Judge Gordon Sullivan drinks chamomile tea on Blood Night.
Our review of Blood Night: The Legend Of Mary Hatchet, published January 8th, 2010, is also available.
Will you make it through the night?
Nostalgia plays a big part in popular media. Whether it's love songs or slasher films, they almost always made them better back in the day. Of course, very few people pause to realize that "back in the day" is often when we, as consumers, were most susceptible to the charms of those particular objects. Contemporary love songs no longer sound as sweet because anyone over the age of eighteen already has their own canon of classic jams. Slasher films are the same. For some, Halloween was the scariest thing ever, for a later group it was A Nightmare on Elm Street, and when I was a youngster, Scream was all the rage. All this is really to say that Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet is a difficult film to judge. It's a meat-and-potatoes slasher film that doesn't try to be clever or cute, but instead serves up a bunch of partying teens to a stabby killer with a spooky past. Sure it's been done before, but in a culture saturated with remakes, reimaginings, and simple rehashes, horror fans will be comforted by a film that feels like a throwback without feeling nostalgic.
Many years ago, Mary went and killed her parents and was committed to an institution. When she grew up, she was raped by a night watchman and got pregnant. When she was told her baby didn't survive, Mary went on a rampage before being killed by police. In her honor, local teens begin Blood Night in 1989, an evening of drinking and pranks in the best Halloween-style tradition. On the twentieth anniversary, a group of teens attempt to summon Mary's ghost before embarking on a night of drinking and sex. When they start dying one by one, they have to wonder if they summoned back more than a ghost.
Blood Night has all the classic ingredients for a slasher: a holiday (in this case invented), a group of teens who like to drink and have sex, the legend of a local killer, a crazy old man (played, as many of these characters have been of late, by Bill Moseley), some nudity, and plenty of gore. The film generally conforms to a typical three-act structure, with the introduction of the killer's legend, the teens partying, and then the teens dying before the final showdown. The acting from all involved (especially genre stalwarts Bill Moseley and Danielle Harris) is top notch for this kind of film, and its especially nice to see actors refrain from winking at the camera or overplaying their (admittedly) stereotypical roles.
Serious slasher fans might notice a few hiccups with the film, however. The opening, where we learn about Mary and her tragic demise, has a gritty, fairly contemporary feel. There are shades of Rob Zombie's work on The Devil's Rejects or his Halloween remake, though not quite as in-your-face. Then there's Mary's rape, which is oddly placed. It's pretty brutal, but not terribly explicit. If more were suggested (rather than shown/heard), it would be creepier, but if even more were shown, it would be more disturbing. As it is the scene sits weirdly in the opening of the film, not quite fitting into the rest of the film tonally. That shift is especially evident because not long after her rape, Mary is murdered, and then the film downshifts into teenage partying. This tone shift is a bit odd, and led me to expect a much darker movie than Blood Night turned out to be. Finally, the buildup before the killing starts goes on a bit long. I liked getting to know the characters, but there are a lot of them and it takes too long before they get dispatched. Really, though, these are all quibbles that show Blood Night as a good (though not quite great) slasher film.
Blood Night was originally released via a print-on-demand service, but this release has been picked up for wider distribution. Everything appears to be the same, from the clean anamorphic video to the extras. The transfer is very solid (especially for an indie film like this), with strong blacks and no serious compression problems. The 5.1 audio keeps dialogue clear and audible, and the surrounds get a bit of use during spookier scenes. The extras include a short making-of, some interviews with the cast and crew, and some outtakes.
Blood Night is one of those rare slashers that manages to capture the feel of watching an Eighties fright flick without feeling like it's trying to recreate another film. Verdict's own Daryl Loomis is quoted on the box for this DVD, and I'll let him have the final word: "Slasher fans will eat this flick up."
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