's a demon, they never really explain, but there is some kind of supernatural shit going down for sure. It doesn't really dwell on the deeper aspects and sticks to it's simple slasher format.
Despite the darker notes the film never builds up to quite the tension it's trying for, it's dread level equaling that of a lesser Tales from the Darkside episode with better gore. It's still got a pretty creepy vibe going, with some spooky background tunes to help things along. At its worst the music, provided by Paul Zaza , is perfectly basic and at its best it takes more than a little inspiration from Carpenter's Halloween score. The film is split almost in half, with the second half holding a bulk of the bloodshed. If anything, there is a little lull as the more dramatic and action packed pieces meet, but it quickly picks up with creative kills as well as well as crowd pleasing genre cliches. Every once in a while I got an almost gothic feel, but that might be because a lot of the first half involves a castle- like church and guys in robes with bad haircuts.
There is nowhere near the ambitious work of the first film, but it seems to be few cuts above the rushed camera and editing in parts 2 and 3. No real technical complaints, apart from a few scares that fall flat from the cuts. The flick has some grizzly gore effects, mostly utilized in the second half. There is some light nudity, but it also includes two scenes more awkward than sexy, one that left me with questions about female magazines in the early 90s.
The acting mostly ranges from pretty bad to passing, with a few exceptions. The, almost too classic final girl, Meagan is played Nicole de Boer who achieved genre recognition with Cube (1997), as well as some serious nerd cred on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993–1999) (as Ezri Dax). She does a great job with a simple role. Although her lines aren't really in her favor, she gets to kick some holy ass towards the end and has a funny unused sequel set up. The villain, Father Jonas is more than adequately portrayed by James Carver, who I know absolutely nothing about, aside from the fact that “Carver” is a really cool name for someone who plays a dude that cuts people up. Joy Tanner plays Meagan’s friend and sacrificial eye-candy, Laura. At what is most likely no fault of the actors, she is one of the worst parts of the film. I'm pretty sure that the writer, Richard Beattie, got so caught up in his creepy Jesus motif he forgot what the sleazy friend trope looked like and accidentally formed some kind of awkward abomination instead. Oddly enough,Brock Simpson who plays the curious Father Colin is the only actor to have a role (of some sort) in every film in the series.
Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil is a warm quilt composed of random spooky materials, draped safely onto the familiar cliche slasher. As the fourth film in a makeshift horror series based around an overused high school event, in my opinion it's well worth a watch, even if its just to see some guy get his head squeezed till his eyes bleed, by a holy man. As far as prom goes, I don't really feel like I missed much. I have an almost endless supply of films on the subject, and I’m certainly not trying to run into a random creepy-ass priest. If there was anything I hated more than school at that age was it was fucking church. Although at this point, if I would have had a prom, I guess it would be pretty disappointing if there wasn't a killer of some kind there.
1h 32min | 1992
Director: Clay Borris


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