In many ways a classic snapshot of early 80s horror, Hell Night is a film that has seen its reputation climbs nicely over the years.

Casually dismissed on its 1981 release and lumped in with the slasher wave flooding cinemas at the time, thanks to restoration releases by the likes of 101 Films, fans can now see that this offering has a lot more going for it.

Yes, the slasher motif is there – college students are hunted by mysterious killers after all – but we also get a haunted house theme, some great set design and costumes and a whole lot more characterisation than we usually would expect.

Set on a typical American college campus, a riotous frat party sets the action off, a fancy dress shindig with the beer flowing like water. Things swiftly move to the sinister Garth Manor, where four pledges are forced to spend the night as part of their initiation ceremony.

Why sinister? Well, for starters the manor appears to be abandoned, having been off limits since a series of murders 12 years prior, with talk of crazy fathers and deformed children also thrown into the mix.

Anyways, into the manor the four go (led by a cleavage-flashing Linda Blair no less) and things seem OK to start with. But we all know that is not going to last – and we certainly don’t know if any of them will come out alive…

As stated at the outset, Hell Night throws up something a bit different as it manages to tick those 80s horror boxes, but without slavishly sticking to them. For example, on the slasher front there are quite a few murders, but none are particularly graphic, with some even happening off-screen.

Yes, these college kids have their minds on some casual sex (as always), but there is no nudity. And while there may be a bodycount, time is taken to introduce these characters, so when they are eventually offed it actually has an impact.

Director Tim DeSimone clearly wanted to spend more time on atmosphere, sets and costume than normal – and Hell Night is all the better for it. The young cast (which includes the likes of Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Peter Barton and Suki Goodwin) are all pretty likeable, the killer suitably villainous and the whole thing has an air of quality that lifts it above many of its peers.

There are issues – the film gets overly talky in a few spots, and the whole thing is wrapped up without much in the way of explanation – but Hell Night proves a much better watch than I anticipated.

EXTRAS

If the film scored higher than I first thought, the extras are off the charts and the blu comes packed with pretty much everything you could ask for (although, admittedly, much of it is transferred over from previous overseas releases).

For starters there’s an audio commentary from Blair, DeSimone, and producers Irwin Yablans and Bruce Cohn Curtis.

Then there is ten – yes, TEN – featurettes – involving pretty much all of the cast (including Blair) looking back at the film, as well as examinations of the gothic design, the death scenes and the locations.

On top of that there’s the theatrical trailer, TV spots, radio spots and a photo gallery – pretty much everything a Hell Night fan could ever hope for.

Hell Night is released on July 26 via 101 Films

Blu-ray Review: Hell Night
3.5Overall Score
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About The Author

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle