Day late but never a dollar short, we bring you the next installment in our Desert Island series and pick our personal top five favorites from the delicious sub-genre of cannibal films.
By Jenny Duquette
I know that time can get away from us in the Plague Times, but guess what? It’s Friday! And not just any Friday, but another Friday Night at the Video Store.
Tonight’s selection is one of the subgenre of movies that are sequels in name only-the movie was originally titled “The Haunting of Hamilton High,” a title which changed when the Samuel-Goldwyn Company bought it and thought it would be better marketed as a sequel to the Jamie Lee Curtis classic, Prom Night. I mean, because why not? The school name is the same, and the line, “It’s not who you go with, it’s who takes you home” is used in both movies, and Brock Simpson appeared in both, but beyond that there’s really no overlap.
The Los Angeles Times quite accurately called this movie “the Blue Velvet of high school horror movies,” which should really tell you that this movie is a very different animal than its predecessor. Hello Mary Lou has everything, managing to land on basically every taboo, from teen pregnancy to incest to a hint of demonic bestiality-it’s basically an afterschool special on PCP. Add to that possession, a badass fire stunt, and Michael Ironside and you’ve got 80’s horror magic. The cover art is so iconic that the band Falling in Reverse took it as inspiration for the cover of their album, “The Drug in Me is You,” with the lead singer’s ex-girlfriend playing the role of Mary Lou.
This weird but wonderful movie starts off with a beautiful dark-haired girl going into the church to confess-she tells the priest that she has been impure with “many boys, many times.” The priest is horrified, but even more so when the girl tells him she “loved every minute of it.” This, ladies and gentlemen, is our introduction to Mary Lou Maloney.
The year is 1957, and Mary Lou (Lisa Schrage) is at the prom with her steady beau, Billy Nordham (Steve Atkins). Billy is clearly crazy about her, and gives her a beautiful ring. In return, she sends him off to get punch and sneaks off backstage with Buddy Cooper. The two are drinking and making out in the minute and a half it takes Billy to get punch, and Billy catches them, and overhears his beloved Mary Lou telling Buddy that she’s only with Billy because he’s good to her and his daddy is rich. When Billy confronts them, Buddy offers to let Billy smell his hand because it’s “as close as he’s going to get,” and then heads out to the prom with Mary Lou. Billy is understandably miffed, and happens to run into two kids with a stink bomb, and decides to get his revenge on his traitorous gal.
Mary Lou, to the surprise of no one, wins the title of Prom Queen, with Buddy at her side. In a coronation long enough to bore the Queen Mother, she finally gets the bejeweled crown on her head, and is aglow with the massive achievement of being hotter than her classmates, when Billy strikes. From the catwalk above, he lights the stink bomb and throws it on the stage. But the stink bomb doesn’t just stink up the stage and ruin Mary Lou’s moment-instead it rolls below her skirt and catches her dress, and subsequently Mary Lou, on fire. What follows is what was at the time the longest-running fire stunt in a movie, and the death glare to end all death glares as Mary Lou realizes Billy is responsible for the fire that winds up killing her.
(I think she’s mad.)
From there we travel thirty years into the future, to 1987, where Vicki Carpenter (Wendy Lyon) is preparing for her own prom. Sadly, her deeply religious mother thinks a prom gown is a waste of money, so Vicki winds up looking for a dress in the school prop room, where she finds a trunk with Mary Lou’s prom queen accessories, which were thankfully spared by the aforementioned slow-ass coronation. She takes them, which releases Mary Lou’s vengeful spirit. After Vicki leaves the cursed accessories in the art room, her friend Jess (Beth Gondek) ends up meeting an unfortunate yet artsy end after she makes the mistake of screwing with Mary Lou’s crown. This death is attributed to suicide from discovering she was pregnant, and is when shit starts getting real at Hamilton High.
Suddenly Vicki is having bizarre visions and confides in Buddy, who has become a priest. He realizes quickly that Mary Lou is back, and tries to warn Billy, who is now the school principal and also the father of Vicki’s boyfriend, Craig, played by The Artist Formerly Known As Justin Louis (Louis Ferreira).
Meanwhile, Vicki is becoming less well-adjusted by the second, and ends up in detention after slapping the bitchy prom queen nominee, Kelly Hennenlotter (Terri Hawkes.) That detention, more specifically when Vicki gets pulled into the suddenly liquid chalkboard, marks the complete possession of Vicki Carpenter, and also marks where things get completely nutty, as Vicki/Mary Lou kicks off her murderous rampage with Father Buddy, storming the confessional and stabbing him with a crucifix, after revealing that she was pretty pissed off about not getting “fucking wings” after she died.
As Vicki Lou Who goes from an 80’s virginal teenager to a trampy 50’s vixen, her friends and family are more than a little confused by the change. Her best friend Monica (Beverley Hendry) confronts the possessed Vicki in the locker room (80’s gratuitous nudity time), and Vicki telekinetically smashes her in the lockers (watch the goo in this scene-it’s gross and pretty awesome.) Then she basically tries to kill anyone who is even remotely in her way, because she will not be denied the glory of being Prom Queen this time.
Billy realizes Buddy was right after Vicki/Mary Lou pays him a visit and gives him a chaste lapdance basically, and all hell breaks loose. Vicki and her demon carousel horse get oddly acquainted, and she tries to seduce her father, which is uncomfortable for everyone involved. And after Carrie-ing her mom through the front door, it’s time for prom!
