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HELL NIGHT ($25) is a low budget, but entertaining horror flick made in the heyday of psycho’s stalking horny teenagers. Linda Blair stars in this 1981 production as one of four college freshmen that have to spend the night in Garth Manor as part of a sorority/fraternity initiation ritual. Garth Manor gained notoriety twelve years earlier, when the family patriarch murdered his family and then himself. Since one of the bodies was never found, it is believed that the survivor still roams the caverns and secret passages that run through the estate. Hey, you can’t leave four college students locked in haunted house overnight without the threat of a boogeyman.

Of course, what would any college initiation be without the requisite pranks? As it turns out, the house has been thoroughly booby-trapped by the head of the fraternity to make "hell night" even more frightening. However, the evening takes a genuinely horrifying turn, when a real killer begins stalking the foursome. The cast of HELL NIGHT also features Vincent Van Patten, Peter Barton, Kevin Brophy, Jenny Neumann, Suki Goodwin and Jimmy Sturtevant. Director Tom DeSimone builds a good level of tension and the shocks are effectively applied. Another thing that makes HELL NIGHT effective are the film’s likeable characters, that are better developed than those cardboard walking props that usually get hacked up in this type of movie. Genre fans will notice that as far as eighties horror movies go, HELL NIGHT isn’t excessively violent, plus there is a surprising lack of nudity- although there is plenty of sexual innuendo.

Anchor Bay Entertainment has done a really great job bringing HELL NIGHT to DVD. The beautiful looking transfer restores the film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio, and better yet, the DVD has been enhanced for 16:9 playback. Unlike most horror movies, HELL NIGHT has been exquisitely lit and photographed. The transfer really does justice to Mac Ahlberg’s warm and inviting cinematography. Everything appears sharp and nicely detailed; even the level of shadow detail is surprisingly good. Color reproduction is excellent, reproducing natural flesh tones and highly saturated hues, without chroma noise or bleeding. Blacks are faithfully rendered and the contrast proves to be quite good. Solid DVD authoring hides all traces of digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is very clean and precise sounding. Dialogue, sound effects and music are all very lively for a monaural track.

The interactive menus are better than standard issue, offering a bit of music, animation and full motion video. Through the menus one can access the standard scene selection feature, as well as the disc’s supplements. The chief supplement is a running commentary with actress Linda Blair, director Tom DeSimone and producers Irwin Yablans and Bruce Cohn Curtis. This isn’t the mother of all commentaries, but if you like the movie, you’ll find the audio track worth a listen. Other supplements include a theatrical trailer, TV spots and cast/crew biographies/filmographies.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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