CULT CORNER: ‘Hell Night’ is no ‘Exorcist,’ but this Linda Blair slasher shouldn’t be overlooked
The 1980s were a decade filled with slasher films, with each being more redundant than the last. Many of these films are throwaways and largely forgettable, as was the case with “Hell Night” for a number of years. However, the film has developed a strong cult following in the decades since it was first released.
Originally released in 1981, “Hell Night” had a limited and then more widespread theatrical run, but the film was widely panned as derivative of the genre. It received a VHS release but lay forgotten for a number of years until a DVD in 1999 and now a beautiful new Blu-ray release in 2018.
The film stars Linda Blair – yes, that Linda Blair – as college student Marti Gaines. Marti, along with three other girls, are pledging to a sorority and must endure their version of hazing. In this case, the hazing ritual occurs in an old abandoned mansion with a storied and bloody past.
The girls are required to stay the night in the mansion. As they ready for the evening, they quickly realize there is something else in the mansion that didn’t come with them. One by one, people are killed off in a slasher style, but who, if anyone, will survive the night?
While Blair is best known as the possessed child actress is the beloved film “The Exorcist,” she has played roles in other horror films over the years. “Hell Night” is the most fun and watchable of them all, with a slight exception for “Witchery,” where she stars opposite David Hasselhoff. However, in the case of “Witchery,” “watchable” is a subjective term.
One interesting fact about this film is that Linda Blair was nominated a Razzie for her acting during the second year the “award” came into effect, though, in my humble opinion, it’s unjustified; she is very strong in a film with a very basic plot. She is certainly a major reason this movie is so watchable and even rewatchable.
The recently released Blu-ray from Scream Factory is a lovingly restored version. The film struggled with dark lighting and other issues, which are beautifully fixed by Scream Factory. If you have not seen this film yet, the Blu-ray is the best version to watch.
Is it worth seeing? Put simply, “Hell Night” is a lot of fun. It did not break ground or try to change the genre in any way, but it is a great slasher film with some very strong acting and an excellent, moody setting. While most slasher films are forgettable and tend to bleed into one another in the mind, “Hell Night” stands firmly on its own.
This is a film that any horror lover must watch and will most likely want to own for themselves. Pray for day!