Thursday, February 9, 2012

Final Girl Film Club: Hell Night (1981)

I've already talked about my deep, unfailing love of Stacie Ponder's blog Final Girl and with the return of The Final Girl Film Club which means I can stop running around fretting endlessly about what horror movies I am and am not watching which brings us to....

Hell Night is a happy throw back to slashers of old. One where the characters are not shouting out post-modern, ironic one liners. No! They were wooden characters based on what some old film producers thought kids were like. There is the promise of The 3 Bs: booze, boobs and bludgeonings! It's all that a classic slasher should be.

Four college frat and sorority pledges must spend the night in the Garth Manor where family patriarch Raymond Garth murdered his family that was comprised of deaf, mute and retarded children. Legend has it that one child survived the ordeal and is still living in Garth Manor.  Two guesses as to who makes an appearance within the first 40 minutes. I say 40 minutes because Hell Night is one hell of a slow burn. It's oddly pre-post-modern. The sex yields no boobs or butt, the kills produce minimal blood and there is more tension than shock.

Costume Party = Atmosphere
The four pledges naturally assume the legend is meaningless and look forward to a night of indulgence and illegal substances. Then the deaths happen. You've got the sex fuelled twosome, the Final Girl and the Sensitive Guy and the Frat members trying to scare the bejesus out of them. As the bodies start piling up it's a race to see who will make it to day break and WHAT WILL BE LEFT OF THEM!! ...

I have to say, I really really liked Linda Blair in this. As Marti she's charming, sweet and has some ridic heaving bossums and adorable puppy fat. But more importantly, she embraces the Final Girl tropes of being level-headed and sound while mayhem goes on around her. I was shocked to learn that Blair was nominated for a Razzie award for Worst Actress that year. The other actors are 80s bad, which equals this decade's ironic hilarity.  The pacing does suffer from repetitive kill syndrome. Pretty Young Thing hears noise, PYT goes to investigate noise, winds up deader than a door nail.

"Gorked Out"
Hell Night is pretty by the books, once the "gorked-out" (a term I'm pretty sure is only used in this film) missing son turns up the murders are minimal and more tension inducing than your normal slasher. It's not exactly The Haunting but it's not Friday the 13th either. If you've noticed it's pretty hard to talk about this film without bringing up all the horror slasher cliches ever. And while Hell Night does contain pretty much all of them it's well worth a look and a pleasant gem of the horror canon to discover.


  1. I think I actually really dug this movie because of (rather than in spite of) its addiction to genre cliches.

    1. I hadn't watched an "old skool" slasher in a while and it was fun to see all the tropes again. However, I forgot how repetitive they feel. Slash, kill, repeat.

      I tend to think these movies are better watched in a group. If we could get all the Final Girl film club members together... well, that would be one for the books.