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 pays more attention to its locomotive setting, which is understandable. Emmet Alston’s entry is by far the most theme driven of the peak period slashers and so I thought I’d check it out for y’all.
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.
Despite its release date, New Year’s Evil is no clone of Halloween. It boasts an intriguing concept, which works to make the most of its calendar date. After the intro, we meet the self-proclaimed ‘lady of rock’, Diane Sullivan. She’s 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 Diane receives is from a mysterious stranger called, ‘Evil’. He threatens that on each strike of 12, he will kill someone and he promises that his final victim 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 loony who is constantly on-screen from the first minute, a great method for building suspense as the minutes tick away to the murderous countdown and a comparatively high budget to make the most of its surroundings, New Year’s Evil should’ve been much more entertaining than it turned out to be. The problems stem from the fact that the runtime has the pace of a dead snail, but paradoxically looks like it was rushed through production at the same break neck speed that these actors disappeared in to cinema obscurity. It’s almost like the screenwriter came up with a really good concept, but the rest of the crew had no idea of how to do it justice.
Whilst Evil just about qualifies as a genre entry, there’s almost no stalking and very little slashing, which doesn’t bode well for a ‘scary movie’. My eyes felt heavy on the 55 minute mark and I rolled over and went to sleep, meaning that I had to watch the rest of the movie in the morning to write this review. We get a characterised antagonist that’s regularly on-screen, but there’s minimal fear factor surrounding him. He seduces the first couple of female victims and then wisks them somewhere to murder off-screen and so there’s no tense pursuits or jump scares. We do get a smidgen of a chase sequence about halfway through, which involves future Playboy bunny (and unbelievably cute chick) Teri Copley. She escapes the assailant’s clutches and hot foots it into the night and I was thinking that things might improve from there on. The scene doesn’t really go anywhere though and we soon slope back into the land of the lackadaisical. In fact, the only horror aspect that I thought was worth a mention was the killer’s awesome mask. I can’t remember him wearing it more than once though and the rest of the time they breaks the most obvious rule of all – ‘don’t give your villain too much screen time.’ 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 own son, means that there is no one to root for.
If I had the money, I would invest in getting this film re-made. 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 at least constantly sporting that creepy guise. I would re-write the twist so that it hints at the maniac’s identity, but I’d make it someone else (I know who, can’t say without ruining this one) and have a lot more stalking scenes and heavy breath POVs. The heroine would be a more traditional and give us a reason to ant her to prevail, whilst the Police investigation would give us clues that create suspense. I’m telling you this, because I really believe that the basic concept is good enough to make a solid slasher, but through lame direction and a lack of spark, this one is everything but that. Alston would return to the slasher genre much later with the equally bad (but much more fun) Demonwarp.
Don’t get me wrong there’s plenty of cheese and eighties dumbness on offer, but as a slasher movie New Year’s Evil is thread bare. I guess you could get absolutely wasted and watch this on New Years Eve for a few laughs, but I think that it’s more likely that (like me) you will be asleep on the hour mark. I mentioned a remake, but on second thoughts, if I had that kind of money, it wouldn’t be me doing it. 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…)