Hell Night (1981)
Directed by Tom DeSimone
Cast: Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Kevin Brophy, Jenny Neumann, Peter Barton, Jimmy Sturtevant, Suki Goodwin.
1981 102 minutes
Rated: (for violence, profanity, and sexual situations).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, November 1, 1998.
Now here's a surprise! "Hell Night," which was released in 1981 at the time of the big slasher film craze, is actually an effective, well-made picture.
The story, like most films in the genre, is simple. For their initiation into a fraternity, four college students agree to spend the night in the infamous Garth Manor, a mansion in which the family living there was murdered years before, with the gate locked up so they can't escape. While staying at the Manor, Marti (Linda Blair) begins to get to like Jeff (Peter Barton), a fellow pledge, and as three other students hide outside attempting to scare them, a killer lurks around the estate, set on killing them one by one.
Admittedly, "Hell Night" has an unoriginal story that is like any number of other similar slasher films, but what makes this one above-average is that, unlike the countless, "Friday the 13th" sequels, which were only concerned about violence and gore, "Hell Night" actually tries to be scary and suspenseful, and it surprisingly succeeds. The climax, especially, is very frightening and well-crafted.
Another plus is that this movie actually features one very good performance, by Linda Blair, a previous Academy Award nominee for 1973's brilliant, "The Exorcist," who is not only talented, but also a great screamer.
What keeps "Hell Night" from being anything particularly special is that, when it all comes down to it, it is only a slasher movie, with one death after the other, and the characters are pretty much one-dimensional. But director Tom DeSimone obviously was trying to break away from the norm and make a horror film that was actually good, and because of this, "Hell Night" is a worthwhile entry into the 80's mad-slasher wave.
© 1998 by Dustin Putman