Hell Night is a bit of a cult favourite amongst horror fans. It combines the early slasher period with some slightly supernatural overtones, and stars scream queen royalty in the form of Linda Blair. But is it a worthy film to own or watch? Well, read on to discover more…
Hell Night Synopsis:
As an initiation rite into Alpha Sigma Rho fraternity, four pledges must spend a night in Garth Manor, twelve years to the day after the previous resident murdered his entire family. Two of the pledges, Marti and Jeff ignore the rumours that the now-deserted mansion is haunted by a crazed killer, until one by one, members of their group mysteriously disappear. Could this be a part of a fraternity prank… or is a demented former tenant seeking revenge?
When this seemingly innocent night turns deadly, these college students will do anything to survive Hell Night.
And that’s the plot. Honestly speaking, it’s a fairly standard slasher plot, it’s only the execution that brings something new to the table.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!! So, the plot hinges on a mass murder and a missing family member. The films big twist is that it is revealed that not one, but 2 family members had survived the legendary mass murder. And the killings in the film are being committed by both of them. Now, this is only revealed in the final act, obviously to maintain the suspense in the film. As a conceit, the fact that there are 2 killers is really well hidden as we see very little of either until the finale. We see hulking shadows, clawed hands, even some silhouettes lit from behind. But we never see the face, or rather faces, until the final act.
Beyond that, the initial prank laden build up is quite fun. We get to meet the characters properly. We have some background other than the usual stereotypes filled in. And we develop a reasonable attachment to our heroine. Hell Night is clearly a “star vehicle” for Linda Blair, as she gets the majority of the screen time. Friday the 13th alumni Peter Barton isn’t far behind her though, sharing many scenes with Linda as we head towards the conclusion.
As a slasher film goes, the kills are fairly restrained compared to, say, The Burning or any of the Friday the 13ths. But that isn’t to say they aren’t effective. Gore is used sparingly, and to great effect, highlighting the kills rather than overwhelming them. Of course, Hell Night does resort to a number of tropes. Pretty much every slasher film does. It’s how the function if we are honest. There is a clear “final girl”, there are clear “cannon fodder” characters. But none of this takes away from the enjoyable way the film is put together. It has that little bit more depth to the characters, and the situation.
This French edition of Hell Night is presented on 2 discs. The first of these is the Blu Ray disc, the second being a DVD copy. The image quality is acceptable, but it is not quite perfect. It is clear that the print used had some minor damage on it, as evidenced by the occasional vertical scratch on the left had side of the image. It is also pretty grainy at times. Despite these flaws, however, it is a significant step up from the old UK Prism Leisure DVD, which was horribly soft and suffered from an odd, pinkish colour balance. The audio is a simple dual mono English track, with a French dubbed option, or French subtitles offered as alternatives.
The disc also features 3 interviews in English with star Linda Blair, Director Tom DeSimone, and art director Stephen G. Legler. You also get a trailer, and a booklet in French. All this is housed in a nicely designed cardboard digipack. My only complaint about the packaging is it is standard DVD case sized, and not Blu Ray sized, so looks out of place on my shelf.
Hell Night: The Verdict:
Overall, Hell Night is a fun little slasher romp that slipped under the radar originally, but has built up a solid cult reputation in the intervening years. There is a “Collectors Edition” available in the US from Scream Factory with more extras, but that can be quite expensive. As an alternative, this is more than acceptable, especilaly if you can get it for a reasonable price.
Overall, 4/5 Fiends. Bloody good fun.
Buy Hell Night: Amazon.co.uk
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