Thursday, August 11, 2011

Summer of Slash: Hell Night

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.


  1. This is one I've seen and do have a good deal of affection for. It has the great distinction of being probably Linda Blair's second best Horror flick, and has some truly gut busting scenes (I recall one where there is a fight between a ghoul and a kid in a tux and the ghoul has to be killed like 5 times. Which the last being a pop up from a shallow bird bath to which he's instantly shot again goes down like a ton of bricks)... I think the first time I rented this as a kid it was because I thought the blond haired bully from KARATE KID was in it. But it's just a guy who looks similar.

    I actually own a copy of this in one of those old gigantic white plastic vhs copies. It gets popped in every now and again.

    Awesome that I just looked up this director on imdb and the film he directed immediately after this one was a porno called 'Skin Deep'. Which is pretty hilarious, plus up to HELL NIGHT he did mostly porn, which is surprising when you consider how tame HELL NIGHT actually is.

    Good stuff.

  2. Thanks, Jamie. Sorry this has taken me so long to get back to. I've been super busy with work lately. As for Hell Night, it's a nice little horror movie that doesn't take itself too seriously and has some pretty good moments.

    Thanks for following along with this thing considering how erratically I've been posting. I have recently watched Frightmare, Hitcher in the Dark, Evilspeak, and The Final Terror (look that one'll be surprised at the people who worked on that movie) and plan on doing some reviews for those shortly.

    Thanks again, Jamie.

  3. Ah no worries Kevin, been busy myself at work, but that generally also means a lot of time in front of the computer so I can always sneak a quick break to read or comment under a blog. Either way, however long it may potentially take you the content and slashers films make it worth it!

    I've just seen EVILSPEAK of the ones you name here, and I am aware of the bevy of talent in the cast of THE FINAL TERROR, I've read about that one quite a bit but for some reason haven't made the final move to obtain a copy to see.

    I've been watching some crazy stuff myself-- FINALLY getting NIGHTMARE CITY that you (obviously as this blog's name implies) adore and I think your brother does as well. I just loved it, actually thinking it's a better film then 3 of Romero's 4 zombie flicks. At least to me anyways, it was just such a blast.

    I also just watched the spooky 'Among the Living' (1941) which is a great Horror-Noir, and--this one you HAVE to check out-- Jesus Franco's FACELESS from the late 80s. It's part Eurosleaze, part almost giallo (as it's a detective thriller), part slasher (so it'll fit your summer of slash theme) but it's downright savage in its violence/kill scenes. He's dropped the nudity angle of so much of his work and just did straight up sadism. Great stuff. (and I wasn't, or still am not a huge fan of him so it really surprised me)

  4. I like what you say about Van Patten here, Kevin...ha! He was never an actor I had much regard for. HELL NIGHT is certainly a notable vehicle in this genre, but I was even more intrigued to see you broaching TOURIST TRAO and TERROR TRAIN. The former in particular, was horrifying, and I can never forget the scene where Chuck Connors plasters the young girl's face, telling her "you will never see again."

  5. Jamie: I'm glad you finally got around to Nightmare City! One of my favorites.

    Sam: Thanks! Van Patten is pretty bad. I think he is a commentator for poker now. Anyway, I like the scene you mention from Tourist Trap; it's one of the most memorable from the film and one of the reasons why I thought the movie was a notch above most of the slasher movies from that era. It's an oddball entry into the subgenre before it became mainstream. I abhor horror remakes, but I'm really surprised someone hasn't decided to make a darkly comic remake of Tourist Trap. Sorry this has taken me so long to get back to this. Things have been crazy around here. Thanks as always, Sam, for checking this out.