Hell Night (1981) **1/2
D: Tom DeSimone
C: Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Peter Barton, Kevin Brophy, Jenny Neumann
Plot Synopsis: Four college pledges are forced to spend the night in a deserted old mansion where they get killed off one by one by the monstrous surviving members of a family massacre years earlier for trespassing on their living grounds.
Review: On the surface, Hell Night seems to get it right. The film takes place in a spooky old mansion that is filled with labyrinth like mazes. The corridors, of said mansion, are lit by candlelight, giving the film an even more atmospheric look. The film's cinematography amps up the foreboding nature of the film's principal location. And the film not only stars cult icon Linda Blair of The Exorcist, but an assortment of well liked teen idols such as Vince Van Patten (son of Dick, co-star of Rock 'n' Roll High School) and Peter Barton (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter). So where did Hell Night go wrong?
After the opening act, a wild fraternity / sorority party in which a group of pledges are forced to spend the night in a spooky old mansion, the film goes absolutely nowhere for what seems like forever. People run around. They scream. They holler. They're chased by a monstrously deformed man. And then one of them even manages to escape and run off to the police. Guess what happens from there?
If you said, the police come to said mansion with guns a blazing, you would be wrong! No. In a groan inducing moment, right out of the horror cliche handbook, the police don't believe a single word said escapee has to say. So instead of running for dear life, he (or she) returns back to that spooky old mansion in order to contribute to the film's overall body count.
That's not to say that all is lost. In the final moments of the film, Linda Blair's character is given a few decent moments such as being the pillar of strength for the other characters when all they want to do is break down and cry. Her character is the one jumping over a gate laced with sharp spikes. And when a car is discovered, that naturally won't start, it's Blair's character who pops the hood and gets it running. Blair's final girl was the final girl who fights back before there was a final girl who fought back truly existed.
So what we have here, with Hell Night, is a film that starts and closes pretty decently. Too bad the film's midsection makes up such a large portion of the proceedings. [R] 100 minutes.
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