New Year’s Evil (1980)
Director: Emmett Alston
Starring: Roz Kelly, Kip Niven, Grant Cramer, Louisa Moritz & Teri Copley
Released by: Scream Factory
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
Taking place on the hardest partying evening of the year, New Year’s Evil focuses on Diane “Blaze” Sullivan (Roz Kelly, Happy Days), the host of a televised punk/new wave show, who’s receiving eerie phone calls from a mysterious killer. As the night lingers, murders are committed as each time zone in America brings in the new year, with the killer inching closer to Diane. Kip Niven (Magnum Force), Grant Cramer (Killer Klowns from Outer Space), Louisa Moritz (The Last American Virgin), Taaffe O’Connell (Galaxy of Terror) and Teri Copley (Transylvania Twist) co-star.
Marking one of the earliest efforts for Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus‘ The Cannon Group,New Year’s Evil continues the holiday-themed slasher trend kickstarted by John Carpenter’sHalloween. Set amongst the punk music scene of Hollywood, New Year’s Evil attempts to turn the formula of a masked killer on its head by showcasing its culprit early on. As sexy music emcee, Diane “Blaze” Sullivan, hosts her own televised new year’s event, a mysterious caller promising to off victims as each time zone strikes midnight, leaves Diane chilled. Using a voice modulator and adorning several different costumes, the killer’s unknown, albeit relatively obvious, connection to Diane is the driving force of the film. Conflicted with fear and all but oblivious to her withdrawn son (Cramer) who suffers from severe headaches, Diane agrees to go on with the show in hopes of luring the maniac out in the open. A bonafide time capsule of 1980, New Year’s Evil makes great use of its rock show setting with youthful punks and live music from Shadow, who perform the constantly recycled title track. While, light on its body count, New Year’s Eviloffers enjoyable performances from its main cast and a series of notable locations our killer stalks including, a drive-in movie theater hosting an all-night horrothon and a mental sanitarium.
Far from perfect and almost always predictable, New Year’s Evil still offers a charming energy that plays to its nostalgic time period and holiday cash-in title. An unabashed favorite that attempts to differ from its fellow slashers, New Year’s Evil entertains, both intentionally and unintentionally, with its punk sensibilities and campy, neon-lit, atmosphere. Featuring notable cult stars and a bitchin‘ retro soundtrack, New Year’s Evil serves well as a prime candidate for fun, late-night slasher consumption.
Previously released on DVD-R as part of MGM’s Limited Edition MOD program, Scream Factory presents New Year’s Evil with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. With the exception of minor, barely noticeable aging artifacts, the transfer impresses with a clean appearance, natural skin tones and remarkable detail in close-ups. In addition, colors pop nicely from Diane’s glittering dress to the neon lights shining on the live rock bands. Black levels are handled well with appreciable visibility that improves over its previous release. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, New Year’s Evil offers crisp dialogue levels with no distorting interference. While, not overly impressive, music packs a noticeable punch with more climatic sequences offering an additional edge within its limited constraints. Special features include an Audio Commentary with Director Emmett Alston, moderated by Bill Olsen of Code Red DVD. Although, plagued with its fair share of dry spells, Alston offers notable anecdotes from the making of the film including, its tight budget and speedy 18 day shooting schedule. In addition, Aine Leicht (Ginger Snaps, Without Warning) once again provides slasher enthusiasts with another detailed retrospective featurette with Call Me Eeevil… The Making of New Year’s Evil (37:16). This lengthy look back includes new interviews with Actors Kip Naven, Grant Cramer, Taaffee O’Connell and Director of Photography Thomas Ackerman discussing their unique involvements with the film. Finally, a Theatrical Trailer (1:46) and reversible cover art round out the supplemental offerings.
Joining the ranks of other calendar dated slashers including, Halloween and Friday the 13th,New Year’s Evil may fall below the iconic status of its originators but, still casts an identifiable charm for fans with a penchant for its heavy 80s tone. Littered with punk rockers, gaudy new wave makeup and cheesy tunes, New Year’s Evil offers plenty of slasher staples to keep fans satisfied while, also injecting its own subtle twists for good measure. Sandwiched between the release of fellow Cannon Film Group slashers, 1980’s Schizoid and 1981‘s Hospital Massacre,New Year’s Evil is an entertaining romp that although, doesn’t pack an overwhelming body count, makes up for in its unrelenting retro atmosphere and willingness to be unique on its limited budget. Scream Factory’s high-definition treatment is a treasure, offering the film in its best presentation to date with an overly generous supply of bonus content for likeminded fans. A personal favorite and a proud member of the unofficial holiday slashers collection, New Year’s Evil delights with its campiness and will most assuredly, award viewers with an affection for its bygone decade.
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