So not too long ago I stayed up extra late (or really early depending on how you look at it) to watch one of TCM’s late night/early morning showings. I’ve noticed on Fridays that after the Underground is over they usually show another movie very similar to the first. So after catching the end of You Better Watch Out, I stuck around to catch another holiday themed slasher, New Year’s Evil.
The film starts off kinda promising with a quick death, and then a jump to a televised punk rock/new age New Year’s party. It’s sort of a cross between a Dick Clark broadcast and a telethon, with people calling in and voting for their favorite song of the year. It looks like something MTV would have done, if MTV had bothered to get off it’s @$$ and invent itself yet (The movie was released in 1980. MTV didn’t start till 1981.)
The party is hosted/MC’d by a popular female host who talks to the camera and takes the occasional phone call. She’s also a constant reminder that, yes, you’re watching an 80’s film.
Nice pink eyebrows, hon.
Inevitably she picks up the phone only to be greeted by Mr. Psyhcopath, who insists on calling himself Eeeevil (I’m not kidding, he really does draw out the E) and informs her that he’s going to kill someone as each US time zone strikes midnight, with her being his final victim.
Naturally she calls the cops, but, this being a slasher film, they’re pretty damn near useless. Meanwhile, Mr. Eeeevil chooses his first victim, the hot, slutty nurse, a character contractually obligated to show up in every slasher film. He wastes no time getting busy.
Oh, you thought I meant the OTHER busy. Well fine.
See what happens when you should be watching the patients.
By now the cops are freaking out. Not only do they now have a dead body on their hands, but the Eeeevil guy is calling the host back and playing the victims pre-recorded screams of death for all the world to hear.
Fear me, and my ability to use a simple tape recorder.
We spend the rest of the movie watching the host freak out, watching the police do an admirable job of mucking things up and watching the killer slightly change his appearance while he stalks and kills his next victims.
He’s a master of disguise.
The movie starts off with a couple interesting concepts. The first is the thought of killing a new victim at the stroke of midnight for each time zone (though not IN each time zone. That would have been interesting and impressive.) That was something a little different and it fits in well with the New Year’s theme. The second is the fact that we essentially see the killer right away. He’s silhouetted in the opening scene, but after that there is no real effort made to hide his face or his real voice. This turns the movie less into a who-done-in and into more of a who-is-it, and even then I’m sure 99% of the audience could figure out his connection to the host in the first 10 minutes.
It’s obvious by the tone of the film that with much of the mystery aspect gone that they tried to more thriller aspects. And while there is an amusing car chase, being able to see the killer and know his intentions pretty much kills any suspense.
One thing I thought was very interesting about New Year’s Evil was the casting. As any slasher fan knows, most slashers are filled with ripe, lush victims between the ages of 16-25. But all the primary characters for this film were clearly in their 30’s and 40’s, with the one exception being the host’s son, but that boy has issues.
Like, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS issues.
But that doesn’t mean that the added age makes the characters any wiser or smarter than their younger counterparts. While the ages may have increased in this movie, the slasher stereotypes did not.
In the end, New Year’s Evil has some decent comedy (not all of it intentional, I’m sure) and is another example of an early slasher with little of the gore and nudity that these types of films would later be known for. The death scenes are decent, but lack any creativity. However, you’ve gotta love a movie where the villain comically tries to distort his voice, ala Scream, and whose idea of a good disguise is to use a “glue it on yourself” mustache that you could probably buy at the nearest dollar store. If you’re interested in early slashers and don’t mind less than stellar direction and production values that feel more “TV movie” rather than theatrical, or if you just like holiday themed horrors, than feel free to give this one a try. But if you’re looking for something with a bit more blood and creativity you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
New Year’s Evil is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
It’s also available on DVD and Bluray, though the Bluray seems to be largely sold out at the moment.