From Compass International (Sadly their last Film)
Original Theatrical Release Date: August 28th 1981
DVD: Yes (and contains a very good Commentary to boot!)
Plot: College kids must stay at an old manor as part of their pledge. They soon realize that they are not alone as the mutated offspring of the manor's owners don't like uninvited guests.
Hell Night is probably the best Slasher Film to ever have been Directed by someone who also did porn. Director Tom DeSimone (Reform School Girls, Chatterbox, The Concrete Jungle) started his career by editing Children's Films, and has had a wild career trajectory since! In the 70's, DeSimone switched gears to the Adult Gay Filmmaking industry and while watching a movie like Hell Night, you would have guessed. Well, porn in the 70's was a bit more classy than usual, I suppose.
Classy is an easy but appropriate word to label a Slasher like Hell Night. The vibe here is a bit more elegant than usual (Well, that is after the really wild opening scene. Now that seems like a party!) There's just something about a large, creepy house light with mostly natural lighting. Hell Night is kind of like the Barry Lyndon of Horror Films. Imagine all the work it took to light all those candles and to keep it in continuity! The Cinematography was by the underrated Mac Ahlberg (The Seduction, Re-Animator, House, A Very Brady Sequel) and he has a particular style that I always enjoy.
Another thing I adore about Hell Night is it's characters. Linda Blair is charming as usual (especially with her, er, natural charms) and makes for a good Final Girl. She comes close to being a tad useless with Peter Barton around to play the hero, but in the rousing finale she proves she can kick butt like the best of Final Girls. There's also the surprisingly fun performance of Vincent Van Patten (Rock 'N Roll High School, The World Poker Tour) as surfer type Seth. Dressed as Robin Hood, Seth cracks jokes and could have easily been the typical prankster character from a Slasher, but here he is filled with quirks and is quite charming. He has has a pretty good knack for climbing over impossibly sharp and high gates and sneaking into Police Stations to steal their weapons. We all need a little Seth in our lives to make it a bit brighter. Peter Barton (Friday The 13th Part 4) makes for a sensitive would-be hero. Kevin Brophy's Peter Bennett play the fraternity jerk really well, and the girls, both bitchy (Jenny Neumann) and slutty--and maybe Australian? (Suki Goodwin) are fun to watch.
I wouldn't be put off by the fact that this Film is lighter on the standard gore and nudity of Films of it's kind of the time. It's interesting that the producers and powers that be chose to to trim down some of that in hopes to make a Film that would hold up a bit more with time. Because the Film is so well done, DeSimone has a really good eye for creating atmosphere in his films, ultimately you don't need to walk away only remembering the gratuitous. There are plenty of creepy, wonderful things to be found in Hell Night. Maybe it's just me, but, sleuthing and walking around in the dark with candles to guide your way is kind of hot.
Next up for Linda Blair after Hell Night: Chained Heat and Savage Streets. This might be the last time Linda was so innocent and sweet. Dealing with mongoloids in dark mansions with secret underground passageways will do that to you!