New Year's Evil
Don't dare make New Year's resolutions... unless you plan to live!
Year of Release: 1980
Running Time: 85 minutes (1:25)
Director: Emmett Alston
Roz Kelly ... Diane 'Blaze' Sullivan
Kip Niven ... Richard Sullivan
Chris Wallace ... Lt. Clayton
Grant Cramer ... Derek Sullivan
Jed Mills ... Ernie
Louisa Moritz ... Sally
Taaffe O'Connell ... Jane
A nationally televised New Year's Eve punk rock party being celebrated in all four time zones sets an eerie stage for "murders at midnight" in this thriller with a twist ending.
New Year's Evil, remindin' us that the Hell's Angels don't have much sympathy for guys who plow station wagons into their bikes. Even if they do play the "man of God" card. An speakin' of smiting God's messenger, our Christmas miracle came a little late this year, but I gotta say, it was totally worth the wait. I can't remember Chickawalka County bein' this shook up since the 'quake of '81 when Raymundo Hernandez' (he was a Skunky's uncle) cattle panicked an stampeded down Front Street. Took out a phone booth an three old men checkin' out the sidewalk sale in front of Snakey's Plumbing Supplies before we could enlist enough rodeo clowns to reestablish order. Now, normally on New Year's Eve, Cleave Furguson, Billy Hilliard, Sadie Bonebreak, Skunky Hernandez an me'd hit The Gutter Bowl after our annual pheasant dinner at Mack's Stacks of Manly Snacks to see who gets drunk enough to make the paper the next mornin', but there was a slight change of plan this year. See, ever since the day after Christmas, Wade Sawyer's been advertisin' this big "history changin'" event he had lined up for New Year's Eve over at Walleye's Topless Dancing & Bait Shop, an since Sadie's girlfriend was at home on Prozac holiday, we decided to go check it out. Course, Wade, bein' the showman he is, threw the standard mammalogical exhibits up on the runway right up until 11:45pm to build the suspense, so by the time midnight rolled around half the audience was almost too crocked to believe their eyes when Wade pulled back the curtain. I still ain't entirely sure I believe what I saw, but right at the stroke of midnight, when that ball dropped in Central Park, the bombshells flopped at Walleye's, an out stepped Chastity Dollarhide (the Reverend's 29 year old daughter), wearin' nothin' but a Santa hat an a set of crucifixion tassels.
For a long time we didn't know what to do, cause nobody wanted to be the guinea pig that tipped 'er to find out whether they'd get smote dead on the spot by the Big Guy. Fortunately, Tetnis had the presence of mind to open up the front door an depressurize the place, an when you've got the great pumpkins starin' you right square in the face, you do eventually tend to get over the shock of bein' blinded by the high beams on that set of holy headlights. So about 30 seconds after the initial shock'd worn off an Chastity'd broken three or four laws of physics, the runway looked about like Smaug's hoard from The Hobbit an nobody seemed to care whether it was right to look or not. Pretty sure I saw one ole boy throw the title to his pickup onto the runway, it was borderin' on pandemonium. Gettin' back to the point though, there was apparently a little holiday fallout at the Dollarhide estate this Christmas, an by the end of it Chastity'd completely renounced 'er faith in favor of fun. I imagine she finally found out about dear ole Dad's gambling habit an had a minor theological paradoxical meltdown, like when a calculator tries dividin' by zero, but that's just hearsay. Or maybe heresy. Who the heck even knows anymore? I did ask about it, but she declined to answer that question at the post-jiggle press conference she held while Tetnis an Wade were rakin' up her money into Hefty bags, although she did say she's through with the church, an that she could do more good for us downtrodden folks right there at Walleye's. I guess she's donatin' half her earnins to disadvantaged Atheists or somethin', but the important thing here is that we FINALLY scored a victory over the fascist power structure when those two mortar rounds struck that brass pole. It's times like these that you've gotta stop an thank His Godness for small miracles, an enormous chest protectors.
