Hell Night – USA, 1981

‘Pray for day’

Hell Night is a 1981 American slasher horror feature film directed by Tom DeSimone (Terror in the Jungle) from a screenplay by Randy Feldman. It stars Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten and Peter Barton. Dan Wyman (Without Warning) provided the soundtracks score.

Director De Simone stated he wanted a “classic Gothic look” for the film: “I don’t like these horror films where people are walking around haunted houses wearing jeans and T-shirts. So we threw our heads together and I said I wanted Linda in a Gothic kind of wardrobe. And we came up with the idea to make the hell night party a costume party. And that way we were able to have everyone in those kinds of costumes that suited their personality.”

Peter, the president of Alpha Sigma Rho, decides that four new pledges should have an initiation and spend the night in a supposedly “haunted” estate, Garth Manor, where murders occurred twelve years prior.

The house’s former owner, Raymond Garth, strangled his wife, Lillian, to death and killed his three deformed children before finally hanging himself. However, the youngest child, Andrew Garth, was never found and is rumored to still be in the house…

Buy Blu-ray + DVD: Amazon.com

Blu-ray Disc:
  • New 4K scan of the film taken from the best surviving archival print
  • New interviews with actors Linda Blair, Peter Barton, Vincent Van Patten, Suki Goodwin, Kevin Brophy and Jenny Neumann
  • Audio Commentary with Linda Blair, Tom DeSimone, Irwin Yablans and Bruce Cohn Curtis
  • Original Theatrical Trailer and TV spots
Blu-ray Disc Exclusives:
  • New interview with Director Tom DeSimone
  • New interview with Producer Bruce Cohn Curtis
  • New interview with Writer Randolph Feldman
  • New – Anatomy of the Death Scenes with Tom DeSimone, Randolph Feldman, Make-up artist Pam Peitzman, Art Director Steven G. Legler and Special Effects artist John Eggett
  • New – On Location at the Kimberly Crest House with Tom DeSimone
  • New – Gothic Design in Hell Night with Steven G. Legler
  • Original Radio spot
  • Photo Gallery featuring rare, never-before-seen stills

Reviews:

Hell Night is one of those early ’80s stalk ‘n’ slash quickies that—although almost universally despised at the time, despite the fact they made money—is actually quite endearing in retrospect.” Scott Stine, The Gorehound’s Guide to Splatter Films of the 1980s

 

“While it has so much going for it with its eerie ambiance, great score and some choice scares, it lacks what so many people watch these movies for and that’s gore. While it’s not without splashy effects (there’s a decapitation, impalements and a head twisted completely around among others), it doesn’t get overly extreme, but it doesn’t need to. The picture also benefits from an awesome climax.” Brian Bankston, Cool Ass Cinema

The murders for this movie were frequently carried out off screen and were cleverly worked to fuel the audience’s anticipation rather than cause frustration. The script then deliberately played down the juvenile sex and nudity of these films, choosing instead to flesh out the characters of the four pledges.”Peter Normanton, The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies

Buy: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

“…the setting is strong and this is one of the better dead-teen flicks, coming as it does near the beginning of the cycle.” Mike Mayo, The Horror Show Guide

Buy: Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca

Hell Night is able to get some extra mileage out of its willingness to play around with your expectations because of the effort its creators put into making most of its important characters more than just stock types. Final Girls are almost always depicted with relative care, so it isn’t surprising to see some layers to Marti’s character…” Scott Ashlin, 1,000 Misspent Hours and Counting

Hell Night strikes tried-and-true horror psycho notes like a well-tuned instrument. One girl is pulled screaming down into a hole (although my favorite hole-dragging is in The Unseen, 1980). The psycho seems indestructible. They shoot him, but he keeps on going… But there are also some surprises, which is no small feat in this tradition-bound subgenre.” Communist Vampires

Hell Night is just tons of fun all around. It reminds me of being a kid on Halloween. In fact, this one is perfect for Halloween viewing. It’s a great throwback to the old Universal monster movies of the past and has that classic horror feel to it. This one is exciting, has tons of atmosphere, a great setting and everything one could hope for in a unique slasher.” Ronnie Angel, Slashed Dreams: The Ultimate Guide to Slasher Films

Buy Slashed DreamsAmazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca

“Although the actual gore content is low, the titillation content is high, an avenue DeSimone would continue to explore in his future exploitation movies.” TV Guide

Hell Night is surprisingly compact; a couple of main locations and only four primary characters, but it works better for it. For a start, you can actually get to know the pledges, and they’re not instantly dismissed as sex hungry teenagers. They’re three-dimensional, which makes for a refreshing change.” Jim Harper, Legacy of Blood: A Comprehensive Guide to Slasher Movies

Buy Legacy of Blood Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.ca

Cast and characters:

  • Linda Blair … Marti Gaines – Repossessed; The Exorcist and sequel
  • Peter Barton … Jeff Reed – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
  • Vincent Van Patten … Seth
  • Suki Goodwin … Denise Dunsmore
  • Kevin Brophy … Peter Bennett
  • Jimmy Sturtevant … Scott
  • Jenny Neumann … May West

Production:

Filming Hell Night took forty days in the fall and winter of 1980. The original shooting budget was a reported $1 million, but as its duration extended through the holidays, the production needed an additional $400,000. The film’s shooting schedule was described as gruelling. According to De Simone, Peter Barton actually hurt himself on set and most of his limping was due to being in real physical pain.

Filming locations:

The exterior of Garth Manor was shot at the Kimberly Crest Mansion in Redlands, California. The hedge maze was brought in as there was no actual garden maze on the mansion property. The inside of Garth Manor was filmed in a residential home in Pasadena, California. The frat party was filmed in an apartment lobby in Los Angeles, California

Trivia:

Director Chuck Russell (The Blob) served as an executive producer, while his long-time collaborator Frank Darabont served as a production assistant.

Hell Night was the final film released by Compass International Pictures (Halloween) founded by producers Irwin Yablans and Joseph Wolf in 1977.

Image credits: Cool Ass CinemaVHS Wasteland

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Categories: 1980s, slasher

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