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Friday, October 03, 2008

Halloween Hoardefest 2008 Begins: Hell Night

Welcome to another October and The Metal Minute's Halloween Hoardefest! As last year, be on the lookout through the month for interjecting examinations of horror films and music in the spooky spirit of the witching season. I'll say it 'til I'm blue in the face and covered with dirt that the heavy metal and horror genres are natural bedpartners, which is the reason The Metal Minute proudly celebrates Halloween all month long during October. This is the third year I've done this exercise (beginning two years ago when this site was known as Pulses, Verses and Other Flotsam), so hopefully you'll enjoy it a third time 'round...

There's a reason I never bothered to join a fraternity in college, and not just because I was working two jobs and commuting to school. When I saw nervous freshmen with diapers on their heads, walking with their jeans on backwards and kneeling on the ground yelling "Yes sir, I want it!" to musclebound, perverted fucks in slacks, docksiders, and Greek symbols plastered on day-glo t-shirts blowing anal vapor into their pathetic faces (yes, I'm being serious), then seriously, you can take all of that inexcusable humilation during Rush Week and stick it far up the Greek Society's collective powdered asses with the longest wooden paddle imaginable.

Of course, nubile college pledges always make for fun cinema, be it sex comedies (nothing will outdo Animal House or Revenge of the Nerds), spurned outcast melodramas and of course, horror flicks. That being said, the grandpappy of the college hazing horror film sub-subgenre (Sorority House Massacre, anyone?) drifts back to 1981's Hell Night.

Some movies are so bad you find comfort in their lameness, particularly if you grew up in the late seventies and eighties. Horror movies of the eighties, once John Carpenter and Sean S. Cunningham showed their disciples the way to setting gonzo killfests to special-themed annuals, cropped up like weeds drunk on Miracle-Gro. You had April Fool's Day, My Bloody Valentine, Prom Night, Happy Birthday to Me and Silent Night, Deadly Night, just to throw out a few names.

Hell Night was never what I considered a horror masterpiece, however, a week ago I was out getting groceries and I saw a rack of films for $2.00 a pop and the majority of them were those dreadful seventies' Satanic films that exploded after the success of The Exorcist. I almost didn't spot Hell Night in that icky batch of chum, but once I did, I decided a deuce was well worth the investment in a crappy, nostalgic horror flick that I would've settled upon at any given moment while channel surfing towards Fear Net.

Some films may be total dreck, but you wouldn't have them any other way. After all, how do you intelligently pull off a story about college dorks dumb enough to spend a night in a reputedly haunted mansion, just to join a goddamned sorority or fraternity? Are people that desperate to belong to something, lest they feel utterly meaningless? Well, if you ask the characters of Hell Night, including the skeptical Linda Blair, embarassment, much less ostracization is the least of their concerns.

Linda Blair, all grown up and busted out in Hell Night, almost makes you forget she was seized by Beelzebub and jamming crucifixes up her crotch at a much more tender age, largely because she's given very little to do in this thing, save for to constantly ask her terrorized cast members what they're going to do once they're stalked and slashed by not one Gooney-Goo-Goo house crawler, but two. Yes, she screams a lot, yes, she bounces threateningly out of her costume period dress a lot, and yes, she's willing to get in there and get dirty towards the end of the film, but by the time Linda's called upon to get physical against the film's ghoulish killer Andrew (as well as his "surprise" sibling Morris, only a surprise if you're not paying attention to the sicko legend of the house), her fellow pledges and their antagonistic "sponsors" are ripped, smashed and beheaded.

Not a heck of a plot, but then again, eighties slasher films needed no plot, just a creepy setting, the implication that someone might get nekked, and buckets of blood. Hell Night lowballs on all three, if that's what you're after. Barely atmospheric, considering the film was shot in 40 days and at minimal, self-contained locations, and very slight on the dialogue scale, Hell Night is a pretty bad film, yet there's something about it that makes you watch.

It's painful as hell to watch Vincent Van Patten (those Van Pattens ruled America at one point in time and eight most certainly was enough) cut his hand open on the pikes of the gate while trying to scale over and out. It's also gnarly to watch Jenny Neumann's decapitation cut in mid-stroke, only to later find her lopped-off head bleeding in bed with the dim-witted and ultra-horny Van Patten. If you're a real deep horror fan or even a soap opera addict, you'll recognize Peter Barton's feathery John Cougar (as the rock singer would've been known in 1981) black mane from his long stint on The Young and The Restless. Barton likewise has his spot in horror immortality for taking a brutal face mashing from Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter. Poor Barton meets an equally gloomy finish in Hell Night, and he also takes a hard fall in a stunt as his rich boy character Jeff wrestles Andrew down a flight of stairs. When you see Barton loping around in Hell Night, the dude really was in pain. Like Cougar, it probably hurt so good...

As Linda Blair--who received a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Actress in 1981 after Hell Night was released--thwarts off Andrew by impaling him upon the mansion's mangled gates (in a pretty stupid sequence where the car she uses to escape veers backwards in a preposterous swerve that beats the gates apart), the frozen final image of her puffy lips and her freaked facade as the credits roll is actually her shining moment in this film. Poor girl, she'd worked so hard to make us forget that unspeakable piece of shit Exorcist II: The Heretic ever bore her name on the marquee, but her character here Marti bore too much of the helpless heroine motif for most people to buy into. When you've survived devil possession (not to mention a tortuous rape scene in Born Innocent too graphic to show on television), you should be tearing mutant mansion killers in half instead of cowering from them for half of the film.

And for all of you Rush Week pledges, get off your knees, for the love of Christ, willya? Show some freakin' dignity.

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