NEW YEAR’S EVIL (1980) Reviews of trashy slasher

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‘Don’t dare make New Year’s resolutions… unless you plan to live!’
New Year’s Evil is a 1980 American horror slasher film directed by Emmett Alston (Demonwarp) from a screenplay written by Leonard Neubauer for Cannon Films (The Godsend; Doctor Heckyl and Mr. HypeSchizoid).

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The movie stars Roz Kelly (Curse of the Black WidowFull Moon High), Kip Niven (Night Gallery; Comedy of Horrors; 1996’s Summer of Fear), Chris Wallace (Don’t Answer the Phone!), Grant Cramer (Killer Klowns from Outer Space; Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies; Santa Claws), Luisa Moritz (Death Race 2000), Jed Mills (Kiss Daddy Goodbye; The Creature Wasn’t Nice), Taaffe O’Connell (Galaxy of Terror; Dismembered), Jon Greene (Don’t Answer the Phone! Schizoid; Maniac Cop).

The soundtrack score was composed by W. Michael Lewis and Laurin Rinder.

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Plot:
New Year’s Eve is imminent and television’s most famous “punk rock” lady icon, Diane Sullivan (or Blaze as her fans call her), is holding a late-night countdown celebration of music and partying.

All is going well until Diane receives a phone call from an odd-sounding stranger claiming his name is Evil, who announces on live television that when the clock strikes twelve in each time zone, a ‘Naughty Girl’ will be punished (murdered), then the killer signs off with a threat claiming that Diane will be the last ‘Naughty Girl’ to be punished.

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The studio crew takes safety measures and heightens security, but in the local insane asylum, a nurse is found viciously slaughtered at the stroke of midnight EST. The killer records his victims as he murders them and calls back the station each time playing the tapes back to prove he’s serious. There are many suspects as to who the mysterious killer/caller is; a crazed fan, a religious psychotic, or maybe it’s someone much closer to Diane than anyone could have ever expected…

Our review [contains spoilers]:
Whilst delving into the archives of the late Roger Ebert, a prominent, much-liked American film critic/author with a Lord Longford-type campaign against anti-woman slasher-horror films (though he hugely admired the original Halloween, with no apologies for doing so), I was very surprised that he was a tiny bit kind to New Year’s Evil, complimenting its “old fashioned qualities.” I could not tell you what those were. Perhaps actual butter served on the popcorn he ate at the cinema and not margarine?

Picture otherwise is very humdrum thriller from the veritable infancy of knife-kill horror films (if memory serves, a mere 1,000,000,000,000 of them were released in 1980), jumping on the dual bandwagon of “new wave” music and bloody deaths tied in some way to holidays. It’s New Year’s Eve in Hollywood. “First Lady of Rock” vocalist/ broadcast personality Diane `Blaze’ Sullivan (Roz Kelly) hosts a TV dance-concert into the night. Viewers are tipped off early that – and give the script a tiny amount of credit for anticipating Scream in this regard – at least two psychos are working in concert to disrupt the event and outfox police and security, as one of the masked madmen (Kip Niven) promises to kill victims as the New Year is marked over the three US time zones.

In the end (which points towards a mercifully unmade sequel), the killers’ motivations are alarmingly mundane and, yes, purely and simply misogynist. Perhaps Mr. Ebert appreciated that the script didn’t beat around the bush about it.

Considering that even schlock such as My Bloody Valentine and Prom Night somehow earned expensive remakes down the line, whilst New Year’s Evil, holding less nostalgia value, languished in the VHS morgue – doubtless homicidally jealous of 1980 rival Terror Train, which also utilized New Year’s Eve as a backdrop (and could flaunt its scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis). Director Emmett Alston here shows a bit of cheek by setting a chase scene through a drive-in showing a marathon of H.G. Lewis vintage splatter movies. But that is about the most imagination the production exhibits. Not even the punk/new wave musical interludes preserve much value for posterity.
Charles Cassady Jr, MOVIES and MANIA

Other reviews:
“The routine affair seems interminable, drawn-out as it is by the would-be punk numbers on the show.” The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

New Year’s Evil is a slasher that delivers some unexpected gifts. It has the unmistakable early 80’s Cannon Films feel and some characters who are a real hoot.” Cinema Du Meep

” …a seriously goofy slasher film, punctuated with too-long songs and laugh-out-loud lapses in character and filmmaker judgment. In other words, it’s a perfect film to watch in a group, preferably with plenty of beer on hand. It may be more of a footnote in horror film history than a genuine classic, but it’s really fun and well worth a look.” Film Monthly

