Hell Night

The “spend a night in a creepy house at your own peril” conceit is so done to death, the DNA’s been degraded. And Hell Night won’t provide any exculpatory evidence.

Tom DeSimone’s 1981 feature is very close to Night of the Demons in structure. There, it was dumb students and Hull House, here it’s dumb students at Garth Manor. In terms of execution though, the effects and the fun is lacking in the latter.

And it’s not like Night of the Demons is a classic, or the only film Hell Night superficially resembles. Hell Night is a bit like House on Haunted Hill too, the classic flick where eccentric millionaire Vincent Price invites folks to spend the night in a creepy house. And when you’re talking young attractive people in an isolated setting, well…there are hundreds of horrors about that.

Frat/sorority initiates are goaded into spending a night at Garth Manor, where the family patriarch strangled the missus, and killed his three deformed kids before killing himself. But legend has it, one of his kids survived.

Da-da-dum.

A mob of students herds the initiates onto the property by tiki-torch light and locks the gates behind them. One of the students is Marti, played by Linda Blair, who it should be said seems completely bored by the proceedings. And she’s not the only one. This is a dull affair, with lots of long hallways with lights shone down them.

Straddling Gothic horror and stalk-and-slash college caper, Hell Night does neither genre any favors. But if we had to choose…the former provides the best elements, as there are some nice candle-lit visuals.

For some reason, Hell Night is out on Blu-ray. And yet, it’s not even among the Top 3 films with “hell” in the title, Hellraiser being the best (of course).

So is viewing the film a hellish experience? We wouldn’t go that far…

**1/4 (out of 5)

[Check out our Hell Night discussion on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]

 

Creature from the Black Lagoon

Any time any some monster hunts down eggheads, Jack Arnold’s estate should get a royalty check.

The flick he directed, Creature from the Black Lagoon casts as many shadows as its Florida everglade locale. It’s almost inescapable/inestimable how influential this movie is.

Whether it’s drek like Luigi Cozzi’s Contamination, or fan favorite Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, it doesn’t matter. You put researchers on board a vessel investigating something weird, things go haywire, and it all goes back to Creature. Hell, the underwater swimming shots here are totally Jaws and the good ship Rita is the bigger boat.

Creature from the Black Lagoon has simple, effective storytelling that found its way into the above, and hundreds of other films both sci fi and natural horror/animal attack: strange find, experts called in, search party sent out, warning signs ignored, or some variation thereof.

A geologist discovers a strange fossil sticking out of a sandbank along the Amazon.

With very little care for its preservation, he hacks it loose with a pickax and hoofs it over to the lab.

His colleagues don’t know what to make of it, but in the interest of science, champ at the bit to go looking for its origins downriver. They hire a sleazy sea captain to pilot a dilapidated vessel down river, Joseph Conrad-style.

And what do you suppose they find?

Creature was Stephen King’s earliest movie memory. Audiences in the 50s must’ve been wowed by the effects, which were undoubtedly cool for their time.

And it’s a riot to think a silly film like this came out of Citizen Kane, of all things. CK’s producer William Alland was at a dinner party for Kane, and overheard a…guess you could say “fishy” tale about some odd fish/human hybrid. Hence, Creature was born.

Incidentally, if readers would like to hear us talk about that very thing, check out our podcast discussion of Creatures from the Abyss and Island of the Fishmen!

Creature from the Black Lagoon is a joy. Its sequel, Revenge of the Creature, featured Clint “the Squint Eastwood” in his film debut as a lab geek.

***1/2 (out of 5)

[Readers, do check out our podcast discussion of Creature from the Black Lagoon!]