This is nitpicky, but I have to get it off my chest: 1992's Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil is not about prom (which annoys me), but it does take place on prom night, and the main characters are making a specific choice not to be at prom, so it can rightly be considered a plot point. Also, one character idly mentions that the main location is his parents' summer home, but nobody needs to worry, because they're never around much in the summer. Which is, after all, roughly when prom tends to fall, maybe just a week or two before it officially begins.

And still, Deliver Us from Evil clearly, unambiguously shows that at the time the film is taking place, there is snow on the ground. Also, there's a snowstorm in one scene, and a line about getting snowed in at night. I mean, I know Canada is cold, but that's just fucking daft.

As reasons go for deciding to hate a movie with all the force of ones's rage, that's an awfully petty one, but maybe if Deliver Us from Evil wasn't such a mildewy little smear of a late slasher film, I wouldn't be driven to be petty towards it. As it is, the film is junk, and unlike the earlier Prom Night pictures, it's not even junk that has some compensating element of off-kilter weirdness or historical interest. It is, for one thing, the most purely, generically structured movie of the tetralogy: in the past, a crazy killer hacks apart some teens and is captured by the authorities, while in the present, he's accidentally freed and goes straight for his own stomping grounds, where he watches a few horny teens screw around before killing them one by one, until just the virginal girl is left to fend off his viciousness. All that separates Deliver Us from Evil from dozens of virtually identical movies is that the killer is quite a bit more coherently conceived than most of them; his stated motivations and his observable behavior actually line up pretty well, and he has a clearly defined personality that is consistent throughout the movie and is nothing at all like the taciturn man-mountains who traditionally hulked around looking for a chance to put a garden tool through a teenager's skull in the slasher film as it existed before 1996.

Also, his "theme", if you will, is particularly unusual: our killer is a religious zealot, and screenwriter Richard Beattie is careful to liven his script up with religious references both trivial but resonant (characters using "god" in dialogue more than usual), and non-trivial and deeply significant (as when the two female leads have a debate about what one should or should not mention in the confessional). It would be asking far too much of a horror film with a IV in the title that it should actually do anything important and complex with all this religiosity, but I admire the film for having more ambition than just running generic teens through a generic scenario, stopping to let them doff their clothes along the way.

Okay, so that's exactly what ends up happening, but the window dressing is particularly unique and challenging. That ought to count for something or other.

The film opens on the same prom night at Hamilton High School in 1957 that opened Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, though neither that film nor Prom Night III: The Last Kiss are otherwise mentioned in this wholly detached sequel, not even the broad idea of "the time the prom queen burned to death in the gym". Instead, we arrive to find the insatiable horndogs Lisa (Krista Bulmer) and Brad (Phil Morrison) escaping prom as quickly as possible - he came stage, she has to ditch her date - to start screwing in Brad's car. They don't get very far at all before being interrupted by menacing Gregorian chants on the soundtrack, which accompany the arrival of Father Jonas (James Carver). We've already met this deranged padre in the film's opening scene, where he feverishly prayed for guidance in ridding the world of all the sluts and whores; plainly not a fellow to forgive a bit of teenaged lust, and he uses his giant, blade-edged crucifix to kill them both with a minimum of pussyfooting around (I was all excited to talk about how Fr. Jonas "crucifucks" people up, but he doesn't use it again until virtually the end of the film, so there's really no opportunity for it). Then he blows up their car.

One can't keep one's deranged religious psychosis hidden when it's accompanied by such splashy actions, and Jonas is apprehended by church authorities and spirited away from his residence at St. Basil Seminary, to be hidden in the basement of St. George Church. And that's where we find him in the frosty summer of 1991, forgotten by all but the caretakers assigned by the higher-ups to keep him safe and sedated. We also meet here recent seminary graduate Fr. Colin (Brock Simpson, officially making it four-for-four as different characters in all the Prom Nights), who thinks that he's about to go to Khartoum for missionary work, but has been selected for a very different goal: he is to replace Fr. Jaeger (Ken McGregor), aged and ill, as the man in charge of keeping Jonas locked away from the world. He accepts this charge i n the spirit of gravity and solemnity with which it was given to him, and Jonas remains locked away for the rest of Colin's long life. The end.

