(1981, dir: Tom de Simone; cast: Linda Blair, Peter Barton, Vincent Van
Patten, Suki Goodwin, Kevin Brophy, Jenny Neumann, Jimmy Sturtevant)
slasher film, but a good one.
all good. But this is even better than most, mainly because Linda
Blair and Peter Barton lend depth and sympathy to their characters despite
some hokey dialogue.
time on fraternity/sorority row. Four pledges must prove themselves
worthy by spending the night at Garth Mansion, a huge abandoned estate. Years ago, Daddy Garth killed his wife and three mutant kids. The
fourth mutant kid was never found. Legend has it he still stalks
the mansion ...
something odd. There are only four pledges: two guys (Barton and
Van Patten) and two gals (Blair and Goodwin). Since when do fraternities
and sororities hold joint initiations? And they are bid farewell
on their initiation by a HUGE party. This implies a great many brothers
and sisters. Yet at the rate of two pledges per year, the fraternity
sorority would each be down to eight members each within four years.
director de Simone simply wanted lots of people at the party, but only
two couples at Garth Mansion. I guess it's spookier (and cheaper)
with just four pledges, never mind making sense.
I don't mind.
important is that the four kids are locked behind the tall iron gates of
Garth Mansion, three upperclassman sneak in to scare them ... and the body
and lead performances are a bit better than standard slasher fare. Barton portrays a sensitive rich boy. Blair is the poor girl with
a heart of gold. She's also virginal, at first keeping Barton to
his own bed, later cuddling and sleeping with him ... but just sleeping. Both keep their clothes on. Meanwhile, Van Patten and Goodwin fornicate
like rabbits in the next room.
which couple is killed first? And guess who survives the night?
and Barton perform well, but Van Patten and Goodwin also add some dimension
to their clichéd supporting roles: the horny cutup and the sleazy
party girl. Brophy, Neumann, and Sturtevant play the jerky upperclassman
who sneak in to scare the pledges. They also provide much needed
slasher-fodder. I liked Jenny Neumann in Stage
Fright (aka Nightmares, Australian
1980), but she's under-utilized here.
Hell Night strikes tried-and-true horror psycho notes like a well-tuned instrument. One girl is pulled screaming down into a hole (although my favorite hole-dragging
is in The Unseen, 1980). The psycho seems
indestructible. They shoot him, but he keeps on going ...
are also some surprises, which is no small feat in this tradition-bound
and lighting are used to good effect. Shapes emerge from the dark,
slowly, indistinct. Creeping up behind our unsuspecting heroes. Makeup is also simple but noteworthy. When we finally see him, the
mutant resembles Nosferatu's Max Schreck.
scenes are visceral, even brutally poetic. 1981 was a good year for
horror psychos, and Hell
Night is prime vintage.
Review copyright by Thomas
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