Peter’s Retro Movie Reviews: Hell Night (1981)

November 11, 2011

Hell Night Movie posterby Peter Nielsen

Welcome to Hell Night! A night devoted to booze, drugs and sex, at least for the members of the fraternity Alpha Sigma Rho and the members of its sister sorority. It is also the night when four college students go from being pledges to fully fledged members. But first… they have to spend the night at Garth Manor!

12 years ago, Raymond Garth went insane and killed his entire family (almost)! His wife had given birth to four children, all of them deformed in some way and after a couple of years he couldn’t take it anymore. He gathered them all in the park and started killing them off one by one starting with his wife. He then brutally slaughtered three of his children, leaving the fourth child, Andrew, alive to watch the whole thing… and then Raymond Garth hung himself.

But when the police arrived there was no trace of Andrew and they only found three corpses. It is said that Andrew still, to this day, roams around inside the manor and the winding underground tunnels beneath it.

This is the story told to the pledges as they’re slowly led up to the double-doors that open up into the entrance hall of the manor. After a few extra words of encouragement, or rather words to scare them further, they’re left to fend for themselves. The main gates are locked and the pledges are told that they will not be opened again ‘til dawn.

Who the hell locked this door?

Who the hell locked this door?

They split up into pairs with Seth and Denise going upstairs and Marti and Jeff opting to stay downstairs for a while. Seth and Denise is the “party-couple” and since she’s smuggled Quaaludes and Jack Daniels into the house, they have no intention of sleeping.

They’re played by Suki Goodwin and Vincent Van Patten. She’s a complete unknown who’s only done this and an episode of a TV-show called Voyagers!, but I have no idea what that show is. Mr. Van Patten’s done a lot of TV-work and also a little movie called Rock’n’Roll High School.

The other couple, the “responsible” one, Jeff and Marti, is played by Peter Barton from The Young and the Restless and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (the fourth installment in the series) and Linda Blair. She doesn’t really need an introduction, but I’ll mention a couple of titles anyway… Roller Boogie, The Exorcist (still scares the crap out of me) and Savage Streets (awesome revenge-flick).

See if I hold my hand like this, I can use it as a weapon.

See if I hold my hand like this, I can use it as a weapon.

As the night progresses, the leader of the fraternity and two other members return to the manor to scare our four pledges. They have rigged the place with hidden speakers and other scary stuff to make the night as uncomfortable as possible for the poor victims inside.

They’re scared at first, but soon find the electrical wires, the hidden switches and speakers and disconnect them. Thinking that that’s it, they settle back into their respective rooms for the remainder of the night. Little do they know that there really are survivors from the massacre 12 years earlier, roaming the halls.

Bummer, huh? But we all kind of saw that coming from the start, right?

This is one of those movies where the original VHS-cover/movie-poster always fascinated me and in my early teens it actually also unnerved me somewhat. I never got around to watching it at the time of its release, but it was a movie that kind of stuck with me over the years, mostly thanks to that cover I think, and when I finally did get to see it… I wasn’t disappointed. I think I actually appreciated it a little more with me being a bit older.

Nope! You're NOT getting out... yet!

Nope! You’re NOT getting out… yet!

The difference between Hell Night and other movies like this is that it steers away from the usual excessive use of nudity and gore. Not that I mind nudity and gore, but I don’t need it to that degree in every single movie and let’s be honest here… This genre tends to rely heavily on those things. It’s nice to see one that actually takes its time to get to know the characters at least a little bit… you know, before killing them off. In my opinion this makes it a tad better than a lot of other movies with similar themes.

But having said that… I don’t frown upon those. Oh no! On the contrary! I enjoy a good slasher-flick, you know? Like the Friday the 13th-series, The Burning, Sleepaway Camp or Halloween and there were a lot of them made, dating back from the late 70’s all through the 80’s and up to the early 90’s. Some of them good, some of them bad and even some that were god-awful, but as long as they’re entertaining it doesn’t really matter.

Hmm, I wonder?

Is it wrong to pair the word entertaining with a slasher-flick? Nah, I don’t think so. They’re only movies, dammit and are as such made to entertain, right? Whether they’re your cup of tea or not is entirely up to you, though. But if you, like me, is a horror-fan, you’ll definitely go for a second helping and Hell Night is not the worst place to go if you do…

So what if it’s a bit slow in places and that the acting is sometimes uneven. It is still a great ride and some of the lines in it are so hokey I can’t help but laugh, but not at it… with it! There’s nothing hokey about the scares though. Andrew Garth is one scary-looking individual and the closer we get to the ending the more intense Hell Night gets. And the ending is a memorable one! I kid you not! Remember the main gates? The ones that got locked for the night? Yeah, well… I’ll just leave it at that.

So until next time, my friends…

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