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.
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.
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?
Review date: 9/1/99
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