New Year’s Evil 1980 Review
New Year’s Evil 1980
Directed by: Emmett Alston
Starring: Kip Niven, Roz Kelly, Chris Wallace
Review by Luisito Joaquín González
New Years Eve being the day that it is, it’s surprising that there are not as many slashers on that date as there are on Christmas for example. Terror Train is set on the 31st of December, but it sacrifices use of the day as a real gimmick for its train setting, which is understandable. So basically, it’s left up to this early entry to carry the torch for New Year’s slasher fans.
It was brought to the screen by Yoraham Globus and Menahem Golan who between them have produced well over 150 films. The cousins moved to LA in 1979 and took over the independent studio, Cannon Films. Their output of mid-budgeted motion pictures were always cash-ins on lucrative trends, moving from martial arts (¡Viva American Ninja! The Dudikoff classic I watched a million times as a kid) to out-and-out action and most recently drama back in their native Israel. As they had a keen eye for what’s hot at the box office, they obviously have a couple of slashers under their belts, including, Hospital Massacre and this little beauty, which was an early band wagon jumper.
Released at the peak of the slasher craze, New Year’s Evil is no clone of Halloween. It boasts an intriguing concept, which works to make the most of its calendar date. The self-proclaimed ‘lady of rock’, Diane Sullivan is hosting a punk TV show, which offers a separate countdown to the big moment for each US time zone. Viewers are invited to phone in for requests as the bands play, but the first call she receives is from a mysterious stranger called, ‘Evil’. He threatens that on each strike of 12, he will kill someone and his final victim he promises will be the host herself. As the bodies pile up, it’s left up to the Police to prevent a New Years massacre…
With a characterised loony who is on-screen from the first minute, a great method for building suspense as the minutes tick away to the murderous countdown and a high budget to make the most of its surroundings, New Year’s Evil didn’t look like it could fail. The problem is that it has the pace of a dead snail and feels like it was rushed through production at the same kind of break neck speed that these actors disappeared in to cinema obscurity. It was a good idea that has been put together with no real thought about the best way to convey it, so what we’re left with is an ugly mess.
Like going to a New Year’s party at a train spotting convention, the film is lifeless and dull. There’s almost no stalking and very little slashing, so my eyes felt heavy on the 55 minute mark and I nodded off, having to watch the rest in the morning to write this review. The killer seduces his first couple of victims and then whisks them somewhere to murder them off-screen, so there’s zero build up or scares. He has an awesome mask that he barely uses, which is a disappointment and he never builds any sense of fear or an ominous presence. Future Playboy bunny and unbelievably cute chick Teri Copley does escape his clutches and hot foots it in to the night, but despite giving pursuit the sequence still feels too lackadaisical to generate tension. There’s a twist at the end that you’d have to be unconscious not to guess and the fact that our ‘heroine’ is shown to be so self-absorbed that she pays no attention to her son, means that there is no one to root for.
I was thinking that if I had the money, I would give this film a remake. I would use the gimmick about the different time zones, make the calls creepier like say, Black Christmas, and keep the killer off-screen or masked. I would re-write the twist so that it hints at who it was here, but make it someone else (I know who, can’t say without ruining this one) and utilize the mask that the killer wears only twice, in every single scene. The reason I say this is because there were plenty of good ideas that I could see, but through lame direction and a lack of spark, it ends up being totally forgettable. There’s only a single ok scene, where the cops find two bloodied corpses strategically located and it’s a one-off moment of effective grimness. Aside from that though it’s utter crappola all the way through; right up to the cheesy and totally expected ending. The director would return to the slasher genre much later with the equally bad (but kind of fun) Demonwarp.
Don’t get me wrong there’s plenty of cheese and the odd unintentionally hilarious moment, but as a slasher movie New Year’s Evil is a total flop. I guess you could get hammered and watch this on New Years Eve and have a laugh, but I think that it’s more likely that (like me) you will be asleep on the hour mark. The potential for a remake is here, but on second thoughts, if I had the money It wouldn’t be me doing it. With those kinds of funds I’d be on a Bahamas beach in my Arsenal shorts surrounded by a bevy of beauties and as far away from New Year’s Evil as possible… (Just don’t tell the Mrs…)