Happy Hell Night (Brian Owens, 1992)

posted in: Duane, Review | 0
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A group of frat boys are butchered by a priest-turned-devil’s-disciple. Captured and put away in a mental asylum, the evil priest is released from captivity 25 years later due to a prank gone awry by the selfsame fraternity. Now the evil priest is loose and looking to finish what he started.
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Sloppy execution and lack of talent really hinder what otherwise would be a strong premise in Happy Hell Night.  The standard slasher setup is augmented with some truly creepy visuals and settings in the beginning of the film, and the antagonist would have been very effective if they would have been able to resist having him blurt out stupid one-liners every time he offs some slack-jawed college kid. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, every attempt was made to have these lines delivered as creepily as possible, but when you have this demonic looking old man hacking kids to death and then trying to deliver a ridiculous one-liner in a creepy voice it severely lessens the impact of the scene, and as it drags on it becomes more akin to self-parody than an effective character quirk. Once the aforementioned bit of creepiness occurs the film digresses into yet another slasher at a college campus, replete with stupid college students with stupid college student problems; who’s fucking who, who will make it through the fraternity pledge proceedings et al. There’s a retarded subplot about how the one college frat boy’s younger brother is banging his girlfriend shoehorned in there too; but nobody really gives a shit including the persons involved, and it resultantly falls to the wayside as the characters find themselves in deep shit at the hands of the killer. It feels like the entire production started out very ambitiously and possibly out of an inability to pull it off digressed into yet another substandard “me too” slasher entry – albeit a few years too late. Indeed, the dreadful stench of the 90s permeates the entire film; from the atrocious pop-punk theme song that needs to be heard to be believed, to the shitty attire that borders on pretentiousness and the general feeling of bland apathy. Add to that the undeniable fetidness of Canada and really, the film never had a chance. It must be due to a small miracle (or possibly blackmail) that Darren McGavin (A Christmas Story, Turk 182!) and Sam Rockwell (Choke, Seven Psychopaths) were tarnishing their good names in something this dismal.

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As for the visuals, as expected there’s a solid amount of T&A included but it’s so lackluster and the girls are so nondescript that it’s largely forgettable. It is interesting to note that Jorja Fox of CSI and ER television fame has a small part as a college slut that a drunken frat boy is going to fuck; she doesn’t show any skin, however. It would have been a plus to see the hot kinky female exchange student give up the goods, but apparently the object of her desire was too busy being a long-haired “cool guy” to take her up on her offer (Or was too busy thinking about cocks, it could go either way). The kills aren’t especially brutal, but what’s here is reasonably competent. The victims are dispatched with a specialized (and somehow magically sharpened) pick that’s described as a tool that’s used for “climbing above the frost line”. Whatever. The thing is used in a variety of logical ways until shit gets really stupid and people are getting decapitated, it’s punching through car roofs into people’s heads when it’s only about a foot long, etc.. Clearly the filmmakers were so enamored with the murder weapon that they were willing to compromise the integrity of the film as a result.

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What we’re left with is a rather bland affair that will leave you yearning for the potential that can be glimpsed through the ineptitude. It was left wide open for a sequel that I’m pretty sure everyone involved knew would never ever happen. Considering Brian Owens gave up directing after this, his one and only effort, speaks volumes about the outcome.

If you’ve pretty much seen everything, this might be a good choice if only to wonder at what it could have been if treated properly. Only slasher die-hards and the terminally bored need apply.
Official COSDS Nunspank  Rating: 
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Duane co-founded The Church of Splatter-Day Saints in 2005. When not immersed in film he's enjoying good whiskey, smoking meat in the backyard or thinking about sluts. He makes a damn fine habanero fire sauce.

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