Unfortunately, that night at Walleye's was the biggest thrill I got this week, cause New Year's Evil is one of those flicks where you follow the killer around while he wastes air-headed blondes afflicted by the bimbonic plague an listen to Detective poor man's Al Pacino blame the punk rock scene an yell things like "nobody gets on or off this floor, damnit!" I'm afraid we're talkin' Thriller territory here, an I'm sure you're all familiar with my feelins about the Thriller genre bein' the edgy teenager in the Suspense family, so instead of draggin' that out again, let's just skip it an focus on what this movie has to offer us in the way of conventional wisdom. First thing you're gonna wanna make note of in this flick is that chicks at the bar will *always* fall for the "I know Erik Estrada" trick. Now granted, said chicks hafta be old enough to actually know who Erik Estrada IS, so at this point we're talkin' the "matures only" section of the adult classifieds, but it's still a sure thing. Second, if you find a woman who considers pourin' champagne into a urine specimen cup a romantic gesture, snatch her up immediately, cause she prolly ain't gonna be too fussy about the kinda life you're able to provide for her. An third, nobody cares about the clock strikin' midnight in Alaska. The thing I really did like about this flick though was how original it is. I can honestly say that, in all my days of exploitation observation, I can't recall anyone ever tryin' to make a movie based entirely upon somebody playin' a high stakes game of "don't mess up!" You guys all remember how to play that, right? Like when you're out playin' Horse on the elementary school basketball court an your friend tries sinkin' a jumper from the 3-point line, only right before he lets the ball go you scream "don't mess up!" or "miss it!" Same deal here, only in the movie we got this lunatic runnin' around Hollywood Boulevard killin' women whose heads double as air mattresses, callin' in to this punk rock party line an replayin' recordins of the murders to this foxy veejay so she'll lose 'er cool an start blubberin' on live TV an end up DJin' pathetic middle school dances in Tecumseh, Michigan. Most guys wouldn't go to all that trouble, so this shows serious effort on the part of the director to make us believe in the plausibility of arrested development in method actors with antisocial personality disorder. We're talkin' some diabolical career sabotage here, I mean, I remember when WCW used to deliberately spill the beans about how the Monday Night Raw main event was gonna end so people wouldn't flip the channel, but this is unheard of. Best flick I've ever seen with a script written by a 12-year-old. Somebody give that kid a raise in his allowance.
The movie begins at some TV studio with a roof that's lit up like a sombrero from outer space, where a punk rock Green Day veejay (Blaze) is gettin' ready to host a New Year's Eve special. The idea is that she's gonna count down to the new year in all four time zones in the continental United States, while these greasy indie bands play a lotta pitiful west coast grunge music that sounds like The Beatles on acid for a studio fulla emo kids who keep gettin' beaten up by the bar bouncer at Whisky a Go Go. Cept while the makeup lady's tryin' to iron the wrinkles out of the gal's neck so the kids won't realize she's pushin' 40, her friend (Yvonne) is upstairs takin' so long to put on 'er makeup that by the time she's ready to party even the balls on the New Year's baby have already dropped. Fortunately, the avenging avatar of all fed up, frustrated men everywhere ends up grabbin' 'er when she goes to turn off a faucet drip in the bathroom, an she pretty much gets reverse Psycho'd by the lunatic hidin' in 'er shower. Meanwhile, outside, this carload of 29 homosexual goth punks pulls up to the studio an start hasslin' the ticket taker until the he threatens to call Casey Jones to help 'em clean up their acts. Casey hates punkers. Especially bald ones in green makeup who wear masks over ugly faces. Then Blaze's sissy boy of a son (Derek) comes up to 'er room so she can kiss 'im on the lips like Hillary Duff, an when she won't slow down long enough for 'im to tell 'er about the actin' gig he just scored on Glee he gets so pissy that he hasta go write bad poetry an mutter Rites of Spring lyrics to himself to get calmed down. Course by that time Blaze's already gone down to the stage where all these degenerates who slept through those personal hygiene films in school have gathered to snort cocaine an molest anything that moves, only when she starts takin' votes for the band most likely to cause parental disownage when played at a volume greater than 10 decibels, this guy who's nuttier'n a Payday bar (Richard) calls 'er up an starts talkin' to 'er through one of those voice synthesizin' marital aids an tells 'er he's gonna kill somebody at midnight in every time zone, an that she'll be the coup de grace. Richard kinda looks like what you'd expect to see after Kevin Sorbo got real drunk one night an slept with Jeffrey Combs, so it's a little hard to take him seriously, an that's even before he starts smilin' an his face gets more wrinkly than the bingo hall on $500 blackout night. But anyway, Richard heads over to a sanitarium where he puts the moves on the night nurse an records himself turnin' the randy stripper into a human strainer with his switchblade, an once he's done with that he calls Blaze up again an plays the tape for 'er so she'll extinguish herself with 'er own piddle.
