Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil
Deliver Us From Evil 1992
aka Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil
Directed by: Clay Borris
Starring: Nikki De Boer, J.H Wyman, Joy Tanner
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
It’s a tough job to try to categorise the Prom Night series. The first was a blatant Halloween clone, which borrowed everything from the rolling photography in almost identical locations to the choice of actress for the final girl. Part two popped up some seven years later and owed more of a knowing nod to A Nightmare on Elm Street by including an indestructible bogey(wo)man and a desire to experiment with a dream-like subconscious reality. Number three was the only chapter to reuse an antagonist from a previous entry but was more of a black comedy than an out and out horror flick and then this installment was a return ticket home to traditional slasher land.
You could quite easily use the franchise as a timeline to track the development of terror cinema throughout the eighties and ‘lost years’ of the early nineties. Every time that the direction of scary movies at the box office was modified by a new successful picture, this series adapted it’s methodology to match the latest trend. By 1992′s release of Deliver us from Evil, producer Peter Simpson’s favourite and most successful donation to horror had finally come full circle and with no clear trend to follow, he went back to basics.
It is surprising that after the enormous flop of 1991′s Popcorn, Simpson still believed that it was worthwhile putting his cheque book behind a large scale offering. Deliver us is visibly slick and offers a break from the realms of low budget and lower quality SOV pictures that were popping up during this period. I bought the VHS that I own in the UK and it was marketed here as a stand alone film and had no obvious links to Prom Night at all. It was only later, with the help of the Internet that I discovered that it was the fourth of that legacy.
In an opening that’s suspiciously familiar to Frat Fright from the previous year, a Priest goes on a kill frenzy and is captured and locked up beneath a church. 30+ years later, a stupidly kind hearted vicar tries to help him, but he breaks free and heads back to the scene of his original murders. It just so happens that four teenagers are there at the secluded location for a party…
You could say that Deliver us From Evil is a similar experience to eating a bag of pick and mix sweets that you didn’t choose yourself. Even if every now and then, you’ll come across the odd liquorice allsort, it won’t be long before your taste buds are treated to a fizzy cherry cola bottle. Now If you see the words ‘Paul Zaza’ on a crew list, then you should know that the score that you are about to hear is going to be top class. He doesn’t disappoint here and neither does director Clay Borris who pulls off some very good stuff. Their combined finesse allows the movie to kick off with a real punch. Simpson again references the rock and roll era of the late fifties, which works for me, seeing as I have about 500 Doo-Wop tracks on my iPad playlist. The photography is crisp and composed, the musical accompaniment is pulsating and the screen comes alive with a great set piece that is superbly structured and exciting. We are introduced for the first time to our crazy priest and then after a couple of murders, we roll forward to the (then) present time.
It’s here that after a short time, I began to grow a bit disillusioned with what I was watching. You see, being just a good actor does not make you an interesting person to watch on the screen. I have read countless times, even from respected critics, how Arnold Schwarzenegger is not a solid dramatic performer. Ok fine, I agree. But I dare these commentators to imagine a film like The Predator with John Hurt or Robert Deniro in the lead? Anyway, the cast here are surprisingly well coached in delivering their lines with emotion, but fail collectively to add the necessary audience connection. Nikki de Boer makes for an incredibly unsympathetic final girl. She had obviously based her character on Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode, but despite the fact that she doesn’t struggle with the role, she fails to capture even a handful of the sensitivity or charm that’s required. Joy Tanner is fine as the slut, but again without allure and it’s left up to future screenwriter John Howard Wyman to deliver the only person that we give a damn about. The mid-section filled with these four can at times begin to drag and I was thinking that we were watching (yet) another entry that starts well and then fades. There was not enough intrigue to keep the talky scenes from slowing the pace and it didn’t take long until I was begging for some action.
When things get going though, the film becomes impressively grim. Creepy, engrossing and convincingly brutal, the final 20 minutes or so really turn up the heat. I had written a note that said ‘needs an injection of gore’, but then along came a kill scene that completely changed all that. ‘Borrowed’ from Jason Voorhees’ guide to kill teenagers, a youngster is picked up off the ground and has his head squished by the marauding maniac. It’s not that it is graphic in the Tom Savini sense, but the actor’s cries mixed with a good use of sound really make it quite nasty. Whereas Goodnight Godbless, another killer padre film, could never come close to this cinematically, it did boast an incredibly scary bogeyman. Our killer here has a pony tail and chiseled dark features and looks more like a poor man’s Johnny Depp than a disfigured maniac. Luckily, the talent of the director allows him to creat some fear.
What I did notice was that Deliver us, like many slasher features, had a quite blatant feel of anti-catholicism. Members of the church are made to look sinister, unforgiving, sleazy and their beliefs are portrayed as pointless and laughable. In these recent times of extreme political correctness, I could never see a movie getting away with that and it is, to be fair, quite harsh. Just look at the mass hysteria caused recently by the ‘Innocence of the Muslims’ debacle. Being from a catholic background in a country where amongst elders, disrespect to the church is almost a crime, I must admit that I felt it was a bit of a cheap shot. I’m not particularly religious at all, but if going to church gives you pleasure, then so be it.
The screenplay is a bit muddled in places and there’s a hint of supernatural that’s never really explained. It’s a quite blatant oversight, because we don’t learn the killer’s motivation or why they were hiding him in a church dungeon. There are many parts that remind us that we are waiting for some kind of confirmation, but it never comes. Not explaining why the monster was unstoppable and hellbent on killing teens was really bizarre and it left me wondering if it may have been budget related? Did the film have a nightmare production and miss out on some of the script?
Whilst thinking along those lines, I came to the idea that maybe this was initially planned as just a one-off horror movie. Perhaps out of fear of failure, they latter marketed it as a fourth entry to the Prom Night series? As I said earlier, in the UK there are no visible franchise links and most importantly, the bulk of the action doesn’t even take place at a prom, which is a bit of an odd contradiction. Not every horror film that Simpson released was in this series, so that may well be the case. It would be interesting to find out.
I was impressed by some of the well delivered shocks and competent production and all in all, there is loads here for all slasher fans to enjoy. It’s also quite scary, which by 1992 had become mission impossible for these films. The first Prom Night is considered by many to be one of the best slasher films of all time and the fourth and final part in the series has enough in its man-bag to allow the franchise to wave good bye with class. I recommend you track it down, because despite a few blemishes, it has a rugged handsomeness to its sinister face that gives it a thumbs up from me.
Final Girl: √