HELL NIGHT (1981)

Without question, HELL NIGHT is a formula movie. That’s not always a bad thing, as plenty of other horror flicks have achieved an awful lot out of formula. But in the case of Tom DeSimone’s picture, it’s hard to say anything impactful happens until it’s too late. The method is kind of all there is, even if it is gussied up in pseudo-Gothic dress.

Consider Edwin Brown’s THE PREY as a comparison. That slasher took the notion of babes in the woods and dovetailed it with a natural sense of place, giving the slayings certainty. With HELL NIGHT we at least get Linda Blair and a murderer that is, as far as I can tell, a “gork.”

Blair stars as Marti, one of a group of college students pledging into Alpha Sigma Rho. She’s at a costume party at Garth Manor, a supposedly abandoned mansion with a backstory involving warped children and suicide. Legend has it one of the Garth children, the aforementioned “gork,” evidently went missing.

Marti and her pals tinker around the mansion, while Peter (Kevin Brophy) and his cronies working out some daunting pranks for the pledges. Trouble hits when Peter’s pals start turning up dead and the real monstrosity behind the Garth Manor makes its presence known.

It’s clear DeSimone wants to distinguish HELL NIGHT by fashioning a sort of Gothic feel, which takes very modern college students and puts them in costumes. The rest of the picture concerns either Peter’s pranks or the very real killings. DeSimone yanks us between both, setting up a kind of menacing sense of reality as we watched stunned characters meet their ends.

Alas, most of the characters simply spend time sitting in bed talking things over. It’s not the most engrossing dialogue either, as Marti and her buddy Jeff (Peter Barton) contemplate things like her automotive skills and her history. The former comes in handy later in the picture, so there’s that.

The other couple (Vincent Van Patten and Suki Goodwin) try to do it before the killer comes their way, but their attempted coitus is as listless as the accumulating cadavers. Goodwin’s character boasts perhaps the most personality, with Blair’s Minnie Mouse-inspired squealing leading to more than a few inadvertent giggles.

Overall, HELL NIGHT is unremarkable. Notwithstanding its Gothic aesthetic, the horror doesn’t hold up and the action isn’t exciting. The characters are rudimentary and one-dimensional with few practical exceptions and the murderer, “gork” or not, is just a nondescript aspirant to the crown.

Published by Jordan Richardson

Writer. Troublemaker. Ne'er-do-well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: