Despite being released in arguably the biggest year in horror, Hell Night is one of those forgettable films that could easily be buried in the midst of the other dark genre movies of the time had it not boasted The Exorcist’s Linda Blair as its scream queen heroine.
The concept is a fairly simple one, casting four college students who have been drawn the short straw to spend the night in the local mansion, which previously housed the murder/suicide of a man named Raymond Garth, along with his wife and deformed children. Local legend talks of a fourth son, Andrew, who may have survived the ordeal and lurks within the mansion walls.
So why stay there at all? Apart from to spark life into the film’s narrative that is. For the four students, it’s to win the right to initiate their pledge into Alpha Sigma Rho.
The four students consist of Marti (Blair), a smart, yet poor girl; Jeff (Peter Barton), a boy of wealthy upbringing; Seth (Vincent Van Patten), a stoner/surfer; and Suki (Denise Dunsmore), the licentious and adventurous member of the group.
There are numerous scares that have been set up by the existing house members, to try and liven up their doomed night and scare them away, but this has a negative impact of ‘the boy who cried wolf’ proportions when the murders begin and the body count begins to rise.
Hell Night had enough ingredients to make this work, and with a strong production team behind it which included Chuck Russell (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) and Frank Darabont (The Mist), but ultimately it struggles to lift itself out of a mediocre plotline, that is essentially a haunted house, boogeyman set up. It has since picked up a cult following which I find a little baffling, but each to their own. Unfortunately Blair also delivers a pretty shoddy performance that garnered her a Razzie nomination for Worst Actress that year.
- Saul Muerte