Suffice to say, Blaze is a little bit frazzled. Which is understandable, bein' that this was supposed to be her big break an the operators are gettin' so few calls that the freak off the leash is able to get through twice within a 15 minute span. So she decides to get Al Pacino's unemployed cousin, Detective Sal Pacino, to come by the studio an make sure her lil frien' don't show up an bankrupt the tattooin' an piercing industries with his switchblade. Then Derek takes a buncha Xanax tablets an starts chewin' his mama's nylons while she shakes 'er bubble bobbles an plays the air guitar on TV, an... well, I don't wanna go makin' baseless accusations or anything, but it seems like maybe he's hummin' a few bars of Odipiddy Doo-Da to me. Anyway, while that's goin' on, Richard's attachin' a dead caterpillar to his upper lip an leisure suitin' up for a trip to the disco, where he picks up this can of compressed air an 'er roommate so they can annoy the hell out of 'im with their collective bimbosity while he struggles to hold off on killin' 'em until the clock ticks down to midnight in the Central time zone. Trouble is, there's two of 'em, so he ends up havin' to stop at the liquor store to send one inside for a bottle of fertility drugs so he can suffocate the second one with a grocery bag. Actually, I think he ends up havin' to outright strangle 'er, cause every time she almost runs outta air she keeps refillin' the bag with 'er cranial reserves or somethin', but he does eventually get the job done. Anyhow, by the time the first gal comes outta the booze barn, he's left 'er a trail of dead crumbs to follow that lead to a dirty ole dumpster, an when she opens up the lid to ask Oscar the Grouch if he's seen anything suspicious, she gets pulled inside an turned into hobo furniture. So with 12am Central outta the way, Richard calls up Blaze again an plays the Sound of Slewsic for 'er over the phone an dresses up like Max Von Sydow in The Exorcist an rear-ends a fleet of Hell's Angels who proceed to chase 'im into a drive-in. They don't even pay the admission fee, an I know their mama's taught 'em better'n that. Come on you guys, I get that you've got a code that says you gotta wedge the turkey's head into your fenders an rev up the engine until his face turns into goulash, but these flicks NEED the box office receipts, alright? So anyhow, then Richard hijacks this car from some chivalrous teenager who ditches his girlfriend while she's tryin' to get her man magnets under wraps, only when he gets onto the freeway two drunks stagger out into the road, an when he stops to avoid gettin' his grille clogged fulla hobo hibachi the girl escapes to be groped another day.
Then Detective Sal goes up on stage at the show an tells everybody to piss down their legs cause nobody's gettin' in or out so long as Blaze's briquettes're in danger, an while that's goin' on Richard's outside lurin' Officer Combover away from the back door so he can play cops an clobbers once the guy gets into cinder block range. Meanwhile, Blaze's gone up to 'er dressin' room to check on Derek, cept he don't wanna talk to 'er cause he's still P.O.'d about 'er missin' his 10th birthday party to root around with Wolfman Jack, an so he goes off to brood an fashion an emo bang out of pocket lint. Then Blaze sits down at 'er mirror an Richard sneaks up on 'er wearin' a Richard Nixon mask an purt'near scares 'er out of her spiked leather dog collar, before takin' the mask off an revealin' he's 'er husband. Which can only be a good thing, cause if the plot didn't thicken right then, it prolly woulda died from complications of anorexia. So Blaze is a little miffed about 'im bein' late for her impendin' coronation as Queen of New Year's Eve an the end of Dick Clark's tyrannical reign, but mostly she just wants 'im to go have a man-to-wimp with Derek before he grows up to become Marilyn Manson. Cept now there's a little wrinkle in Richard's plan, cause when Blaze's security gourd spots Richard he gets suspicious an puts in a call to Detective Sal to ask for a birth certificate of authenticity, an they end up matchin' his name to the abandoned car at the drive-in an findin' out that Richard used to have a standin' reservation at Wacky Jackie's Shack o' Quacks. It's too late though, cause by now Blaze is headin' back downstairs in the elevator an pretty quick Richard starts monkeyin' around with the breaker box so it goes down the shaft faster'n a middle-aged divorcee on a Tinder hookup. Then Richard heads over to the site where Humpty Dumpty's unconscious from 'er great fall an brings 'er around so he can play another one of his greatest slits over the radio an tell 'er about how his murderous trampage is all her fault cause she's a mean ole bitch who never let him have his own credit card or... I didn't really understand that part exactly. Basically he's P.O.'d about her bein' the breadwinner an the fact that nobody'll hire him to do anything but model bell bottoms at Montgomery Ward, is what I took away from it. In fact, that's got 'im in such a tizzy that he decides to chain 'er to the bottom of the elevator so he can send it all the way up to the top floor an wait for somebody on the bottom to push the button an squish 'er into Smuckers preserves, which is where we're gonna leave off so we don't spoil the endin'. Even though the entire movie's more predictable than the lunch orders of old men who sit at the front counter of truck stop restaurants an spend the next six hours sippin' away at the same cup of coffee.
