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Retrospective: New Year’s Evil (1980)

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After the phenomenal commercial success of 1980’s Friday the 13th, itself an opportunistic cash-in on the success of the 1978 template slasher innovator, Halloween, along came a sharpish Cannon Films, wanting a slice of the slasher pie.

The founders of Cannon, the Israeli cousins, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, were infamous for finding niches in the market for their low-to-mid-budget productions. They were the kings of 1980’s exploitation, and the slashers of the era were a prime example of exploiting a sellable product. It was a blatant milking of a hugely profitable business module, with countless entries in this horror sub-genre, falling off the cookie cutter year in year out in the early ‘80s, exploiting the monster successes of Halloween and Friday the 13th. The graphic depictions of attractive young people gruesomely dispatched, bountiful amounts of female nudity, were the main selling points aimed towards the ravenous teenaged crowds who were yearning for such geekshow entertainment on the weekends, and they lapped it all up with much glee.

However, Cannon release, New Year’s Evil, is an incompetent mess, failing to capitalize on what can make slashers such fun. It has an absurdly farfetched premise, executed in the dullest and most inept way possible on every conceivable level. It has a distinct lack of atmosphere, is devoid of mystery and suspense, it does not deliver on the creative kills, there is no bloodletting in sight in these set-pieces either, there is only one pair of boobs to be seen, and it features an immensely unlikable protagonist. While being the most uncreative horror sub-genre due to the simplicity of its structure, slashers can be made on a shoestring budget, and due to their exploitative nature, they can easily satisfy the simple tastes of its audience, making for an easily entertaining 90-minutes. This film completely misses the mark though.

It is the night of New Year’s Eve, 1980. Being held is a live televised new wave music countdown event in celebration, hosted by one of the musical movement’s iconic ladies, Blaze (real name, Diane Sullivan), and played by Roz Kelly, who is best known for guest starring as Fonzie’s short-lived girlfriend, Pinky Tuscadero, in three episodes of “Happy Days”. At this time, the post-punk movement of new wave was coming into its own as a genre of alternative music. Cannon were trying to cash-in on two major trends of the era, making for a disastrous hybrid of exploitative opportunism here. Diane is a self-obsessed and unlikable character, who shows little interest in her actor son, Derek, played by Grant Cramer. Fans of 1988’s Killer Klowns from Outer Space, will recognize Cramer as that film’s lead character, Mike Tobacco.

While on air taking calls from viewers, Diane receives a threatening phone call from a stranger (Kip Niven) disguising his voice with a voice processor. Sounding utterly ridiculous, he says his name is “Evil.” He tells her each time the clock strikes midnight in each of North America’s time zones, he will “punish” a “naughty girl” in those locations, and she will be the last “naughty girl” he will “punish”, and that he will kill somebody close to her as well. Each time he kills, he records the sounds of his victims dying, and then calls back the TV station, playing back the tapes down the phone to prove he is for real.

Although he dons a mask in the film’s climax, the killer’s face is revealed to us from the outset. While this it is a departure in the slasher sub-genre, from usually having the antagonist wearing a mask, or their face is off camera concealing their identity until they are revealed in the finale, there are no red herrings sprinkled throughout to add to a bigger picture in this psycho’s murderous quest that will eventually lead to Diane. It is made clear whom he is from references made to his character by Diane and Derek, as he is not present in their company for the whole of the first two acts. There is no mention of unseen characters they do not interact with either, other than just talking about the possibility that it could be a crazed fan, etc. Due to this incompetent writing, we can see the killer’s real identity coming a mile off.

He also goes though different disguises, as he searches for his prey before midnight in each American time zone. Being faster than a speeding bullet, the killer manages to make it through each time zone in time without the aid of a private jet, instead driving a car, in what would also be very busy New Year’s Eve traffic.

The killer’s motive is tied to Diane’s mistreatment of her family due to her celebrity lifestyle taking priority. This means nothing when I could not have cared less about the events unfolding leading up to this reveal. Diane is an immensely unlikable protagonist, due to the neglect of her family duties, so how are we supposed to care when we take the journey with her through her terrifying ordeal. Her plight seems justified because of her selfish ways, and we feel nothing for her except feeling that she brought all this upon herself, and to an extent, deserves what is happening to her.

