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  Hell Night Don't Go Into The Cellar
Year: 1981
Director: Tom De Simone
Stars: Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Peter Barton, Kevin Brophy, Jenny Neumann, Suki Goodwin, Jimmy Sturtevant
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: The highlight of the college year is Hell Night, where the fraternity have a big party and four students are chosen to undergo the initiation of spending a night in the Garth Mansion. The four students, Marti (Linda Blair), Jeff (Peter Barton), Seth (Vincent Van Patten) and the English Denise (Suki Goodwin) are all told the story behind the abandoned house: the owner, Raymond Garth, once murdered his wife and three of his four deformed children there. The last, Andrew, was nowhere to be found. The large iron gate is locked behind the students, and they settle in for the night, not reckoning on the antics of the other students to scare them - or the real life horror that awaits...

In between the first and second Halloween movies, producer Irwin Yablans added to the ranks of the slasher movie cash-ins with this typical variation on the genre, scripted by Randolph Feldman. Stepping into the shoes of scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis was another horror heroine, Linda Blair, but this was to be her only leading role in slasher movies before the lure of women in prison and revenge thrillers spirited her away from these types of adventures. She proved to be a capable lead, with the right mixture of vulnerability and resourcefulness, but the clichés were already firmly entrenched.

Perhaps that's the appeal of the slasher, once you've seen enough of them, you can practically write them yourself. The familiarity makes comfortable viewing for the fans. The four would-be victims split up into two groups, comprising of the sensitive, introspective ones, Marti and Jeff (obviously marked out as potential survivors) and the couple who just want to party, get laid, do drugs, and play rock music, Seth and Denise (obviously doomed from the start). Meanwhile, there are three smartasses who are setting up the frights outside, with speakers and a variety of remote control effects.

But, what do you know? There is a real threat lurking around, as we see when one girl gets her head chopped off. Yes, the maniac Andrew is still alive, and offended by the disprespect shown by the students. One thing you notice about Hell Night after a while is the amount of creeping around that goes on. Every five minutes one character will start skulking through the darkened corridors in time-honoured Scooby Doo fashion, or wander out into the overgrown garden, doing so at such length that the tension is frittered away and you just want them to get on with it.

In spite of the way it makes a meal of its suspense sequences, Hell Night isn't too painful to watch. In the style of a 50s sci-fi movie, when Seth escapes over the spiked railings and goes to the police, he can't find anyone who will believe him - they think it's another prank. And there's a twist on the "the killer's dead - oh no he isn't" set up at the end. If the character-building dialogue wasn't so awkward, and the there was a little more zip in the scary bits, this might have been a small gem. As it is, Hell Night passes the time adequately, but the "seen one seen them all" factor is all too present. Music by Dan Wyman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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