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  New Year's Evil Hell's Bells
Year: 1980
Director: Emmett Alston
Stars: Roz Kelly, Kip Niven, Chris Wallace, Grant Cramer, Louisa Moritz, Jed Mills, Taaffe O'Connell, Jon Greene, Teri Copley, Anita Crane, Jeannie Anderson, Alicia Dhanifu, Wendy-Sue Rosloff, John London, John Aldeman, Michael Frost
Genre: Horror, Thriller, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: It is New Year's Eve and across America, the celebrations have been prepared, centering around not only Times Square but a Los Angeles television show which will showcase the best of the current New Wave bands. The hostess for this event, staged at a plush hotel, is Diane Sullivan (Roz Kelly), a popular presenter who is currently in makeup and asking her manager if her husband has called. He hasn't, and she doesn't have time to talk to her son Derek (Grant Cramer) who has big news for her as she must get in front of the cameras, but tonight will prove memorable for all the wrong reasons - there's a killer on the loose with a wild plan...

Well, I say a wild plan, a hopelessly contrived, only in the movies plan would be more accurate in this, yet another addition to the eighties slasher cycle this time from Cannon films who were moving into their heyday as producers Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan started trying to establish themselves as major players on the international movie scene. Watching how derivative this particular effort was, you might have been surprised to learn that they did indeed make a name for themselves, although not exactly for the shiny mark of quality they imbued their productions with, more the unpretentious, straight for the lucrative genre conventions that they employed.

Still, there are many who look back on the eighties Cannon movies with some affection - those Charles Bronson action thrillers won't watch themselves after all - but whether they reserve any affection for New Year's Evil is a moot point. It valiantly attempts to find something different to do with what even by 1980 was pretty old hat, if still a moneymaker, and attaching the change of year setting was not a bad idea, if obviously picked because the other commemorative days had been chosen by alternative filmmakers. Yet they don't do very much with it, with the killer using time zone-based modus operandi when he might as well have simply killed people at random.

He does really kill people at random, of course, it's just that he's fooling himself that he's some kind of master criminal though there is a reason for his schemes which is not revealed until a quarter of an hour before the end. It's not a bad twist, but if you've seen a lot of these you might figure it out when we see so much of the psycho, as if his identity is plain to see. We also see a lot of those New Wave bands, well, they say they're New Wave but mostly they sound heavy metal and the audience is very much of the movies' idea of what a punk should look like. At first we think the killer will be carving his way through these hapless extras, but apart from a lot of moshing, the audience takes hardly any participation in the plot.

So if this isn't quite the first slasher musical, then what is it? With its narrative out of something you might have seen on a cop show, and not even all that violent either, mildly diverting is what it can best be judged as. Of course, there's always our heroine Diane to contentrate on, but as she doesn't do very much but take phone calls from the killer on her show - on live TV! - then she's something of a letdown as far as plucky women in horror go. Not least because it turns out that she has a terrible effect on the men in her life, a development which has a whiff of misogyny about it as we see she has turned her son into a crazed whiner, and we still haven't seen her husband. The idea that the murderer strikes on the stroke of midnight for each time zone in the United States is different, true, but New Year's Evil doesn't have much going for it aside from that limited novelty. Music by W. Michael Lewis and Lauren Rinder.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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