Our review of Fright Pack: The Devil Made Me Do It, published August 9th, 2005, is also available.
Pray for day!
Once again we look back on the 1980s, a time when most horror movies all had the same theme: get some good looking teens together and have a deformed maniac chase after 'em. Lather, rinse, repeat. Of course, the start of this trend was with John Carpenter's 1978 independent horror flick Halloween. After its success, the floodgates opened and slasher movies came out of the woodwork from every direction possible. In 1981, college sororities and fraternities became fodder for the beast with the release of the Linda Blair (The Exorcist) horror vehicle Hell Night. Also starring Vincent Van Patton (son of Dick) and a whole lotta nobodies, Hell Night pledges to scare on DVD care of Anchor Bay Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
For entrance into the Alpha Sigma Rho fraternity, four young pledges must pass a test of nerves and terror: spend a night in the dreaded Garth Manor. Lore has it that 12 years ago to the night, family patriarch Raymond Garth murdered his family at the manor, a clan filled with deaf mute and retarded children. Legend also serves that one child (a deformed monster) witnessed his family's slaughter, survived, and now lives hidden away somewhere in the Manor's underground passageways and tunnels. The foursome staying at Garth Manor don't buy into the stories and hope to have a night of partying and debauchery until the break of dawn! It soon becomes apparent that something is amiss in the house as one by one students start disappearing…and bodies begin showing up! Will these kids make it to the break of day? Or will this be their last "Hell Night" ever?
There are certain movies from my youth that really scared the living crap out of me. Hell Night is one of those movies. I remember watching Hell Night in my suburban Chicago house in 1985 with my sister, brother, and my sister's boyfriend. As we watched Hell Night we all screamed and yelled as monsters popped onto the screen and teenagers hid for cover. It was a frightfully fun time.
After re-watching Hell Night, I'm realizing that nostalgia is a funny little thing. What then seemed scary and fun then seems derivative and boring now. Maybe I've seen one too many horror movies. Maybe I've lost my taste for cheap horror re-hash. Whatever the reason, Hell Night was not half (or even a quarter) as fun as it was over 15 years ago.
Hell Night is a blatant clone of Friday The 13th (and most all other horror movies around this time). The plot is absurdly simple—so simple, in fact, that I can't believe they needed a screenwriter to write the movie. You'd think that the filmmakers could have done just as an effective job by improvising as they went along instead of penning it down on paper. The pace of the film is repetitive and dull—one teen hears a sound, goes snooping around, gets killed. Then the kids try to escape the house, snoop around, and get killed. And so on, and so on. A cookie cutter cast doesn't help matters much, the only standouts being Linda Blair and Vincent Van Patten (and that's only because we recognize their faces from better movies). Suki Goodwin, Kevin Brophy, Jimmy Sturtevant…recognize those names? No? I'm not surprised, as their performances in Hell Night aren't much to get excited about, ensuring that this will probably be the crowning jewel in the short film careers of these actors.
In the end, Hell Night just doesn't produce an effective amount of excitement or originality needed in a horror movie of this nature. If nothing else Hell Night would have benefited greatly from a cool looking villain, but alas, this wasn't meant to be. Instead, we get a ghoul that looks like an evil version of John Malkovich without any of his charisma.
I really wanted to like Hell Night. Maybe in 15 years I'll look back on the horror movies of today (which aren't all that impressive to begin with) and my hazy memory will fool me again. Until then, I guess I'm doomed to revisit movies of my youth followed by yet more sad disappointment.
Hell Night is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Once again, Anchor Bay has done a commendable job on this smaller title, making sure that all aspects of the color schemes and black levels are solid and evenly rendered. While a small amount of grain shows up occasionally, overall this is a very nice looking print.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital Mono in English only. Lacking depth and fidelity, this track is right on par with what a mono track should be. Though the sound field is less than impressive, all aspects of the dialogue, effects and music are clear of any distortion or hiss. No subtitles are included on this disc.
Anchor Bay has wrangled a few of the filmmakers from Hell Night into doing a commentary track (with actress Linda Blair, director Tom DeSimone, and producers Irwin Yablans and Bruce Cohn Curtis), and the results are less than stunning. Often times congratulatory, sometimes boring, and always bland, I wasn't thrilled with this derivative commentary track. Linda Blair seems a bit embarrassed to be at the screening, and everyone else just goes through the motions with giving out some vaguely interesting production tidbits and information on the cast and crew.
Also included on this disc are two TV spots for Hell Night (which are actually kind of fun to watch), an anamorphic theatrical trailer, and some talent bios on Linda Blair and some of the crew of Hell Night.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
What, no gratuitous boob or butt shots? For shame!
I may be correct in my suspicions that under better circumstances I may have enjoyed Hell Night more than I did. Some horror buffs will have a better time with this title than I did. As it stands, Anchor Bay has done fine work on Hell Night, but the movie just didn't leave a good taste in my mouth.
Hell Night is slapped with a hefty fine for being a bad rip-off of many other horror movies from the 1980s. Anchor Bay is released on good behavior.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• Theatrical Trailer
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