Friday, May 17, 2019

HELL NIGHT (1981) Blu-ray review

Hell Night (1981) d. Tom DeSimone (USA) (101 min)

As a fraternity/sorority initiation rite, pledges Marti (Linda Blair), Jeff (Peter Barton), Denise (Suki Goodwin), and Seth (Vincent Van Patten) must spend a night in Garth Manor, twelve years to the day after madman Raymond Garth supposedly murdered his entire family. As the legend goes, the body of the youngest child, Andrew Garth, was never recovered and still haunts the now-deserted mansion… at least that’s the story spun by frat ringleader Peter (Kevin Brophy), who has designs on scaring the rushing quartet out of their wits. But amidst the projected pranks and skeletons-in-boxes, a real menace lurks in the corners, picking off the interlopers one by one, piece by piece.

This minor slasher classic has a lot going for it, starting with its crowd-pleasing, convention-tweaking script by first-timer Randy Feldman, who would go on to pen Tango and Cash starring Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone, as well as co-writing As Luck Would Have It with Spanish legend Alex de la Iglesia. While ticking off the required fright boxes, Feldman makes the effort of imbuing his cannon fodder characters with unexpected nuance and humanity and gives us more than a few twists and turns around the requisite body count.

Aiding him in his efforts is a decent collection of young(ish) performers, with the Exorcist veteran our obvious headliner despite being the ensemble’s weakest link. Try as she might, Blair never really convinces as a plucky Final Girl, mostly because she never really convinces as a plausible human being. Every line reading feels false and while her natural assets are put front and center, aided by her period costume’s plunging neckline, she’s never really sexy and her efforts to be cute and fetching come off as merely awkward.

Barton, best known to genre fans as the doomed shower serenader in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, is an amiable enough presence with an incredible head of hair, well-paired alongside the buff and blonde Van Patten (Rock 'N' Roll High School) who at that point had already been acting in the biz for over a decade. While this marks the vivacious Goodwin’s lone film performance, the lovely Brit brings oodles of charm and coy bravado. As Peter’s sidekick, Jenny Neumann (star of the 1980 Ozploitation shards-o-glass slasher Stage Fright) has a smaller role but still makes an impression before exiting via one of the flashier offings.

Producers Bruce Cohn Curtis and Irwin Yablans had previously paired on the infamously goofy Roller Boogie (also starring Blair), but they managed to score a minor hit with Hell Night, the final film distributed by Yablans’ Compass International Pictures (Halloween, Tourist Trap, Blood Beach). The pair assembled a fine team of collaborators to assist former adult filmmaker DeSimone, including editor Anthony DiMarco (Chained Heat, starring a less-dressed Blair) and cinematographer Mac Ahlberg, who shot any number of Empire Pictures efforts from Ghoulies to Ghost Town, Parasite to Prison. (Both would reunite with Yablans and Curtis the following year for the celebrity stalker The Seduction.)

Composer Dan Wyman, whose genre credits include Without Warning, The Dead Pit, and The Lawnmower Man, delivers some pleasingly moody melodies and Bill Rebane’s go-to SPFX man Tom Schwartz (The Giant Spider Invasion, The Capture of Bigfoot, The Alpha Incident, Rana: Legend of Shadow Lake) delivers some marvelous gags, saving the best for last where the ominously spiked gate surrounding Garth Manor gets its memorably magical moment in the moonlight.

Trivia: The stunt men who portrayed “the Garths” are not listed anywhere in the credits, and their real names remain a mystery. On the film’s audio commentary, the producers mention that the performers were of Germanic descent and that one of them died shortly after the release of the film.


A note from Shout! Factory:

“We did an extensive search for the original film elements, but were unable to locate them. Therefore, this new transfer comes from a 4K scan of the best surviving archival 35mm film print of Hell Night. We did extensive color correction and film restoration to clean up any film damage. Because the print was missing some minor footage, so we have inserted a small amount of standard definition footage to deliver the complete film. We hope you enjoy this new restoration of this ’80s horror classic.”

NEW 4K scan of the film taken from the best surviving archival print

NEW “The Beauty of Horror” with actor Linda Blair (35 min)

NEW “Hell Nights” with director Tom DeSimone (27 min)

NEW “Facing Fear” with actor Peter Barton (21 min)

NEW “Producing Hell” with producer Bruce Cohn Curtis (14 min)

NEW “Writing Hell” with writer Randy Feldman (26 min)

NEW “Vincent Van Patten and Suki Goodwin in Conversation” (27 min)

NEW “Kevin Brophy and Jenny Neumann in Conversation” (23 min)

NEW “Gothic Design In Hell Night” with Steven G. Legler (23 min)

NEW “Anatomy of the Death Scenes” with Tom DeSimone, Randy Feldman, Make-up Artist Pam Peitzman, Art Director Steven G. Legler, and Special Effects Artist John Eggett (22 min)

NEW “On Location At The Kimberly Crest House” with Tom DeSimone (7 min)

Audio commentary with Linda Blair, Tom DeSimone, Irwin Yablans, and Bruce Cohn Curtis

Original Radio Spot

Original Theatrical Trailer & TV Spots

Photo Gallery featuring rare, never-before-seen stills

Hell Night is available now on Blu-ray and DVD and can be ordered HERE:


No comments:

Post a Comment