Great Bad Movies: "Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil"
"Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil" (1992)
Directed by Clay Borris
Starring: Nikki de Boer, J.H. Wyman, Joy Tanner, James Carver
The Canadian-made series of Prom Night films were familiar sights on video store shelves throughout the '80s. The original 1980 drive-in favorite was a fairly standard slasher film starring a post-Halloween Jamie Lee Curtis, who was still in the process of earning her Scream Queen stripes.
The franchise took a turn towards a more supernatural direction ala the Nightmare on Elm Street films with its next two installments, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987) and Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (1990), in which the teens of Hamilton High battled the undead prom queen Mary Lou Maloney (who would've been a great prom date for Freddy Krueger). As the 1990s dawned, the Prom Night series returned to its slasher-film origins, for better or worse, with its fourth chapter. Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil was released direct-to-video in 1992. Deliver Us From Evil was unrelated to the prior three entries in the series aside from its setting at Hamilton High, the unluckiest high school in horror film history.
Our story begins in 1957, where a deranged Catholic priest, Father Jonas, is shown deep in prayer, squeezing his rosary till his hands bleed and swearing that he will do God's work and deliver "sluts and whores" to Him. It just so happens that Hamilton High's prom is going on that night; so when an unlucky couple sneaks out to their car for a brief romantic interlude, the crazed clergyman slits their throats with a sharpened cross and sets the car on fire. Rather than turn Jonas over to the proper authorities, his fellow priests choose simply to restrain him, sedate him and lock him away in the Church basement, claiming that he's "possessed" and "beyond saving." Oooo-kay, sure. We then flash forward to the present day, where a new, young priest is assigned to watch over Jonas and administer his regular injections of sedative. Tragically, the new guy falters in his duties and makes an ill-advised attempt to "reach" the killer priest, who awakens from his three-decade slumber (still looking surprisingly youthful and athletic after all that time in lockdown!) and escapes.
It is at this point where we meet our teenage cannon fodder, a foursome of Hamilton High students headed by the virginal Megan (who has not yet succumbed to the pleasures of the flesh, though she really really kinda sorta wants to), her slutty friend Laura, and their idiot boyfriends. It's prom season yet again but this group of friends has decided to skip the prom entirely and head to a summer house belonging to Meg's boyfriend's family for a weekend getaway. This summer house just happens to be the same building as Jonas' old monastery. Do I have to draw you a picture of what happens next? Jonas returns to his old stomping grounds, finds our teenage fornicators deep in the middle of their private party, and then it's time for him to show them the error of their sinful ways thanks to that handy-dandy razor-sharp cross.
Naturally, with only four potential victims in the house, the body count in this movie is not going to be especially huge. Therefore it takes for-EVER before Jonas gets down to dirty work, which makes the midsection of the film a drag after that slam-bang opening sequence. Things finally pick up in the last fifteen or twenty minutes as Megan and her boyfriend struggle to survive Jonas' attack, and there's a decent enough fiery finale, but for most of Prom Night IV's length you'll groan at the stupidity of these characters. When Megan's boyfriend finally finds his Dad's gun, why does he choose to climb up to the ROOF of the house where he can easily fall to his death, rather than barricade himself and Megan in a room to make a Last Stand? Because he's in a slasher film, of course! This is the kind of horror movie where the characters are such idiots that they deserve everything that happens to them, and viewers probably won't feel much sympathy for them as they meet their fates.
Summing it Up...
Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil has a few unique ideas (I actually like the killer-priest angle), some nice T&A moments (esp. when Megan tries on the new lingerie her boyfriend bought for her -- yowsa!) and a few shock scenes that might make you sit up and take notice (as when Jonas crucifies, then burns, the bodies of Laura and her boyfriend outside the house) but despite those few flashes of originality, it ends as just another slow moving, nothin' special body count film. Prom Night IV is far from essential viewing, but I suppose it's worth a look if you just can't get enough of watching mad killers stalk horny teenagers.
Naturally, Prom Night IV's ending seems to set up a fifth installment, which never came to pass. After IV, the Prom Night brand lay dormant until the 2000s, when a new teen-slasher movie craze sparked by the success of Scream prompted a flashy, PG-13 rated Prom Night remake that was quickly (and justifiably) dismissed by horror fans. Nothing in the horror genre ever stays dead, however, so I wouldn't be surprised one day to learn that a new Prom Night movie is in the works, with Father Jonas teaming up with the ghostly Mary Lou Maloney to terrorize the halls of Hamilton High one more time.
© 2018 Keith Abt