Monday, October 26, 2009

Hell Night (Tom DeSimone, 1981)

A convoluted night of collegiate hazing involving four potential fraternity and sorority pledges being forced to spend the night at a creepy mansion in period clothing sets the simplistic stage for Hell Night ("Pray For Day"), a highly effective survival horror flick that plunges our collective faces deep into to dark recesses of Linda Blair's cavernous, bodice-assisted cleavage. Now, it may be dark down there, but the nook and cranny filled abode is thankfully well-endowed when it came to lit candles. Of course, I'm talking about the luminosity of the Garth Manor, not the exquisite plumpness of Miss Blair's bosom segmentation. Anyway, akin to the photographic work of John Alcott in Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, cinematographer Mac Ahlberg (My Boyfriend's Back) and director Tom DeSimone (Reform School Girls) have fashioned a shadowy infernal region where light and darkness literally battle each other in a series of enclosed, dimly lit spaces. Decked out in 19th century regalia, four prospective members of the prestigious Alpha Sigma Rho find themselves willfully confined to the foggy grounds of a roomy mansion with a murderous past. Eloquently informed of this ominous history beforehand by the fraternities charismatic leader, Peter Bennett (Kevin Brophy), the foursome enter the house and split into groups of two.

Party animal/surfer dude Seth (Vincent Van Patten) is paired with a British lingerie fancier named Denise (Suki Goodwin), while the dashing Jeff (Peter Barton) and the classy Marti Gaines (Linda Blair), a hush-hush mechanic who believes in ghosts, team up for the long night ahead of them. Not one to let an opportunity for nocturnal prankishness slip through his fingers, Peter Bennett and a couple of his buddies (Jenny Neumann and Jimmy Sturtevant) have booby trapped the house with a wide array of spooky bells and whistles.

Initially, the pranks are a minor annoyance (a harmless mix of bloodcurdling screams and disparaging shrieks), but when the pranksters themselves begin losing their heads in a non-consensual manner, the stories about deformed freaks living in the tunnels underneath the house start to sound less and less far-fetched. Boasting multiple scenes that revolve around quiet lurking, Hell Night is somehow able create to a lurid atmosphere through simple act of depicting a character slowly investigating their sinister surroundings in a patient manner.

Keenly aware that some people might get a tad weary of watching overdressed youngsters inquiring about the origins of a particularly curious noise, Tom DeSimone does subtle things like focus of the foppish symmetry of Suki Goodwin's garter belt, and makes sure the fright that punctuates each exploratory endeavour is well-earned.

The gorgeously attired presence of the lovely Linda Blair was the predictable highlight of this surprisingly taut slasher film. Sure, the fact that the deformed entity, who threatens our fraternal/sororal heroes/heroines was kept hidden for a good chunk of the piece, did a terrific job of generating suspense, and I liked how the film's overall Gothic tone rarely clashed with the year it was set. (You almost forget that the early 1980s are chugging along beyond the mansion's spiky iron gates.) However, to pretend not be moderately enamoured by the undiluted elegance that Miss Blair put out there as Marti would be an act of extreme foolhardiness.

Saddled with an outfit so dainty, that even the most accomplished of actresses would be intimidated by its apparent uncomfortableness, Linda Blair takes her frilly, bodice gown, shell cameo (attached to a tasty neckband), and white boots and proceeds to execute her thespian duties like a seasoned professional. In search of something different after the leg revealing splendour that was Roller Boogie, it's obvious that Linda wanted to shine the spotlight on the partition that keeps her ample breasts from touching one another for a change.

Which was not only appreciated on a perverted level, but also a cinematic one.

You see, the film, like I said before, is rather dark from a photographic point-of-view, and most time Linda's pearlescent cleavage was the sole object visible at times. As you would expect, this chest-based beacon not only elevated her performance, but was the main reason why this slasher turned out to be a resounding success.

video uploaded by DEAD END DRIVE-IN


  1. Great writeup on this film. This is another one of those that I watched when we first got our VCR. Linda definitely made this movie for me and my buddies.

  2. I heard about that singer from Toronto who was killed by coyotes in Nova Scotia! :(

    I love that you have a Wiki entry for garters. Hockey players wear garters! Get out!

  3. Keith: Thanks, man.

    Kamir: I didn't know coyotes attacked people. Weird. Sad. She was only 19.

    Yeah, hockey equipment is quite kinky.

  4. Spare some change? Change? CHANGE!

  5. Fantastic write-up. Better said than I could ever hope to myself. Linda Blair is a goddess.