Not the sequel to Purgatory Afternoon
Hell Night stars Linda Blair as the innocent Marti, who is attending a Halloween party at a college fraternity. She is taken by the frat members to the supposedly haunted Garth Manor with three other people. They are told the that twelve years earlier, Raymond Garth, the head of Garth Manor, murdered his family and hanged himself. When police arrived, the could not find the body of Raymond's youngest son, Andrew. Marti and her companions are locked in Garth Manor and must stay there until sunrise. A night of pranks and hazing soon turns to terror as people are murdered by a mysterious lumbering monster. They all must survive until sunrise and escape their night of hell.
This film is tame by today's standards but for 1981, Hell Night had some seriously violent scenes. Hell Night is not overly bloody or gory, but that does not stop the movie from indulging in some creative killing. And while the film may not be in the same legendary category of 70's/80's horror movies such as Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street, it still deserves a lot of credit. Many movies you see today have the same elements that make Hell Night work. Atmosphere, music swells, teens indulging in drugs and sex, and a monster that cannot be stopped. If you watch the trailer for the fake grindhouse movie Don't, you can see a lot of scenes were inspired by Hell Night.
Gates! My one weakness!
Linda Blair does a fine job as the heroine Marti. She is the stereotypical innocent young woman in horror movies, which works for the purpose of telling the story, but it feels like she was limited in what she could do with the character. We all know from The Exorcist that Linda Blair has some wide range and Hell Night wasted her potential a bit, leaving her helpless and shrieking for most of it. Speaking of shrieking, there is a lot of that going on in this film. Make sure not to watch the movie with headphones unless you want broken eardrums.
The monster in the movie is a mix of Solomon Grundy and Michael Myers: an unstoppable smashing machine that seems to keep coming no matter what you throw at it. They do hide the monster fairly well, with just quick shots of a hands grabbing and smashing victims. When you do finally see him, though, its a bit disappointing. They were probably going for a more realistic look, but it doesn't really work when the monster has unrealistic abilities.
Pacing is a bit of a mess in Hell Night. I know they were hoping to have a slow build, but there are scenes where nothing is happening for far too long. Clocking in at an hour and forty minutes, they could have easily cut about 20 minutes of walking, standing, and other superfluous scenes. The flow of the movie is hurt with these extra scenes and you find yourself slipping into boredom.
Overall, Hell Night is still worth your time to see. A classic 80's horror movie, you get some good frights and kills. Boredom does tend to creep in at times, but stick with it and you'll enjoy yourself. I have had the Misfits' song “Hell Night” stuck in my head ever since I started watching this movie. I hope you're happy, I know I am.