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Hell Night (1981)

Shout! Factory
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/2/2018

All Ratings out of





Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/26/2017

When Irwin Yablans helped to produce a little movie called Halloween in 1978, let's assume that he hoped for the best. So, we can also assume that when the money from that little movie began to roll in, Yablans felt that he'd found an alchemic formula for creating profits. After all, Halloween cost relatively nothing to make, contained a few somewhat familiar faces, and didn't have much of a story. How hard would it be to recreate that sort of effect? This must have been the point of view when Yablans and other puts Hell Night into motion. But, as we all know, lightning rarely strikes twice.

Marti (Linda Blair) and her friend, Denise (Suki Goodwin), are college students who are attending a party during pledge week. They accompany members of the Alpha Sigma Ro fraternity to an ancient mansion where frat president Peter (Kevin Brophy) explains that a family had once lived in the mansion, but that the patriarch was driven mad following the birth of a deformed son...a son who was never found. As part of initiation, pledges Jeff (Peter Barton) and Seth (Vincent Van Patten) must spend the night in the house. Marti and Suki must also stay in the house. (Although it's never explicitly stated that they are pledging a sorority.) Once in the house, Seth and Denise head off to canoodle, while Marti and Jeff find a room to talk. Meanwhile, Peter and his cohorts are outside planning to play pranks on the pledges. However, unbeknownst to everyone, a sinister presence lurks in the house and it doesn't like intruders.

As noted above, Hell Night would seemingly fit into the Halloween formula. We have a particular night/event which will be familiar to many viewers. We have a group of horny teenagers who throw caution to the wind in order to pair off. We have an old legend which is hanging over the proceedings which, of course, no one believes in until it's too late. What could go wrong?

As it turns out, a lot, as Hell Night is rife with problems. First and foremost, this movie is boring. The vast majority of the movie is made up of people talking. Now, as it turns out, this is a staple of 80s horror movies, but we get an inordinate amount of talking in Hell Night. The movie opens with Peter telling the long story of what supposedly happened in the mansion. Then, we get two extended scenes in which Marti and Jeff talk. And then things get weird -- Seth and Denise talk. Now, that may not seem weird, but it's implied that they are going to be the couple who have sex, but...they don't. At least nothing which could be considered ordinary sex. Despite the fact that they are both in their underwear, Seth describes surfing, tickles Denise, and then they go to sleep. Umm...movie...are you going to be interesting at any point?

This is a horror movie, right? Yes, but it takes far too long for the horror aspects to finally arrive. There are several kills here, but they are relatively bloodless. We don't get a very good look at the monster. The finale should be exciting, but all that it taught me was that if you scream and flail your arms while driving, a car will go exactly where you want it to. In short, one of the main problems with Hell Night is that we have about 20 minutes of story here, and its been stretch out to 90 minutes.

Again, this sounds somewhat similar to Halloween, and Hell Night proves that it all has to do with who's behind the camera. No offense to Director Tom De Simone (who, before this, made a lot of movies whose titles suggest that they are porn), but John Carpenter took a simple idea and layered it with an air of tension and gave mythological weight to the story. Hell Night isn't the only shallow, talk horror film from the early 80s -- far from it. but, most had something to offer in the way of vicarious thrills, such as over-the-top gore or gratuitous T&A. In comparison, Hell Night has very little going for it, unless your a Linda Blair completist.

Hell Night does nothing to make Greek life look appealing on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Scream Factory. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, but it does show a noticeable level of grain at times, but there are very few defects from the source materials. The colors are acceptable, but they are hampered by the dark look here. The original movie was most likely dark, so the issue can't be blamed on the transfer, but things skew dark here. We can always tell what's happening, but it's undeniably dark. (Although, it should be noted that there is a lot of inexplicable light in the film.) The level of detail is OK, but some shots look soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio mono track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialgoue and sound effects. Being a mono track, we don't get any dynamic effects here. But, the music never overpowers the actors and we don't get any hissing or popping on the track.

The Hell Night Blu-ray Disc contains a hell of a lot of extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Tom De Simone, Producers Irwin Yablans & Bruce Cohn Curtis, and Linda Blair. "Linda Blair: The Beauty of Horror" (35 minutes) is a modern-day interview with the actress where she shares her views on the film and highlights of her horror career. "Hell Nights with Tom De Simone" (27 minutes) is an interview with the director, which was conducted at the house which stars in the film. He talks about the development of the movie and what the production was like. "Peter Barton: Facing Fear" (21 minutes) is a modern-day interview with the actor, who has aged well. Here, he admits that Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter is his best film. We get more behind-the-scenes info in "Producing Hell with Bruce Cohn Curtis" (14 minutes). "Writing Hell" (26 minutes) allows Screenwriter Randy Feldman to talk about his inspirations for the story. "Vincent Van Patten and Suki Goodwin in Conversation" (27 minutes) has the two actors reminiscing about the challenging night shoots. "Kevin Brophy and Jenny Neumann in Conversation" (23 minutes) brings us another sit-down with two actors who clearly haven't stayed in touch. "Gothic Design in Hell Night" (23 minutes) allows Art Director Steven G. Legler to explain how the film was shot in various locations and different sets. Make up artist Pam Peitzman and Special Effects artist John Eggett talk about creating the violence in "Anatomy of the Death Scenes" (22 minutes). "On Location at Kimberly Crest" (7 minutes) takes us on a tour of the mansion seen in the film. The extras are rounded out by a THEATRICAL TRAILER, two TV SPOTS, a RADIO SPOT, and a PHOTO GALLERY.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long