Bloody New Year
Six twenty-somethings trying to enjoy a fun weekend at a seaside community, end up running aground while on a boat excursion and find themselves stranded on an island. They manage to take refuge in a quaint little hotel, but quickly find themselves very confused. Despite being open, the hotel seems suspiciously deserted, as does the rest of the island. Even stranger, it’s decorated for Christmas and New Years, even though it’s the middle of the summer. But the group quickly find that ill timed decorations are the least of their worries, as they all swiftly find themselves targeted by invisible ghostly tormentors who don’t seem all too keen on letting their new visitors leave the island.
Oh, calm down. I’m sure the slimy, seaweed monster just wants a hug.
Upon first glance, Bloody New Year seems like it’s going to be a slasher, but as the saying goes, first impressions can be deceiving. Bloody New Year is instead a supernatural/mystery horror film, courtesy of our friends across the pond, and director Norman J. Warren, the same guy who gave us the joy that is Inseminoid. The movie was meant to serve as a kind of homage to the cheesy B-movies from the 1950s, but Warren claimed that interference from the producers stifled development. It’s not hard to see why he’d say that. The film has some fun ideas that showed a lot of potential, but the cheapness evident in everything from the script to the production values turns much of the film into an entertaining, but highly cheesy mess.
The film’s worst offense is, by far, it’s abysmal characterization and pacing. The kids, who are supposed to be teenagers but are clearly much older, don’t even get to the island until we’re a good 15-minutes into the movie. You think the filmmakers spent that valuable time letting the viewer get to know the characters and setting up their intricate relationships? Oh, gods, no. They spend almost all of that time following the kids as they wander around the local carnival and watch as the guys piss off three men who are harassing a woman. Which, okay, I guess that’s supposed to show that they’re good people and all. But they then proceed to run off with said woman, whom they do not know, and are then chased around and through the carnival by the three harassing ass-hats, where they subsequently do a ton of damage to several attractions. Did I mention they did most of this while driving through the carnival in their Jeep, with a boat attached to the back? No? Well, they did. So, good for you for being white knights and all, fellas, but I’m pretty sure if this wasn’t a movie you’d all have at least a dozen charges filed against you for property damage and reckless endangerment.
I mean, seriously?
Again, that’s just the first 15-minutes. In that time we’ve learned nothing about our characters other than they’re British, they’re new friend who they kinda-sorta kidnapped is American, and they all apparently hate carnivals to the point of wanton destruction. And just in case you can’t tell based on that, I assure you the movie doesn’t get any better from that point forward. By the end we still know nothing about the characters, and the film fills an excessive amount of time following them as they meander around the hotel and the surrounding area. These moments are intermittently broken up by brief supernatural occurrences and revelations to the plot. But even half the time when you do learn something, the story also ends up marred by additional extraneous plot points that end up going nowhere. For instance, the film makes a big deal of showing us the ghost of a downed airplane pilot that seems to want to tell the kids something, even going so far as having one of the characters point out that his ghost is different from the others because it tries to run away from them rather than chase them. But when they finally catch up to the ghost, tracking it down to a small camp in the forest, do you think the ghost reveals some kind of grand revelation to the strange goings on around the island? Nope! Instead, after chasing the ghost down, once the pilot reveals himself to them, one of the characters just ups and swings a club at him and the ghost (or rather, it’s poorly constructed mannequin,) bursts into a cloud of dust and disappears, never to be heard from again. And that by itself is just about the perfect metaphor for much of the movie: a lot of pointless meandering, looking for answers that never come, usually thanks to the character’s own ineptitude.
Hey! There he is! Now we just have to-
Wait, wait, wait! Dude, WTF!
Great job, asshole. Now we’ll never know what’s going on.
But beyond the terrible pacing and plot, the movie is filled with the other regular culprits of questionable B-movie cinema. The script is marred by inane and cringy dialogue. The acting leaves much to be desired. And the effects are absolutely, incredibly cheap. Add in some spotty framing and film quality and some bizarre musical choices, and you have the perfect recipe for cheesy goodness. Or blandness, depending on your preferences.
Hey dead pilot dummy, how you doin’?
The one thing the film does get right is that, despite the film’s many shortcomings, it has a lot of creativity. You’ve got zombies, monsters, ghosts, and time warps. There’s walls that absorb you, mirrors that suck you in, rooms where it snows, and architectural features that come to life and grab you. There’s no shortage of imagination at play here. But while some effects were handled very seamlessly, it’s just a shame they didn’t have the funding to back up the rest.
Nice idea, but when Craven did this three years prior the paint didn’t peal.
Bloody New Year is a movie with a lot of fun ideas, but it clearly lacked the time and budget to follow through with them. The plot is filled with holes, the effects are corney, and the dialogue is awful. It might have been more enjoyable in a hokey, B-movie way if the characters had been more exuberant, but the acting is sub-par at best. After all, it is kind of hard to feel engaged with what’s going on when cast members seem intent on donning poker faces while a bunch of supernatural crap is going on around them. Yet the movie still manages to be pretty enjoyable, if only for the fact that you get to watch a lot of the characters suffer through insanity. It’s not great, but it’s a fun, quick watch, especially if you’re going to put it on in the background on New Year’s Eve. You’ll probably come away with just as much from it while you’re only partially paying attention to it and tipsy, than if you were watching it stone-cold sober and fully invested.
Bloody New Year is available on a variety of streaming services.
It is also available on DVD and Bluray as part of a combo pack.