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Hell Night – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray Review)

One the most demanded and begged for vintage horror titles of the last so many years to get boosted to the Blu-ray format has been Hell Night. The Linda Blair-led slasher film from the producer of Halloween (Irwin Yablans) seemed like it was one of those “long way off” or “not gonna happen” deals. Anchor Bay had last had it, but they let the rights go away and whoever had them wasn’t giving them up or nobody knew where exactly it went to after Anchor Bay’s expired. Well, leave it to Scream Factory to take that challenge and deliver upon it. Their Collector’s Edition release will include a 4K transfer from the best existing 35mm print and has a boatload of brand new interview. You can the first big release of next year now so you can have it when it arrives on January 2nd.

Film 

One dark night 12 years ago, madman Raymond Garth butchered his wife and children in their mansion before killing himself. Legend has it that one child survived the slaughter and remains hidden in the house as a deformed monster. Years later on pledge night, a group of new fraternity and sorority pledges must spend an evening in this creepy mansion on the anniversary of the killings. But what starts off as a night of innocent pranks and rowdiness soon turns deadly…

Hell Night is a bit of a treat for slasher fans in that its got some surprises and character motivations not seen in a lot of the others. The first time I saw this movie, I both laughed and clapped as the character of Seth (played by Vincent Van Patten) sees a dead body/murder and instantly decides to get the hell out of the mansion and report to the police. He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever seen in a slasher movie. No, that’s not cowardice as it could come off, its making the right decision. What happens after that and where he winds up by the end is something else, but for a moment Seth does something akin to Scott Patterson in the beginning of Saw V.

Our big attraction and why this one may be grabbed out of curiosity over the rest of the old slashers is its star Linda Blair. Linda’s Marti is a pretty awesome final girl. She’s both able to be bold, strong and make decisions in duress, but at the same time can be vulnerable and scared.  She’s no stranger to horror, but this is actually one of her better efforts. A lot of the other stuff she’d be involved in would be schlocky or asking for her to do something lame to reference The Exorcist.

While this one does have some cool deaths and blood, one thing Hell Night could note itself for is its character work.  Please note that I am saying this “for a 1980s slasher film”, but they don’t start knocking off people right away and actually let us get to know a lot of these people before the body count sounds off. For gore hounds and some fans, this is probably “boring”, but I actually appreciate it. The cast here actually has some good chemistry, especially Linda Blair and Peter Barton. This movie smartly has them going scene to scene learning more about each other. It actually helps pad chase scenes, attacks and saving one another with a little more depth.

Hell Night is a really fun slasher film that works on some other levels than just the core stalk and chase elements. In addition to the character work I mentioned, it has some really good set design.  And with that whole thing, it also at times plays as a haunted house film as well.  The film also features a really cool surprise in it, too.  Definitely a fun revisit, and so glad I can replace my unwatchable copy I bought off eBay years ago and be able to watch a good clean version for years to come.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p (Some inserts for missing footage appear in SD)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Hell Night’s Blu-ray debut comes from a 4K transfer on the best existing 35mm print of the film. Unfortunately, some footage was missing and had to be filled in with standard definition inserts to complete the film (Which have been color timed best they can to match up). There is a disclaimer saying they went through an exhaustive search for more materials or the negative, but at this time, what they have is the only existing print to be able to use. The image is a bit softer and the details aren’t the strongest. It carries some streaks, scratches and some other print damage. I actually didn’t mind the look of the film as it sorta takes on the look of some classic gothic horror film you’d be catching at a drive-in theater. I’m sure some will wind up disappointed. Good news is that the inserts aren’t that distracting or a massive shock when they change as opposed to what they looked like the recent Silent Night Deadly Night release. But, in terms of the high definition transfer, Silent Night Deadly Night’s is worlds better. This is fine though, and if this is the best we can get with Hell Night on Blu-ray, then I’m happy as hell to have this as opposed to nothing at all.

Depth:  The dimensions and spacing here come across as pretty average. Its not awful or flat, its decent. Movements are cinematic and nothing really in the way of distortions happen in the more rapid movements of the characters.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and do consume some of the image, hiding maybe some information. Some things do a decent job of holding on in moments with hair follicles, surfaces and the like, but it is challenged by the nature of the film. No crushing was witnessed.

Color Reproduction: They are what they are due to the print, but the colors aren’t really striking as you’d like them to be. They are strong enough to look natural and work. A lot of this film is in the dark and made to look candle lit too.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and maintain as consistent look from scene to scene throughout the film. They even hold quite well when switching to the standard definition footage. Facial details aren’t extremely fine, but look good in close-ups and some medium shots.

