Saturday 31 December 2022

New Year's Evil (1980)

With the sort of premise that is both incredibly silly and absolutely brilliant, I was amazed that I hadn't yet made time to fit New Year's Evil into my viewing schedule. It must be down to this time of year, the time when I would want to watch it most, being chock full of both Christmas movies and all of the big titles I end up trying to cram before the calendar gets changed. Not this year though. Nope. This is the year that I finally left a New Year's Evil gap available, a gap that I filled by watching New Year's Evil

Roz Kelly is Diane Sullivan, a disc jockey hosting a grand New Year's Eve party live on TV. The music is loud, the partygoers all seem happy, and people get to call in to the show and speak to Diane. Unfortunately, someone wants to be a party pooper, and they call up to tell Diane that they are going to murder someone every time the clock strikes midnight in one of four US time zones. And Diane will be his final victim. In case anyone thinks this is some bad joke, the killer calls back after murdering his first victim, playing back the sounds of their death from a tape recorder.

The second feature film directed by Emmett Alston (and I would encourage everyone to check out the plot synopsis for his first movie - I'm not going to spoil the surprise here), this is as wonderfully odd as you'd expect it to be. It wants to be a standard slasher at times, but doesn't ever go far enough, in terms of tension and/or bloodshed, and when it becomes a more straightforward thriller in the third act, well, it's still weighed down by the baggage that has been added to it by writer Leonard Neubauer. Neubauer doesn't have the most extensive filmography, which perhaps explains why he's not necessarily trying to just copy the many other movies that were being released at this time, instead taking time to add some strange character details and interactions that wouldn't be given the same time and focus in other screenplays. Not that it leads to the film feeling padded out. In fact, the 85-minute runtime feels just right, especially when you also get one or two genuinely decent musical performances, courtesy of Rock Band Shadow, at the NYE party.

Kelly is fine in her role, but it's not exactly one that requires a star turn (although her fame from Happy Days may have lured in viewers during the film's initial release). Kip Niven and Grant Cramer get to have more fun, both being prominent men in Diane's life, and the latter, her son, is given some strange quirks, to put it one way, that you think may factor into the grand finale . . . until they don’t. Chris Wallace is the main cop on the case, Jed Miller is the usual businessman just thinking in dollars, and Louisa Moritz, Taaffe O’Connell, and Alicia Dhanifu are all involved in some of the more memorable moments.

You are unlikely to enjoy this as much as I did. You may even hate it. It’s a film that feels paradoxically as if it is well within the slasher movie mold and also far removed from it. However you feel about it, however, you’re unlikely to forget it. It dives into the premise with confidence, it plays around with expectations, and it delivers a surprisingly satisfying ending. You should resolve to see it.


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