Starring Roz Kelly, Kip Niven, Chris Wallace, Grant Cramer, Jed Mills, Taaffe O’Connell, and Louisa Moritz
Directed by Emmett Alston
I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in a while a classic sneaks past, so we wanted to create this review section for such films. Formerly known as “Through the Cracks”, we have decided to change the name to “The Overlook’d” for obvious reasons: it’s a much cooler title.
Anyhow, I had never seen the holiday-themed slasher film New Year’s Evil until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing New Year’s Evil for the very first time.
Now let’s get to it.
First off, let me give you a bit of history on why I had never seen the film until last night. How can you be a horror fan and not watch New Year’s Evil? Meh. From all I’d heard and all I’d seen, I wasn’t impressed or intrigued enough to watch the film. True story. The only thing that grabbed my attention over the years was the film’s title, its gimmick, and its mask. That’s all.
So, having finally peeped the flick after all of these years was I pleasantly surprised, or did it play out mostly as I feared? Well, to begin, I dug the punk rock angle. Punks and punk music are always a welcome addition to any film in my eyes. From Return of the Living Dead to the use of The Ramones in Pet Sematary, punk rock always lends a film an added bit of fun.
And, boy, did New Year’s Evil need a dose of fun.
While the film eventually finds it’s footing about halfway through and is quite a bit of horror good times from there, the first half of the film is a chore to sit through. This all stems from the issue that there is no tension in the film. We know that the main character isn’t in any danger because she’s surrounded by cops, and on top of that we know who the killer is, where he is, what he looks like, and when he will strike down on her. Add to that we know who his victims are very quickly in every stalk and slash sequence. Sure, there’s an element of suspense leading up to the kills, but not really. We know they are safe until the clock counts down. Kinda boring.
These issues could have been improved in simple ways. First, keep the killer masked and/or in the shadows instead of showing us his face right from the get-go. Especially considering how f*cking creepy and classic that mask he (eventually) wears is. Next, the film should have let us know that someone will die at the stroke of midnight, but – and here’s the catch – kept us guessing just who that person will be within any given scene. The old bait and switch as it were.
However, the movie doesn’t employ either of these techniques and thus the counting down mechanism, in the end, is merely a silly gimmick. The movie should have just played out on New Year’s Eve. Simple. Slashers don’t need plots more complicated than that. Not that the plot of New Year’s Evil was complicated, but the timezone plot was ultimately unnecessary. Especially considering the killer’s motives reveal at the end.
But all of that aside, let me get into the things that worked for me with New Year’s Evil.
First off, I loved the quick subplot about the killer getting into it with the biker gang. This subplot shows us a side to slasher/serial killer films we rarely get to see: the complicated interworkings of just how difficult it is to pull off such a series of murders – especially when working within an established, self-imposed timeframe. In this subplot, New Year’s Evil shows us that pulling all of these killings off isn’t an easy job. Loved this aspect.
On top of that fun digression, I really appreciated another plot development the film sported. But let me say right now that here is where I’m about to get into SPOILERS. Ultimate spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie now is the time to turn away. Skip past the following bits.
But before you go, let me warn you that if you haven’t seen the movie, and don’t want anything spoiled, don’t look the movie up on IMDb, or Wikipedia or whatever. After I watched the movie I looked it up – something I usually do before watching a flick – and saw that the film lists certain characters with their actor counterparts and ruins a good twist.
— SPOILERS —
Now let’s get into the third act revelation. Here we find out that the killer is our heroine’s husband. I appreciated the new development. That said, I did see it coming, but only because I think about these things way too hard and quickly reasoned that if we are telling a story about a mother and her son, then the father has to be brought into the picture at some point. But still, I have to hand it to the movie for pulling that twist. It was sold. I’m not gonna lie.
However, I feel the film would have benefited from adding in the twist that the son was in on it the whole time as well.
Also, they should have cut the detective out of the movie, or at the very least cut him from the rooftop finale. It should have been Blaze who confronted the killer at the end, gun in hand, with the cops not far behind. That would have made for a tighter more personal climax with tons of tension regarding “will she or won’t she” murder her (unarmed) husband in front of a gaggle of police, or let them haul him off to possibly kill again?
From there we keep the bit where he jumps to his death and – boom – another layer of drama presents itself. Did he sense her dilemma and spare her this hard decision, or did he kill himself merely to avoid a life behind bars? Either way, the creepy mask would have hidden his true intentions, leaving it up to us, the audience, to make up our own minds on the matter.
— END SPOILERS —
Now how about I pitch an idea for a remake?
Yes, I believe this film should be remade. So let’s start by cutting all the location work and keeping this thriller contained in one building. Next, let’s make it a who-dun-it and use the bitchin’ mask from end to end. Sounds like the start of a good plan, right?
Well, get this shite… How about we cast Caroline Williams as Blaze? Let’s have her “unofficially” continue on her role as Stretch from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.
After all, she has unofficially continued the role over the years in both Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and Adam Green’s Hatchet III, so why not keep the ball rolling? Other than, you know, (SPOILER) the fact that Hatchet III ended the way it did for her… But still.
Anyhow, let’s wrap up on New Year’s Evil. In the end, the movie was better than I thought it was going to be, but it was still one of the weaker entries I’ve seen in the 80’s slasher canon.
New Year’s Eve needs a flagship movie. And this isn’t it. I wish Terror Train had been called New Year’s Evil. That’s a much better flick to be associated with the occasion.
New Year’s Evil is more Lifetime Movie of the Week than solid 80’s slasher. But add in some punk rock, a badass “slasher vs the biker gang” subplot, and a creepy/cool mask and New Year’s Evil is a movie every horror fan should watch. Once.
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