Noise/Artifacts: This comes with some grain as well as print damage, specs and dirt.

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Mono 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: This mono mix is pretty good, though a little dated sounding. I’m sure this is likely the original theatrical mix, so purists can be happy. Its got a sound that sorta fits with the video in terms of having a sort of drive-in/old school gothic feel to it. There are decent intricacies here and there, but overall the feel of it is merely fine. And that’s okay as it does the trick.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and plenty audible and discernible at all times. Its a hair analog-sounding due to its materials, but overall is quite fine.

Extras 

Hell Night – Collector’s Edition comes with the DVD edition and also a reversible cover featuring the original poster artwork.

Audio Commentary

  • With Actress Linda Blair, Director Tom De Simone and Producers Irwin Yablans and Bruce Cohn Curtis

Linda Blair: The Beauty of Horror (HD, 35:21) – A very intricate interview with Linda. She gives a quick summary of how she came to be in the acting world, never wanting it and wanting to be a veterinarian. She touches on some notable performances and films of hers. She goes into quite specific detail on Hell Night itself, spawning from work in Roller Boogie. She talks about the lavish production, Peter Barton being very silly, having to miss Thanksgiving, how cold it was and gets pretty emotional when discussing the costume design as the late costumer was a dear friend of hers.

Hell Nights With Tom De Simone (HD, 26:57) – The film’s director returns to the old house/mansion from the film and discusses his love of Gothic horror pouring into this one. He goes over some of the jump scares in the film as well as talking about building special rooms to film in, Peter Barton’s injury and Frank Darabont working as a PA to name a few tid bits.

Peter Barton: Facing Fear (HD, 20:50) – Barton talks about how he was almost done with acting when he went to shoot this movie. One of his goals was to be in at least one movie people call a classic or remember (He considers it Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter, and maybe he had 2 if this one counts). There is also a bit where he compares his roles he was getting to things in his actual life during that time.

Producing Hell With Bruce Cohn Curtis (HD, 14:10) – Once again, Roller Boogie is brought up as being one of the launch points for this film (Bringing a smile to my face). Curtis talks about the film’s origins, raising money for it, partnering with Irwin Yablans and his ideas on the kind of films he makes and gives his own insights and perspectives on the production from his position.

Writing Hell (HD, 25:51) – Randy Feldmanthe screenwriter talks about being a horror fan but not so much a movie guy. Black Christmas served as his inspiration with coming up with this story. He gives really good insight onto how his script came together and utilized through production as well as giving insight onto himself and how much of a novice he was on this.

Vincent Van Patten and Suki Goodwin In Conversation (HD, 26:53) – Of note, Patten is spelled “Patter” on the menu. Instead of an interview, they have the two performers, who shared most of their scenes together, sitting across from one another sharing memories, ideas and giving their angle through the shoot.

Kevin Brophy and Jenny Neumann In Conversation (HD, 23:01) – Same as the previous feature, but with two different actors. This one features a little more of two people catching up, but the two talk about their surprise at the following it has as well as what it was like for them on the production. Brophy mentions that Quentin Tarantino once shared with him that the monologue he gave at the beginning was one of his all time favorites in film history.

Gothic Design In Hell Night (HD, 22:50) – Accompanied by some on set photos, Steven G Legler, the art director talks about how he dressed up the location as well as hooked it into sets and such. He’s a very collaborative man as he really worked together with the crew and director to get the look to their desire. Legler goes over the job in general a little bit and goes over the many locations and such in the movie and what his angle and touches were to them.

Anatomy of the Death Scenes (HD, 21:43) – Pam Peitzman, who did make-up, and John Eggett, special effects discuss their jobs and go over the death scenes in the film and how they put them together. Director Tom Di Simon as well as screenwriter Randy Feldman also are a part of this talking about their plans, creativity and preparation for the death sequences.

On Location At Kimberly Crest (HD, 6:48) – A video that goes through what the mansion looks like today, featuring comparison scenes from the movie and voiced over with anecdotes by Tom De DSimone.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:56)

TV Spots (SD, 1:05)

Radio Spot (HD, :32)

Photo Gallery (HD, 8:32)

Summary 

Hell Night is a very fun, well made slasher film with a notable star from the 1980s hey dey of the horror subgenre. Scream Factory doesn’t let their opportunity to release it go to waste either, with a terrific onslaught of brand new interviews for this Collector’s Edition. The film looks and sounds about as good as its going to with the materials available. And in all honesty, I dig the sort of aged look to go with the Gothic set design of the film. Its truly the best edition of this film you’re going to find, and if its anything like the previous DVD edition was, you’re gonna want to snatch this one up.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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