Director – Tom DeSimone
Cast – Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Peter Barton, Kevin Brophy, Jenny Neumann, Suki Goodwin, Jimmy Sturtevant
Release Year – 1981
Reviewed by John of the Dead
While The Exorcist will forever mark her career as her most notable effort, Hell Night is one Linda Blair film that has not achieved the recognition it deserves. While employing the usual slasher template, Hell Night gives us great execution that makes for more than just the usual slasher experience, and results in one of the more under-appreciated horror films of the early 1980s.
Linda Blair stars as Marti Gaines, one of four college fraternity/sorority pledges who must spend the night in an old home, the sight of a famous massacre years before, in order to gain admittance. Those running the challenge have no plans of letting their young pledges stay the night without a few creative scares, but soon enough both parties wind up running for their lives when a monstrous killer begins dismembering the young coeds.
If are like myself and will never tire of 80s slasher films then Hell Night is another worthwhile effort that you can chalk onto your queue or add to your DVD collection. While not a new idea, I loved how we were given a group of young adults forced to stay the night in a creepy old home that was the scene of a grisly murder years prior, as I love films involving people moving/residing in a home with a haunted past. There is a high level of fun in this piece as we follow the young teens partying and having a good time before and while in the home, followed by many ghostly pranks from those who set up the challenge, and the film only gets better when our killer begins hacking them up in sweet fashion. Not too much development takes place before the first kill hits the screen (30 minutes or so), and from then on out the kill sequences continued in awesomeness as did the overall horror provided. My only compliant, and this is not a major issue, is that the first half of kill sequences were very awesome and gory, whereas the latter half of kills were much more tame and not as heavy hitting. Had the kills continued in awesome fashion then this film could have potentially received a higher rating, but nonetheless it at least kept up the kills in general and was very deserving of this positive rating.
Former porn director Tom DeSimone did a great job executing this piece, employing superb sets that made for a very high production value despite the film’s low budget. The home used was incredibly creepy and provided awesome atmosphere, and a good musical score complimented this atmosphere and rose the creepy factor (and my enjoyability) to high levels. His kill sequences were awesome and made for much of my enjoyment of this piece thanks to great live-action FX and full-frontal direction of the applicable kills that called for it, which were the first half of awesome kills mentioned earlier. The look of the killer was great and not what I had originally expected as he was more of a monster than your typical human killer, which I only found pleasure in. Continuing his awesome execution of the horror, DeSimone gave us numerous drawn out scenes that raised the tension to supreme levels and took full advantage of the awesome atmosphere he provided. I loved these scenes as they reminded me of the long scenes we get in giallo films, but with that classic 80s feel that we know and love. I must make mention of Linda Blair given the film is marketed with Linda Blair’s name, and while she plays a very prominent role in the film she was honestly nothing special in her performance, but she served her purpose.
Overall, Hell Night is an enjoyable 80s slasher film that gives us the usual story but with great execution. DeSimone is fantastic in giving us superb atmosphere, great kills, and plenty of overall horror in a fun experience that is still under-appreciated to this day. Recommended.