I'm not quite sure why I'd never seen Hell Night before.
In the mid to late '90s there was a boom in the home video business that lead to hundreds of cult horror films getting special edition treatment at the hands of companies like Anchor Bay. I had just gotten a driver's license, and my most frequent commuting wasn't to work, but to the local Suncoast Video in the nearby mall. I recall scouring the horror shelves for Anchor Bay clamshell cases and Hell Night was one that I saw very frequently on the shelf but for some reason never picked up.
Cut to twenty years later when the film land on my doorstep and I finally get to cross it off my (lengthy) list of films I'm ashamed of never having seen. Was it worth all the build up? Well, it's... perfectly fine.
It's Hell Night at Alpha Sigma Rho fraternity, and the pledges are forced to spend a night in the supposedly haunted Garth Manor. I'm sure you can see where this is going... The big brothers at the fraternity have rigged the estate with all sorts of frightening surprises, but when the Manor appears to have plans of its own, things get bloody. One by one the pledges begin to drop and it looks like the fuddy-duddy Marti (Linda Blair) and Jeff (Peter Barton) may be the only ones who make it out alive, but a presence in the house isn't about to let that happen on its watch. Immolation, decapitation, and desecration are all on the menu in Tom DeSimone's Hell Night
Look, there's nothing wrong with Hell Night. It's a perfectly fine horror film with some good gore and a few original ideas, but it seems to think that it's significantly better and more effective than it actually is. Some solid performances from Blair, Barton, and co-star Vincent Van Patten (a personal favorite because of his role in Rock N Roll High School) make the film enjoyable, but not much more for me. I guess that's all you really need, though, isn’t' it? It's not a gothic masterpiece by any means, but it is a fun little ghost story/Ten Little Indians supernatural slasher that has a satisfying ending.
Scream Factory presents Hell Night in its Blu-ray debut from, as the cover says, a "New 4K scan from the best archival film print". Before the film starts there is a disclaimer warning that the source materials aren't in great shape and no first generation materials seemed ot exist for the film, neither of these are precursors for the kind of miraculous restorations film fans have come ot expect in recent years, and they are right to temper expectations. Hell Night doesn't look so hot. There's a significant amount of print damage along with muddy contrast and detail and several SD sections where HD materials weren't available. This isn't as beautiful as fans might have hoped, but it sounds like it may be the best we're going to get. If you've seen the film on DVD or VHS in the past, this is certainly an upgrade, but don't expect a miracle.
Thankfully, Scream Factory more than makes up for this with a wealth of supplemental material, much of it a bit full of itself, but welcome nonetheless. We get a great interview with Blair, alongside interviews with DeSimone, Barton, Van Patten, Suki Goodwin, writer Randy Feldman, actors Kevin Brophy and Jenny Neumann, art director Steven Legler, FX breakdowns with artists Pam Peitzman and John Eggett, and a neat location visit with the director. Overall, there are well over three hours of supplementary materials on the disc, closer to five if you count the audio commentary with Blair, DeSimone, and the producers. Definifely a great collector's edition for a beloved early '80s horror.