No, so of course the very first thing Colin does is to dick around with the very clear rules laid out for him, and in the blink of an eye, Jonas has killed the young priest and fled to the remains of St. Basil. And thus does a movie that absolutely looks for a full half-hour like it's going to be some kind of strange-as-hell religious horror thriller that has a teenage plot crudely grafted on to facilitate a prom night connection finds its footing and turns into a paint-by-numbers slasher movie with a prom night plot crudely grafted onto its teen sex scenes. Basically, we have Mark (J.H. Wyman), who hasn't yet slept with his not-quite-ready girlfriend Meagan (Nicole de Boer), to the frustration of his pervy, voyeuristic younger brother Jonathan (Fab Filippo); their friends are Jeff (Alle Ghadban) and his very ready girlfriend Laura (Joy Tanner), who spends all her waking days leering at Meagan with a look of beatific joy the likes of which most of us will never feel, the kind of look you can only wear when you were created by a screenwriter and given the only personality trait, "adores having sex more than everything else put together". Eschewing Hamilton High's prom night, they trundle off to Mark's family summer home, an isolated manor that, a few decades ago, was a seminary. One St. Basil, to be exact.

The rest of the movie is the rest of the movie, and while the opening third of Deliver Us from Evil promises to be awful in ways that are at least unusual and unexpected, the last hour is awful in ways that are fully expected, with sex scenes choreographed to show the maximum amount of male and female butt serving as the only punctuation in a languid, aimless collection of scenes of the four teens poking around the house, waiting for the plot to arrive. It undoubtedly got lost in the snow, never expecting such freak weather in May.

In truth, by the standards of a 1992 slasher film, Deliver Us from Evil is terrifyingly functional and effective; but those are very low standards, and if we're to harbor and intellectual dignity at all, we need to set our sights a little higher. And there is no height that this film can rise to: it's crap, and not just crap, but boring crap, with only a four-person compliment of Spam in a Cabin to fill the middle section, and the two men in that equation so utterly interchangeable that by the third scene we have with these characters, we can predict every move they will ever make, so spending time with them is an imagination-starved grind. Plus, Meagan is such a powerfully obvious Final Girl - the film goes miles out of its way to establish what filthy sex-having sluts the other three are - that anything not involving her feels like outright filler.

And the generally putrid acting doesn't make these people any easier to like: only Tanner makes an impression, and I am almost positive it's a bad one, given the static, saucer-eyed, shark-toothed approach she takes to every single interaction in every single scene, as though the actress made the choice "orgasm addict", and let that be the only thing she brought to any moment. That and acidic sarcasm, though the two are harder to mix than you might suppose. Even given all this, she's the only actor I especially cared for; de Boer is thin gruel, and the boys make absolutely no impression at all.

All the film has going for it - the only thing at all - is Carver's weird, screaming performance as the crazy Jonas,and even he is let down by director Clay Borris and cinematographer Rick Wincenty, who rely on too little variation in shots (lot of close-ups, but this was direct-to-video, so it makes sense) and have a tendency to overlight everything but the very blackest scenes, which they underlight. Otherwise, it's the most routine slasher film you could possibly imagine, and while that is pretty impressive for its time frame - most '92 slashers were far too dreadful to be merely "routine" - the film's complete lack of affect makes it neither a satisfying series finale nor a watchable film in its own right. This is just useless, anonymous piffle: lazy storytelling and flat, functional filmmaking, not even interesting enough to suggest that it's for fans of the genre only. This is for nobody, and it is unworthy of the august, if inconsistent, brand name that it besmirches.

Body Count: 9? But it could be 8. The de rigueur twist ending makes it a little hard to tell for certain. Either way, I am not counting the offscreen death by natural causes of an elderly priest who we previously had seen alive.

Reviews in this series
Prom Night (Lynch, 1980)
Hello, Mary Lou: Prom Night II (Pittman, 1987)
Prom Night III: The Last Kiss (Oliver & Simpson, 1990)
Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil (Borris, 1992)
Prom Night (McCormick, 2008)