To make the proceedings even more uninvolving are the set-pieces. These are lifeless, with little or no build up in tension to the payoff. It is all just uninspired, lacking any creativity whatsoever, and there is hardly any blood to be seen either. The latter there would not be so much of a problem, as of course some of the greatest slasher forerunners contain little of the red stuff – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Black Christmas (1974), and Halloween (1978). The sequences in these though were expertly crafted, excelling in suspense and tension, and as well atmosphere, something that is not found here in this flat TV film-esque style.

New Year’s Evil is one of the very worst early 80’s slashers. It is a bland affair with no redeeming qualities to make it even a fun time waster. There is nothing memorable here, except for the out of place scenes of new wave punks, laughably dancing like zombies to terrible bands that adds nothing to the plot whatsoever, and is simply there to empty the pockets of the teen crowds of the time. Boring crap.

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Rest in Peace: Bill Gold, Iconic Movie Poster Designer, Passes Away at 97

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Sad news as it’s been confirmed that iconic graphic designer Bill Gold, who was responsible for creating thousands of film posters, has passed away in his Old Greenwich, Connecticut home at 97 years old.

Gold’s career stretched back decades to the early 40’s, where he designed posters for films like Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Big Sleep, and the classic Bogart/Bergman film Casablanca. Over the next several decades, Gold would work with directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick, Desmond Davis, Oliver Stone, and many, many more. Some of his most famous works were done for many of Clint Eastwood’s westerns, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, John Boorman’s Deliverance, Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, and a multitude of posters for the James Bond franchise.

Per THR, Gold is survived by, “…his wife, Susan, son Bob, daughter in-law Joanne, daughter Marcy, grandson Spencer, granddaughter Dylann and her fiancé Justin, great nephew Jaaron and “man’s best friend” Willoughby.”

We send our deepest condolences to his family in this sad time. However, we also send our gratitude for a man whose work fascinated and intrigued countless audiences over more than 70 years. I remember walking through a movie theater’s halls and delighting in looking at movie posters, imagining what their stories could hold. I can only believe that other children over the years looked at Gold’s work and wondered the same thing about those films.

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Will Billie Lourd Return in AMERICAN HORROR STORY Season 8?

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For those of you who might not know, Billie Lourd is the daughter of Carrie Fisher. She was one of the stars of Ryan Murphy’s horror-comedy series Scream Queens and has since followed Murphy over to the world of American Horror Story.

Lourd starred in the recent AHS: Cult and it looks like Deadline is confirming that she will return for the upcoming 8th season, which is rumored to be called AHS: Radioactive. Lourd will star alongside Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters and Kathy Bates, and Joan Collins, who will play Evan Peters’ grandmother.

Are you excited about this casting? Make sure to hit us up and let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram!

American Horror Story is an anthology horror-drama series created and produced by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. The Emmy and Golden Globe-winning franchise is produced by Twentieth Century Fox Television.

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Live-Action F.E.A.R. Adaptation Coming To Machinima

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Screenwriter Greg Russo has signed a deal with Machinima to pen an adaptation of the F.E.A.R. video game franchise, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. The article did not specify whether the adaptation would be in the form of a film or a series.

Russo, who is a lifelong gamer, will work with Machinima on creating and developing the F.E.A.R. adaptation, although we don’t know much else at this point. Machinima are a subsidiary of Warner Bros., and it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the F.E.A.R. franchise has also been owned by WB since 2009. In other words, Warner Bros. were bound to give us a live action adaptation of F.E.A.R. at one point, so we’re not too surprised by this development.

Russo, who is also writing the scripts for the Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil reboots, was quoted as saying the following:

“As a lifelong gamer, it’s an absolute honor to partner with Machinima, the preeminent provider of digital content to gamers worldwide. F.E.A.R. holds a special place in my heart. I’m excited to bring my personal passion to this and future projects and can’t wait to see where our partnership goes from here.”

An acronym for First Encounter Assault Recon, the F.E.A.R. games focus on an elite task force who fight to stop Alma Wade, a young girl with incredible psychic powers, from tearing apart the fabric of reality. Legendary film director John Carpenter served as story consultant on the third game, which we awarded a highly positive review back in the day. We’ll bring you more on Machinima’s adaptation when it becomes availalbe.

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