A really fun (a theme this summer with the slasher films I’ve chosen) slasher about a group of college rushes who must endure what is known as “hell night.” What they don’t realize is that the abandoned Garth Manor where they must spend the night (on the very night its former tenant murdered his family 12 years ago, naturally) is still inhabited by someone. A mix between wacky Halloween goings-on (think Terror Train and April Fool’s Day) and good, cheesy pizza and beer fun (think any of the slashers I’ve covered so far this summer) and you get a good idea of what Hell Night is. There isn’t anything necessarily tense or scary about the film, but it’s earnestly made (seriously, there isn’t a hint of sarcasm here…something I really appreciate about these early ‘80s slasher films) and contains a good amount of cheese to keep you and your friends entertained. Plus, there’s Vince Van Patten walking around with his shirt off in ridiculous boxer shorts for most of the movie; he’s predictably slimy and you just can’t wait for him to get it. The film uses silence well as a set-up for all of the false scares before the real scares happen, and it uses its setting extremely well (it even looks nice considering its small budget), reminding me of Canadian slashers in that regard.
There isn’t a lot of gore (the film’s producers were already aware of the growing impatience from the MPAA in regards to violence in horror films), but I don’t think director Tom DeSimone really wanted to make that kind of a horror film; he takes more pleasure in his creepy setting and the pacing (the end is pretty well done despite its obvious cribbing from Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but hey, what horror movie hasn't shamelessly cribbed from those two seminal films?). DeSimone does a decent job letting things unfold as the wacky moments are well spaced-out between what are supposed to be the genuinely scary moments (I like that he doesn’t try to confuse the two and just keeps it simple); it’s just the right amount of craft and cheese as it has that early ‘80s horror aesthetic that I found appealing about The Boogeyman. It also kind of reminded me of another of my favorite gems from last year's project, Tourist Trap -- another early entry into the genre that didn't quite know what it wanted to be, but had really great, creepy moments interspersed between some really wacky ones. As long as you don’t take yourself too seriously (or the genre too seriously), Hell Night is definitely a fun entry into the genre that I highly recommend for slasher aficionados.