Hell Night (1981)

“Hell Night” is a fun little 1981 horror film from the producer of “Halloween”. The plot is as follows – Twelve years ago, a man savagely murdered his wife and three of their deformed and disabled children, leaving only one son as a survivor, then hanging himself in his family mansion. Now, twelve years after the horrible murders, four college pledges for the Alpha Sigma Ro fraternity/sorority are forced to spend the night in Garth manor for their initiation. All seems to be going well, and the upperclassmen play a few tricks on the newcomers to try and scare them. But the jokes become horrifyingly real when the pranksters and the pledges begin to die. Could it be possible that the fourth son of the Garth family is still lurking somewhere on the grounds?

I’d been wanting to see this for quite some time now, and I finally got my hands on the DVD and I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Is it clichéd? Sure it is, very much so, actually. The plot (while it isn’t as original as it could be) is well paced and entertaining all the way. It blends both the slasher and haunted house horror sub-genres, and it does it with style. Sure, the horror clichés are present, but these clichés don’t take the film down. The mansion was large, old, and creepy inside, adding to the classic haunted-house horror film feeling. Not to mention the pledges are dressed in period costumes reflecting the olden days. The acting was decent, not perfect but good enough. Linda Blair of “The Exorcist” is our main leading heroine, and her innocent character of Marti is likable. Peter Barton plays Jeff, and Vincent Van Patten plays the tough surfer dude along with Suki Goodwin as the party girl. All of the actors performed well for the most part, no real complaints there.

There are some memorable scenes in the film, especially the rug scene and the chase in the underground tunnels with Marti and Jeff and the old deformed psychopath. Speaking of the villain, he was actually rather creepy and the makeup effects were decent, although we don’t really get to see his face until the finale. There are some creative murder scenes that have surprisingly good special effects considering the time the film was made. But the film’s overall atmosphere was the best part if you asked me. It kind of reminded me of a Scooby Doo episode with it’s style and story, but much more violent than anything you’d ever see on a cartoon show.

Overall, “Hell Night” is one of the most fun ’80s horror films out there. The whole film has a fun, festive tone, and there are some pretty spooky scenes and the atmosphere was perfect in a classic, haunted-house horror kind of way. The atmosphere is killer (literally), there are some scary murders, and Linda Blair is the leading lady! What more can you ask for? Definitely check it out if you are a fan of the genre.