Wednesday, October 12, 2011

31 Days of '81 Horror: Hell Night (Tom DeSimone)

From the same producer (Mustapha Akkad) and distributor (Compass International) as John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic, Halloween, Hell Night takes place over the course of a single night, much like the majority of Carpenter’s film. Opening with a scream, which is not of horror, but of revelry, director Tom DeSimone and cinematographer Mac Ahlberg pull off an ambitious opening tracking shot that lasts about ninety seconds and impressively encompasses a large scale frat party where the attendants are costumed as literary characters(Robin Hood, etc.). Two initiation hopefuls and their girlfriends (Linda Blair, Jenny Neumann) will become members of the fraternity if they stay the whole night at an abandoned mansion of a man who ritually killed his family. Of course, the frat members don’t plan on making it easy and have rigged dummies, creepy noises and fog machines in an attempt to frighten the guests into an early exit, but lo and behold, it appears that there is actually someone or something that is really trying to murder the college kids.

Hell Night has two disparate tones; the early half is charmingly light and humorous, the latter half more typical slasher fare. Since the number of potential victims is low, we spend more time with them then we would in other films of the ilk, they may not be the most balanced characters cinema has to offer, but the four actors have strong chemistry and charisma. The tone is so light that when the killings do begin through the final frame, I kept anticipating an April Fool’s Day like twist, which ultimately was never coming. The second half of the film is darker, becoming a chase film with minimum dialogue and emphasis on suspense over violent kills a la Halloween. Hell Night is nowhere near the masterpiece that Carpenter’s film is, and it comparatively displays the directorial command of Carpenter, but there’s a respect of the audience’s intelligence by not providing any backstory other than the opening forewarning by the frat leader, and one or two scares that still hold up today.


le0pard13 said...

Very cool post, Colonel. Thanks.

Mummbles said...

This one sounds like something I would like, going to add it to my list of movies to watch.

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