NB: these are my notes on the film, not a review – so you might not want to read them if you’ve not seen it yet.
‘I can hear your heart beat. I don’t like that.’
This 1980 release is the most basic holiday-themed slasher of the Black Chrsitmas/Halloween/My Bloody Valentine/Friday the 13th era, existing purely so that another date in the calendar of horror can get checked off. It gets points for remembering that New Year’s is celebrated hours apart in different time zones, which means that the killer – who calls himself EVIL – can properly off new victims every sixty minutes and still score on the stroke of midnight. Roger Ebert, who went on a mini-crusade against the sub-genre in the early 80s (despite having written Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), used to call these ‘anti-independent woman movies’; this is among the most blatantly misogynist of the cycle, with an unsympathetic stalker-bait heroine (as in classier items like The Fan, Visiting Hours or The Eyes of Laura Mars, which at least rope in starrier leading ladies) and the ridiculous motivation of the killer (‘See you, you castrated me … And that is not nice!’ ). It’s not one of the more explicitly violent entries – the goriest scenes are extracts from Blood Feast shown in a drive-in sequence – but it consistently belittles and demonises its female characters, most of whom wind up dead.
The queen bee of the film is Diane Sullivan aka Blaze (Roz Kelly, not exactly a stellar presence), a Los Angeles New Wave DJ. Remember New Wave? From between punk and New Romantic? Boxy, square-shouldered jackets and Liquid Sky unisex bouffant mullet haircuts. Blaze is hosting a New Year’s Eve party telethon with a bunch of bands whose careers didn’t outlast the film (Shadow, Made in Japan), with hook-ups from other time zones. In her introductory scene, Blaze (‘Freddie baby, drop a luude and relax, will ya?’ ) is so concerned with setting up for the special (and coping with a crank caller) that she ignores her ‘sensitive’ (ie: wimp) son Derek (Grant Clayton), who has just struck out on his own and scored the lead in a TV science fiction show. Derek’s celebration outfit consists of a tailcoat and jeans, but he doesn’t look like a bigger plonker than anyone else – this is one of the worst-dressed slasher films, as well as the worst-sounding. To underline the convention that the black character dies first, Blaze’s African-American PA (Alicia Dhanifu) is stabbed before the opening credits are over. EVIL (clean-cut Kip Niven) makes calls to the show with a pre-Scream voice synthesiser (pre-New York Ripper too), promising murders. Aggrieved cop Lt Clayton (Chris Wallace) assumes it’s Blaze’s fault for pushing out the kind of music that drives her stalkers to kill and tells her to keep him talking next time. His attitude to the job can be gauged by his hardboiled patter: ‘Hell of a way to bring in the new year, huh? Picking a phone freak out of this bunch?’
For an hour, EVIL disguises himself as a succession of male authority figure disguises (doctor, singles bar stud, priest, cop) to get close to victims who are mostly submissive blonde females: a nurse (Jennie Anderson) willing to have a holiday quickie with the new doc, two really dim pickups (Taafe O’Connell, from Galaxy of Terror; Louisa Morotz, from Chained Heat) who witter on about meditation and haikus, a teenage girl (Teri Copley, from Transylvania Twist) getting her tits groped in a car. This isn’t even consistent with the premise, since the killer is annoyed with a dominant redhead in a vile red lamé lampsuit not a centerfold fantasy. Some action is added when the killer, dressed as a priest, pisses off a gang of Hells’ Angels and leads them on a car chase: he surprises the hairy bearing down on him by gutting the goon with a switchblade. The big reveal (spoiler!) comes when the killer makes it to the high-rise studio the show is coming from and turns out to be Blaze’s husband (‘That’s right – I’m EVIL!’ ), emasculated by his wife’s success and resentful of her control over the family finances. It’s not clear whether this has driven him mad enough to become a slasher film psycho or whether the whole killing spree is a feint out of Agatha Christie (and many a giallo) to cover up the murder he wants to commit. Blaze dangles in a liftshaft for a while in the climax, tied to the counterweight, and EVIL dons an oversized Stan Laurel mask (why?) to menace her – only to take a fall off the building. However, Derek takes up the mask (seriously, Stan Laurel – not scary!) and the macho crusade, and drives off with mom after murdering and replacing the ambulance driver. Written by Leonard Neubauer (Russ Meyer’s Slaves) and director Emmett Alston (Demonwarp). Produced by the much-missed Cannon boys, Golan and Globus.
I miss actresses with names like Taaffe (billed here as Taafe) O’Connell.