|Directed by||Tom DeSimone|
|Produced by||Irwin Yablans
Bruce Cohn Curtis
|Written by||Randy Feldman|
Vincent Van Patten
|Music by||Dan Wyman|
|Edited by||Anthony DiMarco|
|Distributed by||Compass International Pictures|
Hell Night is a 1981 American slasher film directed by Tom DeSimone, written by Randy Feldman, and starring Linda Blair. The film depicts a night of fraternity hazing (hell night) set in an old manor, during which a deformed maniac terrorizes and murders many of the college students. The film also blends elements of slasher films and haunted house-themed films. While reception is generally mixed to negative, the film has developed a large cult following since its release.
Future film director Chuck Russell (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, The Blob, The Mask) served as an executive producer, while his long-time collaborator Frank Darabont served as a production assistant. The film was nominated for a Razzie for Worst Actress for Blair. Hell Night was also the final film released by Compass International Pictures.
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The film begins with a frat party girl screaming. Peter, the president of Alpha Sigma Rho, decides that four new pledges—bookish Marti, rich Jeff, party girl Denise, and surfer Seth—should have an initiation. They are to spend the night in a supposedly "haunted" estate, Garth Manor, where there were murders 12 years prior. The house's former owner, Raymond Garth, strangled his wife, Lillian Garth to death and killed his four deformed children—Margaret, Morris, & Suzanne—in seemingly violent ways, before finally hanging himself. However, the youngest child, Andrew Garth, was never found, dead or alive, and is rumored to still be in the house.
After being escorted to the house, Seth and Denise hook up, leaving Marti and Jeff in the parlor to talk. Jeff explains that he only came because of his rich father and lifestyle, while Marti explains that she worked in her father's car garage over the summer and that she also did the Literature Notes for the sorority sister May so that she could have free clothing, whatever room she wanted, and a free car. Meanwhile, Peter, Scott, and May have rigged mechanical devices to scare the pledges. While May is walking back around the house, a pair of filthy hands reaches out and violently drags her into a pit with an unseen figure who decapitates her with a spade. While Marti and Jeff are in the living room, they heard Seth screaming and Jeff went to check on him. Then, the windows blew open, blowing the candles out, the doors slam shut, and Marti heard groaning and moaning. She turned around and saw the ghost of Raymond Garth coming at her. Jeff and Seth open the door for Marti and she showed Jeff what happened. While Scott is up on the roof rigging another device, he hears a noise and decides to investigate, where a barehanded figure breaks his neck by twisting his head around his body. After Peter tries to pull a prank on May, he climbs up to the roof to see about Scott, whom he finds dead, hanging by a wire and flees. Peter climbs back off the roof where the killer chases him into the hedge maze, where he gets lost after his escape attempt, yet runs into another assailant who impales him with a scythe. The audience suddenly realizes that there are two killers.
Meanwhile, the group of pledges discovers the sound effects and scares set up around the house. Seth and Denise retreat back upstairs where they have a sensual moment together to Seth's enjoyment. Seth excuses himself to the bathroom, where he admires his reflection. While Seth is in the bathroom, an unknown person emerges from the closet and grabs or kills Denise before Seth returns. Seth later returns and thinking Denise is under the covers, pulls them back, only to discover May's severed head from earlier. Seth screams in horror and pulls on his clothes while he tries to escape. Marti and Jeff runs off to investigate the room where Denise and Seth were sleeping and also see the head, much to Marti's horror. The trio decide that while Seth climbs the fence to seek help, Marti and Jeff should stay at Garth Manor and search for the missing Denise.
Jeff and Marti search the house, discovering Scott's body. They sit together before Jeff decides to search the grounds, as there is a light in the hedge maze outside. Marti rejects the idea, believing it to be the deformed Andrew, but eventually gives in and stays hidden in the bedroom. Jeff eventually discovers that the light was Peter's flashlight and also discovers Peter's body to his horror. He runs away, not seeing the gate keys that are grasped firmly in his hand. Jeff informs Marti of Peter's murder and the discovery of his corpse. They assume that the real murderer is, in fact, Andrew Garth, but they are still unsure if this assumption is true or not. As they discuss the matter, a shape begins to form in the large rug behind Marti, who turns around and screams in terror. Jeff arms himself with a pitchfork, which he impales in the figure. The two pull back the piled-up rug, only to reveal a trapdoor, and that the figure beneath the rug has fallen back into the hole below. Jeff decides that they should go after them, and the two descend into the darkness. While exploring the tunnels, the pair discover the missing Denise's body, which is sitting with another pair of mummified corpses at a cobwebbed site with rats crawling on them at an infested dinner table.
