Hell Night
1981
Director: Tom DeSimone
Stars: Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Peter Barton
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons

When it comes time for people to name their favorite slashers from the 80s, as it always does, 1981’s Hell Night is often overlooked by many horror fans, and I don’t know why. Sure it doesn’t have a sky-high body count, and the killer didn’t have an iconic gimmick to make him stand out like a hockey mask, knife glove, chainsaw, or William Shatner mask. But the killer was creepy as hell, the setting was atmospheric, the “kids” were all likable (an important point that many horror movies today seem to forget), and it had Linda Blair looking cuter than ever. So three big cheers to Scream Factory bringing out this often-forgotten hidden gem to Blu-ray. So put on a costume, grab a flashlight, and let’s hang out with everyone’s favorite gorked out killer in Hell Night.

Four college pledges, two girls and two guys, have to spend the night in a deserted, rundown mansion as part of a college Hell Night hazing. This mansion was, years ago, the scene of a grisly murder/suicide when a man who had many children, all with various deformities and mental disorders, got tired of it all and killed everyone save for one child, “Gorked out” (disparaging medical slang that stands for “God Only Really Knows”) Andrew, and no one knows what happened to Andrew after that.

So right away you got a wonderful gothic mansion as the backdrop for the movie, and it is well-used and shot in this film, giving a basic slasher flick lots of atmosphere and mood you often don’t get in such films. The cinematography is top notch and the whole movie is just gorgeous to look at, and it’s never looked better than on this Blu-ray. Anyway, back to the story.

The four kids go into the mansion for a sleepover, three more college kids come to try to scare them, and then a big, grunting, barefoot killer starts, well, killing everyone he meets. The mansion has no phone or electricity and is surrounded by a twelve-foot-high iron gate topped with sharp spikes, so the slumber party guests aren’t going anywhere. This truly is a Hell Night.

What sets this movie apart from the flood of other slashers coming out at that time, besides how good everything looks and the aforementioned atmosphere, is the more-than-capable direction, the down-right good acting, likable characters, effective (but sadly for the gorehounds, relatively bloodless) kills, and Linda Blair who raises the class of anything she’s in, Even The Exorcist II.

On to the extras Scream Factory has given us for this new two disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. There is an audio commentary with director Tom DeSimone, star Linda Blair, and producers Irwin Yablans and Bruce Cohn Curtis. There is new 35-minute interview with Linda Blair about the movie and then a 27-minute featurette with director Tom DeSimone on the real-life gothic-as-hell mansion where the movie was shot and making the movie in general. There’s a 21-minute interview with leading man Peter Barton, another with producer Bruce Cohn Curtis that runs for 14 minutes, and then a 25-minute interview with Randolph Feldman, who wrote the movie. There is a two-for-one interview with Vincent Van Patten and Suki Goodwin, who play two doomed lovers in the movie, and that conversation runs for 27 minutes, and then another conversation with Kevin Brophy and Jenny Neumann, another couple that wouldn’t see the sunrise in this movie, and this one runs for 23 minutes. Then there are three featurettes, one about the gothic design in the movie that is 23 minutes long, one about how all the death scenes in the film were shot that runs 22 minutes, and the third about the famous Kimberly Crest mansion where the movie’s exteriors were shot that’s just under seven minutes long. Then of course there are the TV spots, a theatrical trailer, radio spots, and a photo gallery. All in all a pretty impressive collection of extras for this new release.

Hell Night is a great horror movie, slasher or otherwise, and one that should be in any horror fan’s movie library. It has always been one of my favorites and here it looks great with its new HD transfer and comes with lots of special features. This is a must-have in my book and so easily gets a very high recommendation.