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Holiday Horrors: New Year's Evil (1980)

For a movie that reeks of the 1980s, New Year's Evil (1980) doesn't feel very authentic. Punk rock fans of disc jockey, Diane Sullivan (Roz Kelly), flood into a New Year's Eve party that's airing live over the airwaves, an act that in and of itself seems more commercial than I perceive punk rockers would support. True, I neither was, nor am, a punk rocker; however, I was in my late teens/early 20's during the 80s and nothing about the movie seems particularly realistic to me.


On a positive note, the killer has an interesting modus operandi. He makes a phone call to the show to announce that when midnight strikes in each of four different time zones, he's going to commit murder. Following a pre-12:00 murder, we see the face of the killer, who tells Diane and her listeners to call him, "Evil." However, we don't know until the end of the movie the identity of the killer or why he's doing it.


The set-up is good, but the screenplay by Leonard Neubauer, from a story by Neubauer and director Emmett Alston, somehow flubs the big reveal. It makes sense to the story and should be clever, but the murders are too random, taking advantage of circumstance more than premeditation. (If something goes wrong with your plans, it's not as easy as you'd think to stay on schedule for your killing spree.)


Somewhere near the end, the killer dons a creepy mask. I'm torn about whether it would have been more effective if he had worn it throughout the movie. It would have been more visually terrifying, but you'd have to change the details to make the reveal work. An unmasking of someone you don't already know isn't very exciting. Then again, the reveal in New Year's Evil isn't very exciting when you learn the identity, anyway.


Ultimately, the killer is after Diane. In a finale that's more action than horror, the two face off backstage and throughout the hotel. There's a complicated set piece where he somehow hangs Diane from the bottom of an elevator car and tries to send it crashing to the bottom. Luckily, the police, who were wisely alerted to the situation after the first phone call, arrive in time to throw a wrench into his plans.


There are some fun moments in New Year's Evil. I particularly liked a scene taking place at the Van Nuys Drive-In. The marquee announces that it's showing Blood Feast, but it's not the familiar Herschell Gordon Lewis film. Instead, it's The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972), a giallo distributed under the shorter, perhaps more American-friendly title, Blood Feast. Here, the killer dons a priest's collar to avoid suspicion, but stabs someone, anyway… off his schedule.


The 85 minutes of New Year's Evil clip along at a decent pace, but it's louder and more bombastic than your typical slasher movie. The cast is led by a "star" best known as Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days, and features other familiar faces that you can't quite place. (They're not terribly good, either.) These are all qualities of almost the entire catalog of the Cannon Group. Those two words describe the movie more perfectly and succinctly than I can.


Written by Leonard Neubauer

Directed by Emmett Alston

Starring Roz Kelly, Kip Niven, Grant Cramer

RT 85 min.

US Release Date Dec. 19, 1980

Home Video Amazon Prime (Streaming)

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