Marti and Jeff are discovered by a lumbering and deformed man who chases them, enraged. Jeff tries to fight back, but is knocked down and injured and thrown down a flight of stairs when the other killer appears on the scene. The two apparent Garth sons trap Marti and Jeff, but the two discover the same passageway Peter used earlier to pull a prank on Denise and manage to escape and stall the two Garths. The pair escape and head back to the bedroom.
Meanwhile, Seth arrives at the frat house, but everyone is either passed out or sleeping. Seth leaves the frat house and retreats to the police station, where he is scolded and the police dismiss his story and threaten to put him in jail. Seth sneaks away, steals a shotgun and buckshot shells, and climbs out a window. He then hijacks a car from a man and tells him he's going to Garth Manor. Seth arrives back at Garth Manor where he follows one of the Garth sons from the main gate and through a hole in the fence surrounding the house where the second Garth son attacks him.
A struggle ensues and Seth manages to shoot the second Garth son with the stolen shotgun, killing him. He is then greeted by Marti and Jeff. As they tell Seth about the discovered bodies and the killers, the same deformed arm of Andrew's grabs Seth and drags him into the darkness as Marti and Jeff hear a gunshot, but the shotgun slides alone across the floor. They wonder if Seth is still alive or not, leaving his fate unknown. Marti decides to make an attempt to obtain the shotgun, but Andrew lunges from the darkness and chases Jeff and Marti back upstairs and into the bedroom where they lock the door. As Jeff tries to help Marti out safely, she manages to escape up onto the rooftop, but Jeff is unfortunate as Andrew throws him from the second floor of the house to his death below while Marti watches in horror.
Marti climbs off the roof using the ladder; while she is descending the ladder, the killer bursts through a window and Marti fights back but loses her balance and falls off the ladder. She gets back up and runs into the hedge maze where she discovers Peter's body for herself and steals the keys from his hand. Marti also manages to find the gate and lets herself through it, where she discovers the stolen car that Seth had but is unable to start it, and hotwires it. Marti climbs into the car, where she backs into the right side of the gate, knocking it over. Andrew's monstrous face appears from the car roof as he leaps onto the moving car, smashes the glass, and attempts to strangle Marti. Marti swerves the car around, and notices the spiked tips of the knocked-over gate. Marti presses on the gas pedal and impales Andrew to the tail pike as he spews blood, writhes in agony and dies. Marti passes out from exhaustion as the car horn fades and car battery dies.
Later, Marti awakens in the morning, with Andrew still impaled on the toppled gate and the crashed car. She gets out of the car in stunned silence, dazed yet still victorious and walks over to the camera, going home as the credits begin to roll.
- Linda Blair as Marti Gaines
- Peter Barton as Jeff Reed
- Vincent Van Patten as Seth
- Suki Goodwin as Denise Dunsmore
- Kevin Brophy as Peter Bennett
- Jimmy Sturtevant as Scott
- Jenny Neumann as May West
Filming Hell Night took 40 days. The majority of the movie was shot in three locations: The outside of Garth Manor was shot at a mansion in Redlands, California (The Kimberly Crest mansion was converted from a private residence to a museum shortly after filming was completed). The hedge maze was brought in as there was no actual garden maze on the mansion property. The inside of Garth Manor was filmed in a residential home in Pasadena, California. The frat party was filmed in an apartment lobby in Los Angeles, California. The many underground tunnels filmed in the movie were actually no more than two corridors in which the director had the actors running repeatedly through from different angles.
During the scene where Jeff is thrown down a flight of stairs and hurt his leg, actor Peter Barton had really hurt himself and most of his limping was due to being in real physical pain.
The two actors who portrayed the Garth killers are not listed anywhere in the credits, and their real names remain a mystery. However, on the film's DVD commentary, it was noted that they are both German nationals who spoke little or no English, and that one of them (the middle-aged bearded man) died shortly after the release of the film.
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On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 57% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 7 reviews. Time Out wrote "Amazing [...] what a competent director, cameraman and cast can do to help out a soggy plot", calling the film "tolerably watchable by comparison with the average Halloween rip-off.
- Beggs, Scott (2012-08-29). "6 Filmmaking Tips From Frank Darabont". Film School Rejects. Retrieved 2017-01-02.
- Wilson, John (2005). The Official Razzie Movie Guide: Enjoying the Best of Hollywood's Worst. Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 0-446-69334-0.
- Sellers, Christian (2009-04-26). "The Making of Hell Night". Retro Slashers. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
- "Hell Night (1981)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 18, 2016.
- Milne, Tom, ed. (1991). The Time Out Film Guide (Second ed.). Penguin Books. p. 288.