Hell Night (1981): Collector’s Edition [Blu-Ray/DVD]

Director Tom De Simone’s “Hell Night” usually gets lumped in together with a lot of the other eighties slashers, but in reality his genre offering is so much more unique than a simple hack and slash. “Hell Night” is a great Halloween horror romp that feels like something pulled out of a haunted house Gothic novel. It’s the perfect fixture for the holiday delivering a relentlessly bleak tone that makes it quite an unnerving experience all the way through. Linda Blair can do these kinds of horror movies in her sleep and she plays final girl Marti quite well, doing her best to battle a deformed monster in its territory.

Very much in the vein of “The Funhouse” and the latter day “Castle Freak,” Blair stars as a college girl pledging a fraternity with her other friends. As a way of testing their guts, the president of the frat spins a terrifying story about the legend of Garth Manor. Said manor was run by a man named Garth who slaughtered his entire family inexplicably, saved for his horribly deformed son Andrew. They’re instructed to stay in the mansion until dawn, allowing them in the frat. Things take a turn for the horrific when the friends set up for the night and are slowly staked and murdered within the mansion. The mansion ends up being a very unique setting for the film, revealing itself to be as much of a horror villain as the monsters that roam within the corridors.

There isn’t a prologue or a ton of set up for the manor, which allows it to become this ambiguous setting where we’re never sure if there’s an actual killer, if it’s all one big prank, or if the owners of the manor are still lurking within the walls. “Hell Night” is a successfully creepy and often tense nail biter with some fine direction and great switching around of tropes and devices. There are also some great chase sequences that De Simone stages, including a few with Blair, and another in a garden maze. There’s not a ton of gore per se, but it’s the mood, breakneck pacing, and atmosphere that makes “Hell Night” such a worthwhile horror film. And, there’s Linda Blair. You can’t forget Linda Blair.

The new release from Scream Factory comes with the patented reversible cover art. There’s an audio commentary with Actress Linda Blair, Director Tom De Simone and Producers Irwin Yablans and Bruce Cohn Curtis, and the thirty five minute “Linda Blair: The Beauty of Horror,” where in Blair discusses how she became an actress, and her desire to be a veterinarian more than she ever wanted to act. She discusses her notable performances, her work on “Hell Night,” and her emotional attachment to the film’s costumes since the costumer was once a great friend of hers. “Hell Nights With Tom De Simone” is a twenty six minute discussion with the film’s director who returns to the film’s setting, and discusses his love for the Gothic.

He also discusses an unfortunate filming injury and Frank Darabont working as a PA. “Peter Barton: Facing Fear” is a twenty minute talk with Barton who discusses how he was almost finished with acting when he was offered the film, and the effect his roles had on his life. “Producing Hell With Bruce Cohn Curtis” Is a fourteen minute discussion with the producer who, like Blair, cites “Roller Boogie” for being one of the catalysts for the film. “Writing Hell” is a twenty five minute talk with screenwriter Randy Feldman, who talks about being a horror fan but not a movie fan. He discusses why ‘Black Christmas” served as inspiration for this story, and insight as to how the script came together. “Vincent Van Patten and Suki Goodwin In Conversation” is a twenty six minute sit down with both actors sharing memories an insight in to the film.

“Kevin Brophy and Jenny Neumann In Conversation” is the same deal with Brophy mentioning that Tarantino shared that his opening monologue was one of his all time favorites. “Gothic Design In Hell Night” is a twenty two minute talk with the art director, who discusses altering the sets to look moodier, and what he did to certain rooms. “Anatomy of the Death Scenes” is a twenty one minute talk with Pam Peitzman who did make up and John Eggett who did special effects. They discuss their jobs, their work, the death scenes and how they put them together. “On Location At Kimberly Crest” is a seven minute video that takes a look at the mansion in modern times, and scene by scene comparisons from the movie to today, with voice over anecdotes by director Tom Di Simone. Finally there’s the original theatrical trailer, the original TV Spots, a radio spot, and a photo gallery.