“Niven makes for an unsettling, Mercedes-driving, psychotically giggling middle-class misogynist and, in the film’s most generically slasher movie sequence, gets to stalk a blonde teen who has been indulging in a bout of topless groping at a drive-in showing of Blood Feast. The elevator shaft climax is tense, and, although the focus is unusually on the killer, Kelly makes for a flawed, credible heroine.” Horrorscreams Videovault

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“While I agree the film is “barely competent”, this is not the kind of movie you review for Oscar-quality execution. Most importantly, we need to remember: Bad does not necessarily equal unenjoyable. I’m here to tell you how to enjoy New Year’s Evil and all it has to offer. Suspend your disbelief. Embrace the B-movie cheesery. Embrace the cheese. New Year’s Evil is hilarious.” Killer Horror Critic

“There are a few good scenes, but too much padding, and although the killer is supposed to be driving across to other time zones, he appears to have gone no further than the end of the block, a hundred yards or so from the last killing. Anyone expecting new wave music is likely to be disappointed, as the bands have more in common with Wishbone Ash than the Psychedelic Furs. Not a bad movie – it’s entertaining enough, and not as cheesy as some from the same era.” Jim Harper, Legacy of Blood

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“These were early days for the emerging slasher craze and the formula that would very soon take shape was still undergoing a process of fine-tuning, which in this instance meant there was a noticeable lack of gore and nudity. However, for all its failings, Alston’s low-budget film certainly entertained as it juxtaposed an eighties rock score with a series of contrived killings, played out to the darkest of unintentional comedy.” Peter Normanton, The Mammoth Book of Slasher Movies

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“The film starts off on a sour note with a completely bloodless, off-screen kill behind a shower curtain. However, the rest manage to find the camera’s eye (even if only slightly). The scares are nil, and part of the reason is that a lot of scenes just don’t make a heck of a lot of sense.” Oh, the Horror!

New Year’s Evil is an endangered species – a plain, old-fashioned, gory thriller. It is not very good. It is sometimes unpleasantly bloody. The plot is dumb and the twist at the end has been borrowed from hundreds if not thousands of other movies. But as thrillers go these days, New Year’s Evil is a throwback to an older and simpler tradition, one that flourished way back in the dimly remembered past, before 1978.” Roger Ebert

“While this movie isn’t in the least bit scary it is packed to the gills with early eighties goofiness. Loads of scenes of dancing ‘punkers’ pads the movie out to feature length while Kip Niven’s bizarre performance as the ‘eeev-villl’ serial killer on the loose is more comical than it is frightening. Most of this has more to do with the script than with his performance but he’s definitely deserving of some of the blame. The movie is fun though – there are a couple of moderately interesting kills…” Rock! Shock! Pop!

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“You’ll be scrambling for the forward button when you see the punk band on the show perform dreadful songs which only seem designed to pad the movie out. Poor Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero from Happy Days). She tries her best, but considering the idiocy of the premise, she’s not left with much to work with. Of interest probably only for slasher completists…and even then it provides minimal satisfaction.” The Terror Trap

“New Year’s Evil, despite lacking in traditional gore and nudity, has several things that set it apart; its fairly clever premise, its urban setting, an antagonist with more in common with a regular old serial killer (he’s a completely average guy who charms his victims, and has a straightforward MO) than a normal slasher, and it also has a badass soundtrack.” TV Tropes

New Year’s Evil is dull and practically goreless. Worst of all, it has a depressing streak of misogyny running through it – with a lengthy diatribe by ‘Evil’ about why all women are sluts and need to be punished.” J.A. Kerswell, Teenage Wasteland: The Slasher Movie Uncut

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“This strictly paint-by-numbers effort is further sabotaged by the grating, so-called punk rock performances–actually heavy metal–that pad out the running time.” TV Guide

NYE10

“There is an OK plot twist about 2/3 of the way through New Year’s Evil that may make it worth a look for some of you, but really there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before. The killer is sort of weak (he wears lame disguises and talks through a kazoo while making his phone calls) and the murders are mostly bloodless.” The Video Vacuum

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“What New Year’s Evil really feels like is a vintage made-for-TV movie spiced up with a couple of brief breast shots and flashes of gore. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was an unsold script given some hasty rewrites to try and take advantage of the unexpected success of Halloween and Friday the 13th.” 1.5 out of 5, Voices from the Balcony

MOVIES and MANIA rating:

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