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 of them 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. This final instalment was a return ticket home to traditional slasher land, where everything had begun.
You could quite easily use the franchise as a timeline to track the development of horror trends 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 style. By 1992’s release of Deliver us from Evil, producer Peter Simpson’s favourite and most successful project had finally come full circle and with no clear path to follow, he went back to the standard slasher template that started it all in 1980.
It is surprising that after the enormous flop of 1991’s Popcorn, Peter 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 foolishly kind hearted vicar tries to help him, but he breaks free and heads back to the scene of the 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 someone else chose for you (pic to the right for those that don’t know pick and mix). Even if every now and then you pick out a yucky stick of liquorice, it won’t be long before your taste buds are treated to a fizzy cherry cola bottle. 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 sure to be top class. He provides a smooth and eerie accompaniment here, which allows director Clay Borris to pull off some surprisingly good set-pieces. There’s a prologue that references the fifties and after a couple of exciting murders, we fast forward to the present time…
Unfortunately, once we are given the core elements of the story, 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 could you 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. 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 give us the only person that we give a damn about. The mid-section filled with this cast can at times begin to drag and I was thinking that we were watching (yet) another entry that starts well and then fades. There simply wasn’t enough intrigue to keep the talky scenes from slowing the pace down and it didn’t take long until I was begging for some action.
In the final third though, the movie gets an injection of adrenalin and completely shakes itself out of the slumber. I had written a note around the forty-minute mark that said ‘this needs an injection of gore’, but then along came a kill scene that completely changed all that. We have seen the old Jason Voorhees ‘head-crushing’ trick a few times in other pictures, but the use of sound and the actor’s cries make it grimly effective here. Goodnight Godbless, another killer padre film, was a failure in terms of professionalism and filmmaking ability, but did boast an incredibly scary bogeyman. Our killer here has a pony tail and chiselled dark features, which makes him look like a poor man’s Johnny Depp. Thankfully, the director works smartly to create some grim moments and a genuine aura of apprehension.
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, the competent production and all in all, there is loads here for all slasher fans to enjoy. It also has its share of creepy moments, which by 1992 had become mission impossible for these films. The first Prom Night is considered by some to be one of the finest of the peak entries and at least this fourth and final part has enough in its man-bag to allow the franchise to wave good bye with class. I recommend that you track it down, because despite a few blemishes, it has a rugged handsomeness and sometimes that’s all that you need…
Final Girl: √