Apparently New Year's Eve horror plots are a lot harder to come up with than Christmas horror plots, cause you don't see nearly as many flicks based around New Year's. Of course, all the subsequent Christmas titles got to use Black Christmas as a blueprint, where anything following this movie was stuck with a Thriller type plot and a killer who's motive hasta be one of the most pitiful in the history of the slasher genre. A purist really wouldn't even call this a slasher flick, due to the low body count and the fact that there's way too much plot gettin' in the way of the story, but some folks do classify it as such. Most directors seem to drift way too far into that Thriller zone when they make movies that embed themselves with the killer, and I imagine that's because they don't want the killer to seem sympathetic, but take a look at Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and tell me it can't be done. Weak-kneed is what I'm tryin' to say here. It looks to me like Alston was trying to make a movie that could be shown on cable TV, but that never gets violent enough to frighten away anybody who might be considering him for directorial duties on future projects, and his balancing act ultimately ends with all the spinning plates shattering on the floor. I think the thing that really does it in is just how slow the pacing is, with a lot of time spent attempting to build up suspense toward events that eventually fall flat, and with regard to the guy who's supposed to be generating said suspense, ie; the killer, this movie reminded me a lot of Trick or Treats, which is not something you want to be compared to. It is at least better than Trick or Treats, but on the flip side, when compared to another similar title, When a Stranger Calls, its deficiencies become even more apparent. Another problem is that it's very predictable, with its two "major" plot twists being visible well in advance, and from interstellar distances. The whole movie is just so mediocre and forgettable it's actually difficult to put into words exactly what could have been done to improve it, but I believe that keeping the killer's identity concealed a la Nightmares in a Damaged Brain definitely would have helped. You can't really ask for a higher body count, because that would clash with the movie's gimmick and go against the whole "stigginit to the bitch" theme, although they could have at least SHOWN the murders. I will say that the shameless ploy of providing exposure for the band in exchange for a free soundtrack actually kinda works in this movie, due to the plot being structured around a New Year's Eve punk rock TV special. So even though the director dedicates way too much time to the musical numbers, they do at least fit in with the events of the movie, without coming off as pathetic plugs.
Anyway, let's dissect this thing to see if its moderate technical proficiency can overcome its timidity and periodic bouts of constipacion, before I forget everything about it. The plot, not taking into account the pathetic motivations of the killer, is honestly somewhat unique. I kinda feel that somewhere in this mess is a movie that hasn't been made yet, and that a remake might actually yield something interesting. It would really need to be kicked up a notch as far as providing excitement for the audience, but that's one thing that modern remakes do well. Of course, most of the titles that get selected for remakes already have a suitable amount of excitement, and so the remake essentially becomes an edgier version that abandons any and all semblance of subtlety that made the original great, but in the case of a movie like New Year's Evil, it could actually benefit from that approach. The acting is really ineffectual as far as inspiring any kind of emotion in the viewer, so, despite not coming off as unprofessional, it contributes absolutely squat to the movie's enjoyability factor. Matter of fact, the only scene in the entire movie that's actually fun to watch, with regard to the acting, is the opening credit sequence where the punk rock goth kids are driving to the studio. I did at least like that part, so my vote for the best acting performance in this movie goes to a buncha actors whose parts were so minuscule that their characters don't even have names. This movie REALLY needed a coupla good character actors to help out on the acting front. I mean, imagine if they'd cast, say, Wings Hauser as the killer, John Saxon as the detective, and Brinke Stevens as the DJ. That would've helped IMMENSELY, but unfortunately we got absolutely nobody to work with here, and as a result, you couldn't give a flip less about any of them.
