HELL NIGHT (1981) – The Dungeon Review!
Four university pledges must stay the night in Garth Manor. 12 years previous, Raymond Garth allegedly killed his family and then himself, leaving behind 14 year old son Andrew. Police recovered a letter detailing the dreadful act, but only 3 bodies were found on the scene. Legend has it, that the deformed son who was a witness to the murders still lives on the premise. Three of the sorority/fraternity members go back to the house later the same evening to freak out the pledges with rigged gimmicks. But they’re about to find out that there might just be some truth to the legend.
You don’t generally watch a slasher film for its awesome story and this one is not without its holes. For starters there is no electricity in the house yet the students manage to rig up some pretty high tech contraptions that sure seemed like they needed some electricity to work. I wouldn’t exactly say this altered my opinion of the film at all, but it didn’t help it any. You’re in pretty tame territory when undergarments are never removed during a sex scene. You don’t see much of the violence either. When I realized there were only four pledges my immediate thoughts was “Bloody hell, only four people to kill, and chances are one or two will live”. Fortunately the appearance of three other characters relieved my mind somewhat. It is supposed to be a slasher after all! Based on the plot summary you can pretty much guess how it’s all going to go down. I wouldn’t say there is much in the way of surprises here. There are multiple “anticipation” scenes where they suggest something could happen any second. Some of these scenes worked really well, while other were just lame. There is however a pretty fun twist towards the end and ‘Hell Night’s’ final scene is quite lively and memorable. So much so, that it was really the only detail I actually recalled from my original viewing.
The cast aren’t too bad. Linda Blair, who gets top billing, plays Marti, the daughter of a mechanic. They’ve partnered her up with Jeff, played by Peter Barton, a rich kid with a Donny Osmond vibe. Then we have Suki Goodwin who plays party girl Denise, who quickly makes friendly with Seth. Vincent Van Patten (son of Dick Van Patten and commentator for the World Poker Tour 07/08) plays Seth, a guy who proudly admits he likes surfing, drinking and screwing. The four main characters aren’t unlikable but didn’t really leave an impression on me. The fringe characters that are three members of the sorority/fraternity, including the president, are thrown in there to be eliminated. They are appropriately annoying, and the female of the group looked old enough to be Linda Blair’s mother.
As far as effects go, what you get to see doesn’t look too bad and the killer’s makeup is pretty well done. Garth Manor is quite impressive and all the hidden passageways and rooms make for lots of space to lurk about in. Along with the final scene, Garth Manor is the films best feature. There are several other slashers I would recommend before ‘Hell Night’ but I wouldn’t call it a bad film. It does have its highlights but overall I found it a bit uneventful. Recommended with warning.
Dungeon Rating: 3/5
Directed By: Tom DeSimone
Starring: Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Peter Barton, Kevin Brophy, Jenny Neumann, Suki Goodwin, Jimmy Sturtevant