The original PROM NIGHT series only had 4 movies, but each installment seemed to suffer from a tonal identity crisis. Sometimes it works (PROM NIGHT 2) sometimes it didn’t (PROM NIGHT 3). Starting in 1980, THE PROM NIGHT films are mostly independent of each other. Their only common link is the setting of Hamilton High and the (who should be iconic) vampy ghost, Mary Lou Maloney who’s in parts 2 & 3. The first film plays like a whodunit that mixes the best parts of HALLOWEEN, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS and FRIDAY THE 13th. Save for the bitchin’ dance sequence by Jamie Lee Curtis and Casey Stevens and a serious Leslie Nielsen, the first PROM NIGHT is glaringly tame even by the standards of its peers. HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT 2, which was originally produced as an unrelated horror film, is widely considered the best of the series. With a fun premise about a dead prom queen haunting the students and teachers of her high school 30 years later, PN2 switches the murder mystery seriousness from part 1 in favor of a horror-comedy that’s coated with delightful campiness. Like it’s predecessor, PN2 barrows the best elements of its peers including Nightmare on Elm Street and Carrie. The acting all around is better than it has any right to be, but Lisa Schrage’s performance as Mary Lou Maloney is spectacularly entertaining. It’s a shame she didn’t return to the series because Mary Lou could’ve carried the series for a string of sequels a la Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger. PROM NIGHT 3 trades in the campy, horror-comedy of part 2 in favor of more slapstick comedy with blood-drenched splashes of horror. Mary Lou (this time played by Courtney Taylor) goes from a refreshing woman with her own identity and sexual autonomy to a horrifically co-dependent FATAL ATTRACTION-type woman who becomes obsessed with the affable yet bland Alex Grand. PROM NIGHT 3 isn’t successful in attempts at humor nor horror, but it’s a fun watch to see it try. PROM NIGHT 4: DELIVER US FROM evil ditches the Mary Lou-storyline and returns the series to its straightforward horror roots. However, it’s more of a
very very boring slasher than a whodunit like the original film. Honestly, the less said about this film the better.
In 1988, writer Don Mancini and director Tom Holland blessed the world with the tale of the killer doll, Chucky. Being possessed by the spirit of the Lakeshore Strangler, Charles Lee Ray, Chucky quickly rose to the ranks of the most iconic modern movie villians thanks to a numerous sequels. 6 installments later, an upcoming TV series and a successful remake currently in theaters, Chucky is as popular as ever. Throughout the series the tone has shifted frontwards and backwards. The first 3 films were standard horror films about a killer doll trying to transfer his soul into the body of a young boy with problematic Voodoo practices. That old chestnut. When the series returned in 1998 after a 7-year gap with THE BRIDE OF CHUCKY, it seemed the creators finally acknowledged the ridiculousness of the premise of a killer doll and went bat-shit crazy. ‘BRIDE’ marks the series turning into a comedy with cool horror set pieces. The addition of Jennifer Tilly to the series also ups it’s camp factor which signals everyone involved in the movie is in on the joke. Things get even goofier in the follow up, SEED OF CHUCKY which finds Chucky and his wife Tiffany raising their gender-fluid child Glen. The over the top comedy of ‘SEED’ divided audiences and the series was dormant for 9 years before being resurrected with the CURSE OF CHUCKY. ‘Curse’ and it’s sequel CULT OF CHUCKY dropped the over the top comedy and retured the series back to its horror roots. Mostly. ‘Cult’ had injected some tongue in cheek humor back in the franchise.
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE’S placement on this list is a slight cheat. Since the beginning, director Tobe Hopper has always asserted that TCM was always envisioned as a black comedy. This wasn’t overtly clear with the nihilistic original, so when he decided to do a follow up in 1986 the black humorous tone was more up front and center. If we’re looking at the original four movies in the series, parts 1 & 3 are played as pure horror and parts 2 & 4 are played mostly for black humor. The remake series delves into modern extremism while the rebooted series (TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D & LEATHERFACE) are unintentionally comedic but are aiming for direct horror. The tonal inconsistencies in the series may be off putting to casual viewers, but to ‘CHAINSAW’ enthusiasts it helps create a conversation regarding your favorite portrayal of Leatherface and which makeup of his family best serves the series.