Hell Night

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Our rating: two lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

Hell Night
Insert your own Blair Witch joke here.
As we continue our little tour through the genre of school-related murder movies, we notice that there is an entire sub-genre of horror films set around fraternity and sorority initiations. Imagine our excitement! A whole new world of bad movies with which to torture ourselves! Don't get us wrong, we go into every movie with an open mind, but all the school-themed slasher films we've been watching have been getting to us.

Hell Night's main claim to fame is that it stars Linda Blair, also known as "that kid from The Exorcist." Apparently she ate up the entire budget, because the rest of the cast is strictly unknown. The rest of the acting talent is so cheap that the film's promiscuous female never takes her clothes off.

In order to finish their initiation into a fraternity/sorority, four college students are locked into a scary old mansion. The mansion, of course, has a bad history. Twelve years before, the patriarch of the Garth family went on a killing spree, wiping out his entire family before killing himself. But one member of the family was not accounted for when the bodies were counted, the idiot son Andrew.

Hell Night
"Gidget's Summer Reunion? No way am I
gonna appear in that kinda fluff!
I'm a serious actor, man!"
The four students are Marti (Blair), Jeff (Peter Barton), Denise (Suki Goodwin), and Seth (Vincent Van Patten). They are, in order, the good girl, the rich but nice guy, the randy surfer guy and the slutty girl. Once ensconced in the scary, creepy, dark n' damp mansion, these characters divide up in two groups. Marti and Jeff discuss deep issues, while Denise and Seth engage in sexual activities. We can't say Denise and Seth actually have sex, because hours later Denise is still wearing her complicated lingerie. So apparently it was just an epic session of foreplay. Suffice it to say that for a horror film, they're really developing the hell out of these characters.

The problem with the scenario as stated is that there aren't many potential victims. Additional victims are provided by older members of the fraternity who sneak on to the mansion's grounds with the intention of playing sophisticated pranks on the pledges. The first portion of the movie is devoted to the gory ends that the pranksters meet. The second section of the film is devoted to the killing of a couple of our main characters, followed by the remaining main characters running for their lives from the killer. Pretty standard stuff.

Hell Night
"Take my boots off during sex?
Why would I wanna do that?"
Hell Night has the usual hard-to-swallow plot developments which viewers of slasher films have come to expect. If the violent, idiot son Andrew disappeared twelve years ago, and has presumably been hiding on the grounds all this time, why did he wait until this particular night to start killing people? It sounds like the fraternity has been doing this as an initiation for a while. And while we're at it, how did the fraternity get to be as big as the one we see if they only initiate four students a year? And finally, Seth actually gets off the mansion grounds and goes to police, who naturally don't believe his story. After all, in these films the police aren't in the business of solving murders or anything. They're in the business of automatically not believing any crime a frat boy reports.

The crime we'd like to report is Hell Night's use of dumb point-of-view (POV) shots. Long ago some genius figured out that shooting from the point of view of an unknown party (presumably the killer) is pretty darn creepy. Not long after that, hack filmmakers began misusing this effect by not connecting the POV shot with the killer's actual location. Thus it is in Hell Night that a freaked-out victim will be seen from one point of view and then get attacked from an entirely different angle. We've complained before that Hollywood serial killers can apparently do magic, but that's one heckuva trick.

Why anyone would waste time with a film like Hell Night is beyond us; despite a few neat gore tricks (that decapitation-by-shovel will be worth a few freeze frames when Anchor Bay releases the special edition DVD), the rest of the film will bore most horror fans. There's no nudity, a low body count, and the characters spend more time talking than they do cowering in fear. Talk about misreading your audience: who cares if the dialogue is well-written when it takes 28 minutes for someone to die on screen?

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 9/1/99

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