Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hell Night (1981)


Reviewed By: Billy

It’s not often that a movie’s title completely describes the experience of watching the movie, but the producers of Hell Night are kind enough to warn us ahead of time. The fact that I’m subjecting myself to sit through this movie again is proof of just how dedicated we are here at Tower Farm. But trust me, I know how you’re feeling. I wanted to see this movie, too. I also almost made the mistake of buying a bootleg copy on E-bay. Thankfully, I saw it before the money was spent…so please, before you bid and make the mistake I almost did…read on.

The entire movie is actually encapsulated in the first minute-and-a-half. We open at one of those “wild” college parties with a wet T-shirt contest, a bonfire, a big house, and a guy walking around banging on a snare drum. Yes, at this college, band geeks are apparently invited to frat parties. Then, across the screen comes those magic words…the ones that have led so many of us astray: “Linda Blair in…” Again, I know how you feel. I want to like all Linda Blair movies as much as you do. But dammit, she’s going to make it awfully hard in the next 80-some minutes.

Thankfully, the men on screen apparently have no problem falling for Linda. In our first bit of dialogue, a 30-something frat guy is hitting on a 30-something sorority girl. She may look a little long in the tooth to be hanging around on campus, but she’s blond and shows off her boobs (to him, mind you, NOT the camera), so of course he asks her to go upstairs and “exchange phone numbers.” But then, he turns around and is enraptured by the girl he sees standing at the door. “Who’s she?” He asks. And then we, the audience, are given the privilege of gazing upon this feminine beauty, who must surely be so ravishing that a frat guy would completely blow his chance with an easy lay just to go and talk to her.

Now, let me just tell you that as I’m typing this, I paused my DVD and the screen froze on the very first image we get of Linda Blair. People, I’m alone in my apartment…and I actually burst out laughing. Not just a chuckle, but one of those gut-laughs you usually save for when you’re out with friends and want everyone to know that someone said something really funny. Yes, Linda Blair is the “hot” new girl on campus. She’s all gussied in a ruffled Victorian dress (complete with a pearl choker that looks dangerously close to popping off at any moment) and her 80s perm, a style she hung onto for way too long, is pulled into a bun atop her head. This, of course, only serves to accentuate the alarming roundness of Linda’s face – her babyish features may serve her well now that she’s in her 50s, but back when she was young, it always kind of made her look like a cartoon.

And cartoon-ish is probably the best, and kindest, way to describe Linda in this movie. The fact is, Linda Blair never really had much sex appeal. There is nothing erotic about her onscreen. With her squirrel-esque cheeks and robotic voice, Linda Blair was always better suited to the plucky sidekick roles; you know, the "Scooby-Doo" Velma-type. In fact, that she’s named Martie here is absolutely perfect; it certainly conveys the utter asexuality of her character. You would believe that Martie is the bookish nerd who hangs around a hot sorority girl hoping that some of the inherent carnality rubs off on her; but Martie as the hot sorority girl? Not a chance.

So, in a minute-and-a-half, we’ve pretty much set up the rest of the movie. Linda Blair will survive, a bunch of these horny Greek a-holes will die, and we’re not getting any nudity in between. As an extremely lame hazing ritual, Linda, a slutty redhead (who is British for some reason…and not much of a slut), and two generic guys end up having to spend the night in a mansion where years ago some guy’s family was killed. Why there are only four pledges doing this is never explained; maybe these houses are just really selective. Anyway, if you don’t already know that the guy whose family was killed is still living in the house, unrealistically hiding away all these years, well then, you’ve never seen Friday the 13th Part II.

What really sets this movie apart is the intelligence of the dialogue. If I may…a few examples:

-“If I meet a little gork here tonight named Garth, I’m gonna ask him for an extra pair of long underwear, because it’s getting as cold as a hound’s pecker in December out here!”

-“What a little twat. We should have left her behind.”
-“Why? Her behind is the best part. We should’ve kept the behind and left the rest of her.”

-“I don’t give a darn about politics. And I’m beginning not to give a darn about sororities, either.”

Yes…the leading lady in this 80s slasher says “darn.” But, Martie is not your typical leading lady. Not only is she a girl who stops traffic with her allure, but she’s also brainy AND knows how to fix cars. She’s also apparently quite forgetful, considering we get a scene where a guy asks her, “Why are you here?” and she gives us a monologue about how all her friends were joining sororities and it seemed like the right thing to do, and then TWO SCENES LATER, the same guy asks her “Why are you here?” and she says she’s been asking herself the same question all night. Umm…no…actually he’s been asking you the same question, and you already answered it.

Anyway, we’ve really already spent too much time on this movie. You all know that such elements of ridiculousness usually attract Tower Farm; but those elements have to add up to an enjoyable movie. The big problem here is that if this movie is not rated PG, it should be. There’s no nudity, no sex, no good death scenes, and no language stronger than the aforementioned “twat.” The entire thing really does come across like an ABC Family Channel Halloween special produced by Hannah-Barbera. And there’s nothing you can get in this movie that you can’t get in another, more entertaining one. You want plucky little Linda saving the day? Grab Exorcist II. Want sorority girls and frat boys? Why not try Black Christmas. Got a hankering for slutty redheads? Well, just about every 80s slasher had one of those.

Instead, Hell Night comes across as a big, boring waste of time. The only scene worth your time is the one where Linda, in the big final chase scene, actually stops…pops open the hood of the car…and FIXES it before driving off into the sunrise. Now that’s genius. Otherwise, Hell Night is exactly what it says it is: a night of hell. And if you don’t agree with me, well…I really don’t give a darn.

ONE GOOD BELLY-LAUGH = ONE FINGER (OH, WHAT THE HELL…PLUS ANOTHER HALF FOR THE JIFFY LUBE SCENE)

3 comments:

  1. Yes, it's a pretty rotten movie. Did you know that the director, Tom DeSimone made his start as a director of gay porn, then he moved on to straight skin flicks, then to horror and television series (including Freddy's Nightmares).

    Living the American Dream, that's Mr. DeSimone!

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  2. Yes...the fact that the director also did gay porn is one of the few reasons I even watched this movie in the first place.

    Unfortunately, the only beefcake we get are the extra pounds on Linda Blair.
    -Billy

    ReplyDelete
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