Director: Emmett Alston
Writers: Leonard Neubauer
Cast: Roz Kelly, Kip Niven, Chris Wallace
Length: 90 min
Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: February 24, 2015
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH
- Audio Commentary with Emmett Alston
- Making Of Featurette
- Original Theatrical Trailer
At this point in time, it seems that there is a horror movie for every imaginable holiday. This, however, was not always the case…and I guess for this we can thank Black Christmas, or perhaps the more popular and influential Halloween. Following the release of Halloween, American genre cinema’s obsession with the slasher not only grew, so did its desire to revolve those films around holidays. Silent Night, Deadly Night, Mother’s Day, My Bloody Valentine, April Fool’s Day—name the holiday and we will name the film. Of course, in the 1980s exploitation masters, The Cannon Group, were not going to miss out on the potential profits, and they entered the market with the 1980 slasher New Year’s Evil. Slated to be released around the titular holiday by Scream Factory, unforeseen events caused a delay. Needless to say, late is better than never and we are happy to enjoy this cult piece in beautiful HD glory.
One of my favorite aspects of 1980 horror films is that there are almost always punks running amuck, so it’s great to see New Year’s Evil open as such. However, while a great deal of the film is featured in the confines of a new wave/punk club, the characters play an almost non-existent part — which is a shame, as they are usually good for a few laughs. Granted, New Year’s Evil is in many ways a paint-by-numbers slasher. However, it does throw a few curveballs into the mix, and even when it is at its most conventional it is still a wildly entertaining film. On New Year’s Eve, famed DJ Blaze (played by Roz Kelly, known for her role in Happy Days) hosts a massive, cross country party to celebrate the coming of a new year’s across the nation’s time zones. What starts as a wild, upbeat celebration is sullied when Blaze begins receiving calls from a self-proclaimed psychotic killer named Evil, who threatens to take a new life at each coming hour.The film has often been criticized for being rather uninventive but I think that criticism is rather unfair. Without spoiling the end, New Year’s Evil is among one of the few titles that features the killer unmasked from the early moments of the film. Therefore the mystery of identity remains but the often-dehumanizing element that bracketing the audience from the face of the killer is not at play here. Neither, however, are we ever in a place where we can truly identify with him either. This works only as far as the strength of the talent and in New Year’s Evil’s favor Kip Nevin is fantastic in the role. Cannon is not always the home for well-acted films, and while I won’t go as far as to say that the film is even in terms of performance, I do have to give Nevin credit for his effort. He easily oscillates between soulless, psychotic and charming, leaving the audience with a sort of schizophrenic relation.
The biggest disappointment for the film is how tame much of it can be. Those who are in for over-the-top kills and gore will not find much here. It is surprising that — knowing their brand — Cannon didn’t want to push the boundaries a bit farther because, even for 1980, New Year’s Evil feels a bit reserved. Overall, I would still argue that New Year’s Evil offers enough innovation and entertainment to overcome any of its negative qualities.
For a low budget film, New Year’s Evil bodes pretty well in high definition format. The color is overall strong but the picture isn’t perfectly crisp and there are noticeable moments where dust and scratches are present. It surprising, however, to see that the print was kept as intact as it was, and overall Shout! Factory did a splendid job presenting the film in the best manner that they could. There are no attempts to sharpen the picture digitally; leaving very much an authentic representation of what a 35mm projection of the film would of probably felt like in 1980.
Something that is pretty much lost in modern slasher films is the concept of theme songs. Luckily, we still have remnants of this concept in existence in films like New Year’s Evil and Graduation Day. For New Year’s Evil, the band Shadow — although I can’t find much about their career — put forth the titular track in pure 80s glory. The DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track for this film adequately captures the music, dialogue and sound effects. It is nicely balanced, with only a few moments where it appears rough around the edges.
New Year’s Evil is relatively low on features but the “Making Of” featurette is fairly entertaining and informative. Featuring cast and crew, the featurette documents, in good fun, the production of the film. Overall, it seems that the relatively inexperienced group all had fun on set, despite the often horror stories you hear about Cannon. Additionally, there is a full-length commentary with director Emmett Alston and the original theatrical trailer.
Look, are you going to love New Year’s Evil? Probably not, but there is a good chance that you either already like it, or will. For those who haven’t seen it, it is definitely worth snagging and for those who already have it on DVD, I would, in spite of the lack of features, still recommend picking this release up.