Directed by: Tom DeSimone
Written by: Randy Feldman
Starring: Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Peter Barton, Suki Goodwin, Kevin Brophy
Year: 1981
Country: USA
Running time: 101mins
BBFC Classification: 18

Another 80s horror gem is dusted off and given the Blu Ray treatment thanks to 101 films, this time Tom DeSimone’s excellent Hell Night. Four college pledges (Blair, Van Patten, Barton, Goodwin) must complete a hazing ritual by spending the night in the notorious Garth Manor. Known to be the site of a bloody massacre years earlier involving the family who lived there, rumours are members still live and stalk the house. The four soon find out if the rumours are true when the pranks their college peers attempt to pull (as part of the hazing ritual) are thwarted by real death and destruction, and the bodies begin to pile up.

Originally released during the heyday of slasher movies, Hell Night is a cut above a lot of the flicks that followed the likes of Halloween and Friday the 13th thanks in part to a great location, an excellent cast, some impressive death scenes, and assured direction from Tom DeSimone. Spending the night in a supposedly haunted house and then being picked off one by one is horror movie 101 but thanks to a neat set up (former inhabitants living underneath the house in a series of caves and thirsty for blood!) and a great balance between fun, scares and gore means Hell Night is a scream. Excellent photography from the great Mac Ahlberg (love the opening tacking shot taking in all the debauchery of a college party!) gives the flick a welcome gothic feel (as does the fact the main characters are dressed up in Halloween garb!) and DeSimone’s confident balance between tension and gore means Hell Night is a fun ride: certainly when the inhabitants make themselves known and start chasing and killing the youngsters.

There’s are some nifty gore set-pieces including a still impressive decapitation, a WTF neck-break (!) and one of the best death scenes of a villain seen in a horror movie! While the gore and grue is impressive it doesn’t dominate proceedings as writer Randy Feldman (who went on the pen action blockbusters such and Tango & Cash and Metro) and DeSimone also wrangle a fair bit of tension out of proceedings and mercifully make the characters likable. Blair, still riding high on the success of The Exorcist, leads a bunch of refreshingly pleasant youngsters who we come to know, and hope can eventually outrun their assailant. Vincent Van Patten (The Valdez Horses, Rock ‘n Roll High School) all but steals the picture as surfer dude Seth who does everything he can to try and save everyone, his energy helping propel the action.

It may be a little slow paced for modern tastes and if you’re not into the slasher gerne, well you can always go and watch something more “worthy” if that’s your bag, but for horror fans Hell Night is a gem worth rewatching in its shiny new Blu Ray form or discovering for the first time if you’ve not yet checked it out before.

101 Films will release Hell Night Blu-ray on 25th July 2021.

Special Features include:

  • Transfer from a 4K scan of the best surviving archival 35mm film print with minor SD inserts to replace missing footage
  • Limited edition booklet: Includes The Scare Blair Bunch: Hell Night, Linda Blair and the Rise of the American Sorority Slasher by Andrew Graves and Haunted Houses on Film by Barry Forshaw – not available at time of review.
  • Linda Blair: The Beauty of Horror – excellent half hour interview with Blair who is on fine form with her enthusiasm and anecdotes. She covers a lot including discussing her early career, how she became involved with Hell Night and the subsequent making of it. It is great stuff and Blair is very likable and could have listened to her discuss the film and her career for much longer.
  • Hell Nights with Tom DeSimone – again, another great and fascinating interview with the very likeable Tom DeSimone who has a lot of love for the film. He discusses how it was his breakthrough into mainstream filmmaking after spending years helming adult movies, what it was like to work with producer Bruce Cohn Curtis, and tells some great stories about the making of the film including how the likes of Hollywood heavy hitters Frank Darabont and Chuck Russell were involved in its production. A knowledgeable and very affable director, and again could have listed to him talk for much longer.
  • Peter Barton: Facing Fear – another talking head interview with one of the stars and another great insight to the making of the film and how Barton came to be part of the production. He also shares some great anecdotes about the making of the film and how much he loved working with the cast who all seemed to have got along famously, and had a hoot making the picture.
  • Producing Hell with Bruce Cohn Curtis – another talking head interview with the charismatic producer Bruce Cohn Curtis who, again, gives a lot of great info and anecdotes about the making of the film (though does repeat a lot of what has already been said in the previous interviews!). However, having come from the old school Hollywood system he has a very golden age producer quality and it’s fascinating to hear him talk.
  • Writing Hell with Randy Feldman – a great 25-minute interview with the writer who goes into detail about the writing of the film, what was changed, and what he would have done differently to what was ultimately seen on screen. A warm and articulate fellow, Randy also touches on his career, what it was like to be a writer in Hollywood back in the day, and how he came to meet the likes of Shane Black when he was pitching Lethal Weapon. Great stuff!
  • Vincent Van Patten and Suki Goodwin in conversation
    Kevin Brophy and Jenny Neumann in conversation
    – some of the main cast meet up after many years to catch up and reminisce about the making of the film. Split into two separate catch ups it’s nice to see some of the principals sit down and chat. Van Patten and Goodwin especially seem happy to see one another and chat, and this format (having 2 casts members sit down for an informal chat) is a nice approach and change of pace from the talking head interviews.
  • Gothic Design in Hell Night – cool feature with art director Steven Legler talking about the look and design of the film.
  • Anatomy of the Death Scenes – another interesting feature that looks at how the gore and special effects were created with key members of the effects crew. Some great insight into creating effects on a lower budget horror with some cool behind the scenes photos.
  • On Location at Kimberly Crest – short feature looking at the unique location used for the mansion in the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer – cool, epic, old school trailer for the film.
  • TV Spots
  • Radio Spot
  • Photo Gallery

Hell Night - 101 Films
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