Here's who matters and why: Roz Kelly (Full Moon High, Curse of the Black Widow), Kip Niven (Damnation Alley, Raising Jeffrey Dahmer, Summer of Fear), Chris Wallace (Don't Answer the Phone!) Grant Cramer (Satan Claws, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Raptor, Addicted to Murder 2 & 3, Night of the Living Dead 30th Anniversary Edition, Creaturealm: From the Dead, Auntie Lee's Meat Pies), Louisa Moritz (Death Race 2000, Galaxis), Jed Mills (The Creature Wasn't Nice, Kiss Daddy Goodbye), Taaffe 'O Connell (Galaxy of Terror), Jon Greene (Maniac Cop, Schizoid, Don't Answer the Phone!), Teri Copley (Transylvania Twist), John Alderman (Superstition, Drive-In Massacre, The Alpha Incident, Hannah: Queen of the Vampires, Escape from the Planet of the Apes), Michael Frost (X-Ray), Michael Mihalich (Mirror Mirror, 6 Souls), Richard E. Kalk (Vampire Clan), Mark DeFrain (X-Ray), Tim Cutt (Sweet 16), Don Grenough (X-Ray), Richard Israel (Piranha 1995, World Gone Wild), Michelle Waxman (Satan's Mistress), Joseph Long (Zombie Cult Massacre, Night Wars, Mutant 1984, Shadows Run Black), E.L. Woody (X-Ray). It couldn't have been easy to weather the stigma of having this slightly overtuned Thriller on their resumes, but a coupla cast members did manage to land roles that the average person may remember them for, so I'll go ahead and list those in case their mothers happen to be reading. Kip Niven should be best known for playing Astrachan in Magnum Force, Grant Cramer oughta be particularly ashamed for his portrayal of Shawn Garrett on The Young and the Restless, and Teri Copley was Mickey McKenzie on We Got it Made.
The special effects, few as they are, are just okay. It's like I said before though, most of the murders aren't shown, so there's very little in the way of gore. They do at least show the bodies postmortem, but there isn't much to speak of beyond a few knife wounds and a little blood. There is a severed head that isn't too bad, but then you've got a really pitiful dummy that kinda wipes out the contribution of the disembodied head. In short; don't go into this one expecting much blood. The shooting locations are mostly beneficial, even though the studio from which the New Year's Eve show is being broadcast is a little small. You'd expect a bigger venue for something being used for a prime time New Year's Eve special, but it does at least fit the bill. The rest of the locations are much better, particularly the driving shots of the grungy 1980's Hollywood Boulevard, which they would have done well to spend more time shooting in. The best location is the Van Nuys Drive-In Theater where the wimp killer gets chased around by the bikers, but there's also a decent hospital sequence, and a lot of exterior shots of seedy businesses that help give the movie a minor touch of grittiness. So that part of the movie was decent. The soundtrack, at least as far as the instrumental tracks goes, isn't especially memorable. But it's full of synth tracks that're a bit strange and somewhat beneficial in generating a little atmosphere for a movie that could really use it. I know a lot of times in the past I've compared soundtrack scores to the music from In Search Of, but both composers for New Year's Evil did actually compose tracks for that series, so there is a lot of resemblance between the TV series tone and this soundtrack at times. Then you've got the punk rock tunes which were performed by a band called Shadow, and these tracks are pretty enjoyable from a campy '80s perspective. Way too much time is dedicated to them, but they're not bad to listen to, so at the end of the day the soundtrack helps to compensate for some of the more deficient elements of the film. Overall, it barely passes on a technical level, and fails pretty hard with regard to its entertainment value. It's too watered down to be anything more than mediocre, and it's not campy enough to be enjoyed on an ironic level, so casual fans of the horror genre should probably take a pass on this one.