Director: Tom DeSimone
Starring: Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Peter Barton, Kevin Brophy, Jenny Neumann
Pray for day!
To be welcomed into the Alpha Sigma Rho fraternity, four new pledges has to pass a test called “Hell Night” to show that they have what it takes by spending one night at the famous haunted grounds of Grand Manor.
The participants this year is Jeff, Marti, Denise and Seth and they are instructed to stay at Grand Manor until dawn when they will be let out. While the four is settling in, three of the senior members of the fraternity sets up some practical jokes on them to scare them further, but all of them will soon find out the true secret of Grand Manor and the evening does turn into a real Hell Night.
Hell Night is a cross between The House on Haunted Hill and The Funhouse. The setting is simple, but works well in the horror genre and the villain could easily have been in the Tobe Hooper film. It’s a teen horror film that is made to provide some cheap scares and easy entertainment for the younger horror crowd.
It’s a film that works on some levels, the characters aren’t bad and not as cliché as you might think if you look closely to their actions. Even the party animal of the bunch, Seth, makes good decisions and the same can be said about the final girl Marti aswell. The premise is also nice with the big castle or house looking excellent and even has a few gothic traits to it.
The bad parts is that it runs to long, it failed to keep me entertained for all of its 100 minutes and I think it would have been more effective if it had been 10 or 20 min shorter. Since there is also not a lot of characters in it either, there’s not that many kill scenes and while there are some scenes that deliver suspense it is not a very scary film. I also think they could have went a different way with the villain(s) of the film and made that more interesting.
One of the main reasons why this is remembered today is the star of the film Linda Blair. She will always have the attention of horror fans thanks to her role on the famous The Exorcist film, arguably the scariest movie of all time. She is young and looking very cute in this film and her final girl role as Marti is likeable and charming. The other girl of the four called Denise, played by the lovely Suki Goodwin, is the opposite of Marti. Denise is a party girl who have no problem using drugs or her body for fun. Both the boys Jeff (Peter Barton) and Seth (Vincent Van Patten) comes across as good lads and again I’d say that Seth sets himself a part from the normal horror cliché character by having smart decisions.
Hell Night was directed by Tony DeSimone, coming off several years of lacking exploitation films in the 70’s that include a film called Chatterbox that I won’t give much away on, just seek it out. He did have some good shots in the film and made the characters work and gel together very well, but he should also have made the editor Anthony DiMarco cut down the length of the film.
While I didn’t fall in love with Hell Night, I can see how this might be a film that other horror fans will like a lot. It’s got atmosphere and good characters in a great house, but the scares and violence is too tame for my taste. Even though I only think it is a decent film, you should still consider checking it out if you are a fan of early 80’s horror.