• Happy Hell Night



    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Released on: August 3, 2004.
    Directors: Brian Owens

    Cast: Nick Gregory, Darren McGavin, Sam Rockwell, Jorja Fox
    Year: 1991
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    The Movie:

    By the early nineties the slasher film was starting to fade, her glory days behind her by roughly a decade or so. They didn’t disappear altogether though, and 1991’s Happy Hell Night, filmed partially in Canada and partially in Yugoslavia with a very international crew, was one of the better entries from the sub-genre’s twilight years.

    The film begins twenty five years earlier when a group of frat boys from Winfield College are murdered during a Satanic ritual involving a psychotic Catholic priest named Father Zachary Malius. The local authorities toss Malius into the local insane asylum and his story is considered rather taboo to talk about.

    Fast forward to 1991 and the current crop of students at Winfield College are just about to get down and dirty with the hazing, as it’s Hell Night time. The Phi Delta Kappa Fraternity have got their work cut out for them, as the competition is tough this year. When the fraternity leader finds out that his younger brother, who desperately wants admission into the fraternity, is nailing his girlfriend, he figures who better to send to the asylum for a Hell Night stunt? Off he goes with another student to find and photograph Malius, but when one of them winds up dead and the door to Malius’ cell is left open, Hell Night takes on a whole new meaning and gets about as far away from happy as it can get.

    Directed by Brian Owens, the genius behind Edward Furlong’s shining moment in Brainscan, Happy Hell Night is not a particularly good movie. There are some glaringly odd edits and scene transitions, plot holes aplenty, piss poor performances, and some truly painful dialogue. These things a bad movie make.

    One thing that Happy Hell Night is though, is a good slasher. Taken within the confines of the genre, where things like good acting and tight storytelling honestly don’t matter as much, then Happy Hell Night is actually kind of good. It has the required amount of naked girls, it has some creative and gory kill scenes, and it has a creepy and effective villain. It even manages to be suspenseful in a couple of scenes, playing some nice visual tricks with the shadows of the old Fraternity House and the tombs used for sets.

    Sure, it borrows a scene or two quite blatantly from Halloween and it would have been much creepier if the villain had just kept his mouth shut instead of forcing him to utter some crappy one liners, but overall it’s an entertaining little movie for what it is. Don’t go in expecting high art, cause brother, you ain’t gonna find it here. But you’ll find a movie that accomplishes what it sets out to do and that proves to be entertaining in it’s own right. It also features a great mullet guy who makes his own porn. What more can you ask for?

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Anchor Bay gives Happy Hell Night a brand new anamorphic 1.85.1 widescreen transfer taken straight from the film’s original negative and it looks very nice. There is some mild grain and print damage present throughout and a couple of scenes look just a teensy bit washed out but other than that, the image is highly detailed and stable from start to finish with nice color reproduction and solid black levels.

    We’re treated to a pretty basic Dolby Digital Mono English language soundtrack that, while not fancy, gets the job done just fine. Dialogue is perfectly clear and the levels are well balanced. Background music and sound effects never overshadow the speaking parts and the track is free of hiss and distortion.

    The only extra on the DVD is the films theatrical trailer. There is also an insert with chapter stops on one side and a reproduction of the theatrical poster on the other side.

    The Final Word:

    Happy Hell Night is a decent later era slasher film with a great protagonist and some very nicely executed kill scenes (pun intended). The DVD looks and sounds just fine, though some more extras would have been nice. Overall, this one is worth checking out for slasher fans.