Starring Roz Kelly, Kip Niven, Grant Cramer, Chris Wallace
Directed by Emmett Alston
I’d been staring at NEW YEAR’S EVIL on my Netflix Instant Queue for some time now and with 2012 kicking off over the weekend, I thought to myself- what better way to ring in the New Year than with some 80s slasher cheese? Delicately walking the line between (unintended) hilarity and chills, NEW YEAR’S EVIL is certainly an interesting flick to say the very least and while I wouldn’t go out on a limb and call it a good movie, it’s certainly entertaining if you keep your expectations and logic in check.
At the beginning we meet Blaze (Roz Kelly)- ‘the first lady of rock’- who is nothing more than a self-centered, fame-seeking host of a televised new wave special on New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles who has no time to worry about her troubled husband whose on supposed a coke binge in Palm Springs or her aspiring actor of a son (Grant Cramer) who likes to pop pills and wear women’s pantyhose on his head (who doesn’t?). After all, the show must go on and even after getting harassing phone calls from a mysterious man called ‘Evil’ (Kip Niven) who promises to kill someone when the clock strikes midnight in each time zone, Blaze shakes it off and goes on to play hostess with the mostess for a bunch of punk rock kids who didn’t seem to care if she was there anyway (ahhh, the disenfranchised youth of yesteryear).
But it turns out the crank caller wasn’t bluffing as we then see said mysterious man (using a voice altering device that sounds a bit like if Ghostface was an Atari character) take off to kill his first victim- a slutty and all too eager nurse at a Sanitarium who decides what better way to ring in the New Year than to bump uglies with a strange new orderly that has arrived and has brought champagne with him to work (ahhh, those 80s sensibilities!). And not only does he kill the moronic nurse, he audio records her death too (on what was a sweet-ass boombox by 1980′s standards) and shares his kill with Blaze and her viewers over the phone. Soon, more bodies begin piling up and Evil has now promised to ring in midnight in Los Angeles with the punk rock hostess herself, spilling her blood for his own NEW YEAR’S EVIL celebration (see what I did there?).
Truth is- I’ve made this movie sound way more awesome than it is. NEW YEAR’S EVIL isn’t the worst slasher movie I’ve seen but it’s not really even close to being a great one either. The biggest problem here is that the movie is actually a really cool premise on paper but director Emmett Alston’s execution leaves a lot to be desired; had he taken some real time to deal with all the plot holes and logic flaws in his and co-writer Leonard Neubauer’s script, then perhaps NEW YEAR’S EVIL would have gained more of a cult following over the last 30 plus year now than it has. It could have been a classic indeed.
After all, there are very few movies out there that can boast a gaggle of mental patients having a dance party while watching Blaze’s show on the TV, a horde of punk rockers dancing mindlessly who maybe only have a slightly better dance approach than a bunch of drugged up crazies at the local looney bin, an over-the-top psychiatrist who arrives to give his best ham-laced guesses as to “Evil’s” motivations and a nice little homage to the Godfather of Gore himself, Herschell Gordon Lewis. All fun stuff but sadly, it’s not enough to save NEW YEAR’S EVIL from itself.
The biggest issue here is that Alston betrays the slasher genre by giving us a psychological thriller of an ending that feel rather lackluster and left me wondering “so what?” at the end. Although the kill scenes (when we get ‘em- a few of the kills are off-screen) were effective enough, but there’s just way too much nonsense going on to ever truly take NEW YEAR’S EVIL seriously, which I believe was Alston’s intent back in 1980 when the film was released.
Frankly, while I wouldn’t necessarily call NEW YEAR’S EVIL a cult classic or anything, I think there’s a bit of charm to this often overlooked cheesefest of a slasher flick if you keep your expectations low going in. After all, who can’t help but smile when our killer’s best pick-up line is “Hey, I’m going to party at Erik Estrada’s house- wanna come along?” I’d probably have taken him (and that sweet fake mustache of his) up on his offer too.