Hell Night (1981)

by Zombie Bodhi

Hell Night title screen

During a pledge recruitment effort called “Hell Night” for the Alpha Sigma Rho fraternity and it’s sister sorority, four college freshmen must spend the night in an abandoned old mansion who’s former resident’s were allegedly involved in a murder suicide at the hands of the Garth family father and husband. And while the stay at the old Garth mansion is intended as a setup for cheap practical jokes by the fraternity’s president, his crony side kick nerd boy, and his bimbo girlfriend; they didn’t count on one thing, that the house might still be occupied.

Vincent Van Patten in Hell Night

Vince Van Patten preparing for his new adult film role - Robin Wood.

Hell Night is an interesting early 80s horror movie. It’s a slasher movie, with a haunted house movie feel, yet with a dash of of Animal House thrown in for good measure. And if that’s not enough to make you curious, then perhaps the movie’s final girl, Linda Blair of The Exorcist fame (she was the possessed little girl) might entice you. Besides, just as Linda Blair is the final girl in this movie, this review is also part of THE Final Girl’s famed film club which I feel honored to finally participate in, and hang out with the cool kids.

Suki Goodwin in Hell Night

Yup, it's your classic case of Butterface...

While the four young college students are locked inside the mansion, it’s a typical teen/young adult romp with two diametrically opposed pairs of students. On the one hand you have the surfer party guy and free spirited party girl. On the other hand you have the quiet composed rich kid and the prudish “no-fun” girl played by Linda Blair. And just like in the old “Scream” rules to surviving a horror movie, the pair that has sex, drinks and does drugs are the first on the chopping block.

Suki Goodwin Hell Night monster

I'm not one for manicure's but that's some serious fungus action right there.

What makes Hell Night particularly suspenseful during the first half of the movie, is that there are many moments when we know that something is going to happen but we aren’t sure whether it’s going to be one of the practical jokes/scare tactics being played by the fraternity president or whether it’s going to be a real bad guy. There’s even a pretty decent ghost scene which I’m not sure is ever explained whether it was an illusion setup by the nerd boy or whether it was a real ghost.

Linda Blair and Peter Barton in Hell Night

"Perhaps it would be better if we split up..."

For an 80s slasher flick, this was a pretty solid watch, definitely not terrible… however, I do have one gripe. I was fairly disappointed in Linda Blair’s character, as she doesn’t seem to live up to quality final girl standards. Through-out the movie she doesn’t really do a whole lot, with the exception of the very end where she makes one last desperate attempt to save her life. She never really transforms into the self-empowered, pissed off type of final girl who confronts the bad guy that we see in other slasher flicks of the 80s like Nightmare on Elm Street or Halloween. Instead, she mostly whimpers and hides behind the rich kid for much of the film.

Despite that one gripe, I will say that overall, Hell Night is still a solid slasher film that is both fun, filled with suspense and some good surprises to boot. I would definitely recommend it for anyone who is a child of the 80s and somehow managed to never see it like I did, so props to Stacie Ponder, The Final Girl, for recommending I get my film club on.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Enkosky February 23, 2012 at 10:00 pm

I think I loved this film because of all the cliches. Also, I dug how it easy it was for Vincent van Patten’s character to grab the shotgun from the unlocked evidence room at the police station.

Zombie Bodhi February 24, 2012 at 11:54 am

@Dave,
Yea it definitely hit on all the right cliches for a slasher flick, with the exception of the nudity thing, but sometimes it’s nice to have a slasher flick that focuses more on the slashing than showing off skin.

I mentioned this on Final Girl’s blog, but I definitely loved Vince Van Patten who played Seth, since he seemed more like he belonged in a surfer movie than a slasher movie. The fact that his first instincts were to get the hell out of Garth house as quickly as possible, then later on going for the guns kind of shows that he defies what most teens do in a slasher movie – stupidly get themselves killed. Though Seth’s only bad move was assuming that there was only one killer in the house, which is understandable.

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