While Mary Lou crossed the line between the dead and the living to become prom queen, Kelly crossed the line between prom queen and blowjob queen, and gives Josh some motivation to change the tally to make her the winner instead of Vicki. But Mary Lou is having none of that, and electrocutes Josh (another pretty cool, if dated, scene) to regain her title. But as she’s getting ready to accept her hard-won crown, Billy shoots her. Take just a moment and appreciate how fucked up it would be for the other students to see their principal shoot the prom queen, no really. The shooting prompts Mary Lou to emerge, going from chest burster to charred remains, to hottie with a revenge kink.
Before Mary Lou can send Craig into a vortex to the Underworld (yeah, not making that up), Billy shows up and places the crown on Mary Lou’s head and kisses her, which apparently was all Mary Lou needed to be set free, and be at peace, and everyone lives happily ever after…or do they?
This movie is a wild ride, and if you like ghostly possession stories, Very Special Episodes, or interspecies erotica, this weird flick might just be for you.
On this Easter Sunday recording, our latest Drive-In Double Feature has the theme of people killing in the name of The Lord! Join us for a discuss of 2001’s FRAILTY and 1976’s GOD TOLD ME TO. Plenty of Easter ham in this one to share!
Every now and then, you come across a title in your streaming platform scrolling, and it just jumps out at you. Or in this case, hops out at you.
Godfrey Ho’s (aka Joe Livingstone) 1988 opus, Robo Vampire, just sounded like cheesy, low-budget fun, and the poster even leans into that vibe fairly hard. The core concepts of this production just make you giggle and ask, “Wait, what??”
As simply put as I can, American heroin smugglers in south east Asia get tired of the repeated run ins with “Tom, the anti-drug agent” and his team, so they hire a Daoist priest to train jiangshi (“Chinese hopping vampires”) to fight those darn anti-drug agents.
Are you still with me? Tom and most of his team are killed in their first encounter with the jiangshi. After literally 3 seconds of mourning from his commanders, one asks to use Tom’s corpse for his android experiments. Thus, Tom is resurrected as “Robo Warrior” to continue the fight against the vicious smugglers and their vampires. Keep in mind that “Robo Warrior” is one of the worst RoboCop knock offs you will ever witness. But wait! There’s more!
In an effort to counter Robo Warrior, the Daoist raises a vampire beast. Or at least a vampire in a gorilla mask. The raising of this creature is not without difficulty as its ghost witch (or witch ghost?) lover interrupts the ritual and battles the Daoist as two of the American drug smugglers stand around watching. One of strongest powers of the witch ghost (or ghost witch?) is being able to spew out a crap load of exposition in under 3 minutes.
Often, I use closed captioning just to not miss dialogue. But one of favorite things now is how the CC interprets sounds or actions on the screen. Anytime it says <squelching sounds> during a movie, I know great things are happening on screen! Robo Vampire brought a new level to the experience for me with <mystic whooshing>, <frightened groaning>, and <monstrous wailing/yelling> during the fight scene between the Daoist, the witch ghost (or ghost witch?), and the vampire beast. And just when I thought it couldn’t be topped? They dropped this cherry on my sundae: <intense mystic whooshing>!
Now’s when we cut to the story of Ray being recruited by Chief Thompson to go and rescue Sophie the spy a group of gangsters and smugglers that captured her. And by “cut to,” I mean cut nearly an hour’s worth of footage from the 1984 Thai film Paa Lohgan into this one for all of the gang war and spy story stuff. Keyways to tell which is Paa Lohgan versus Robo Vampire when key characters aren’t on screen? Besides the visual difference in color grading of the film, all the Thai footage uses real guns with blanks. All the Chinese footage uses these weird barrel attachments that contain 5-6 firecrackers (that you can often see) that fire off in quick sequence.
There are a couple scenes of old school “Chinese water torture” under a dripping faucet for Sophie that feel almost quaint now when you think of waterboarding. But it seems to work on her! Ray and Wendy face the same torture later with the same results. But let’s get back to Robo Warrior and the hopping vampires.
A scene that I’ve found the most GIF worth, the jiangshi encircle Robo Warrior on a beach. Immune to most of his bullets, he goes hand to hand for a brief bit with limited results. He then summons his machine gun back into his hand like it’s fricking Mjolnir! This happens at least two other times in the movie, as well as his gun suddenly being able to shoot a rope of flames. Seriously. It’s a flaming rope strapped to the end of the gun!
This movie was just bad in so many ways, from the acting, the dubbing, the effects, and beyond. Man was it fun to watch! The only part I found a bit objectional was a scene out of nowhere that had a woman cutting open the belly of a cow or oxen to stuff several bags of heroin in and sew it back up. Outside of that, Robo Vampire is just straight up laughable. Even the closed captioning made me laugh.
Kick back with a beverage of choice, some snacks, and a few friends (however social distancing permits), and just have a good laugh with this one. Heaven knows we can use a laugh or three right now.
(On Amazon and YouTube)
We return to our Lethal Literature series and discuss M.R. Carey’s “The Girl With All The Gifts” (2014) and the 2016 film adaptation. Stay safe, fright fans.
In this long overdue return to doing a Franchise Focus, we dive into the depths of Honey Island Swamp and all 4 of Adam Green’s HATCHET films.