Monday, April 05, 2010

Hell Night (1981)

The final orientation for four Greek pledges is to stay the night at Garth Manor, the subject of local legend where a prideful father could no longer stand his legion of mentally challenged, handicapped and/or deformed children and murdered all but one some twelve years prior though only three of five bodies were ever found. It is an interesting origin story though immediately flawed by the fact that no one could ever purport to know that one of the children was spared while two corpses were never found as the only remaining members of the family were too dead to give details. I know...nitpicking. Meanwhile, the house has been elaborately rigged by the already inducted fraternity/sorority kids in order to strike fear in the hearts of the pledges. Nevermind the fact that we are told that due to the reclusiveness of its old inhabitants, Garth Manor never received modern luxuries such as electricity though it ends up being used abundantly to pull off the manufactured spookiness. Alright, alright...I'll stop already. Guess what though? Feral beings start offing our merry pranksters and soon set their sights on the pledges inside. Now, that's more like it.

Where are all these stoic, haunted mansions on acres of land filled with family tombs and hedge mazes and are somehow always still fully furnished? Personally, I would be all for an overnight stay if the right opportunity arose. Unfortunately, this may just be a horror movie device of which Hell Night is full of. At the same time though, I have to give it credit for standing out in key areas. The shadows that abound in and around Garth Manor are used as effectively as possible and we get the treat of an atypical hero in Seth, one of the pledges left to die who acts unlike most of our usually hapless victims. Decapitated head found in the bedroom? Seth is not sticking around to ask why. He grabs himself a weapon and books towards the exit. Foreboding spiked gate won't open? You better believe Seth is getting over it. Idiot cops not taking the threat seriously? Seth helps himself to a shotgun and goes back to clean manor. Granted, Seth dies, but damnit if he didn't put it all out there.

This was more disappointing than it really should have been though as Linda Blair's heroine, Marti, is not one to root for through most of the picture. It is only at the very end when everyone else is dead that she finally takes a stand for all those sorority wannabes left to fight mutants the world over. Still, and I am sure I am surprising no one when I say that Marti does indeed defeat evil, but we never get any kind of closure with our recently deceased mongoloids. We only ever see two of them which based on the legend, leaves a third still roaming the hallowed halls of Garth Manor, and what we do see isn't all that horrifying. The origin story told in the beginning makes a point of clearly identifying the entire Garth brood so why in the end do we get nothing but nameless pale skinned goons? I liked you Hell Night, but that was pretty weak.


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