Hell Night (1981)

Hell Night (1981)

Pray for day!

Four college pledges have to spend a night in a deserted old mansion in order to gain entry to their chosen fraternity. However they soon find themselves victim to the surviving members of a family massacre who have been secret living in the mansion.

 

I think that this was one of the last truly well known 80s slasher films that I hadn’t seen. You’ve got the big hitter franchises (Friday the 13th, etc), the lesser known but still popular offerings (Prom Night, Terror Train, etc) and even some random bizarre gems that I stumbled upon by accident. So I’ve been really scraping the barrel to find some that I hadn’t seen. There’s probably a mystical reason why this was one of the last I came across. It was almost as if there were a supernatural force stopping me from finding out that it existed. And there’s a big reason for that – it’s a load of old cobblers.

At a bum-numbing one hundred and one minutes long, Hell Night overstays its welcome pretty quickly. I can’t think of too many slasher films that run past the hour and half mark. After all, once you’ve introduced characters and a killer, there’s not a lot you really need to do except kill them all off! One hundred and one minutes seems like unnecessary padding and that’s exactly what you get here. The build up is mercifully brief and the pledges get to the mansion in good time. The back story with the family massacre is presented to us and gives us an early insight in to who the killer will be. So why does it go downhill really quickly?

A lot of that is down to how it handles the characters. To start with, there aren’t a lot of them which means the body count is going to be low. Secondly, the film manages to kill off most of them before the half-way mark has hit meaning the last half of the film involves the same couple of characters running around the mansion being chased. It’s all very dull and lacks any excitement or sense of urgency. I mean why bother hurrying the story up when you’ve still got another thirty minutes to kill? Most slasher films would be finishing or wrapping things up by the time this happens. There are decent attempts at creating an atmosphere and the mansion is cobwebbed up to look like a remnant from a Scooby Doo cartoon but nothing much is made from it because the film is too busy dragging its heels to fill the running time. Why didn’t the editors get a hold of this film before it was released?

With the meagre budget, comes a meagre cast. Linda Blair, clearly only cast from her role in The Exorcist, lets her cleavage do most of her acting. The rest of the cast are alright but when did you see Vincent Van Patten or Suki Goodwin back in major roles? Strangely enough for such a low grade slasher, there’s no nudity and the ‘token slutty chick who gets naked’ doesn’t actually get naked. It comes to something when that happens! Gore is also on the save here. I can understand that there was a crackdown on slasher films at the time but even so, when a genre has been defined by its blood and guts, you need to have the essential elements in there.

 

Hell Night was made in the early 80s when the slasher genre was in its prime but by the looks of this, it was well past its best. In many ways it looks like a tame, watered-down slasher made for a younger market despite its higher certificate rating. A disappointing dud.

 

 ★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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