Archive for January, 2012
This chapter is one of oddity, for the singular reason of friendship. As I’m sure many of you have experienced as you have lived your lives, friends come and fiends go. But where do they come from and why? One such friend of mine was a young guy by the name of Pratt. (here, referred to by his chosen surname and not by socially issued, insult. Also, as it was the first year of secondary school, everyone surrendered their first name as recognition of progression and maturity).
I don’t remember where this guy came from and why we became finds. I already had more friends than I needed, but Pratt was a new addition. He was in our new school, same age and year, but not in the same class. (myself being in the higher academic regions, with Pratt in what was usually referred to as The Beach Ball class) He had a totally different upbringing than I was used to. He had a father on the rigs which he saw very seldom. A very friendly mother who had fostered a whole house of kids. Crazy really, but honourable. I remember seeing one of the bedrooms on he top floor, like a military dorm. I digress.
So this was back in 81. We had video breaking all sorts of boundaries in society and technology. The rental shop was the new way to view films, and as such, all sorts of Euro crap was rebranded, renamed, rebadged and released for our consumption. I must add, all without the approval of Jim Ferman et al at the BBFC. One of Pratt’s foster brothers was an early adoptee of this new tech and spent his days in front of the TV watching poor quality films. This particular day, it was roasting hot, sun beaming, classic childhood summertime, I remember being drawn towards the living room, the TV and he Horror which Pratt’s brother had rented. It was an American teen slasher. (but remember, this was the dawn of the slasher in relative terms. The gloves were off for dominance amongst the Jason’s and Michael’s)
Hell Night. …. Thats right… Hell Night. It’s not on anyone’s radar. It’s not recognised. It’s not credited. It’s basically been forgotten with a lot of the other trash of the day. But for me, it’s buried deep inside my mind. It was hot, sunny, think Chopper’s and hot pants, melting Tarmac, epidemic of flying ants too. (summers are not like this any more) In Pratt’s living room, the curtains were drawn, the huge sofa occupied by the extended foster family of maybe 12ish kids, all under the respectable viewing age, and the movie was creepy as hell.
The film is of simple premise. College kids wanting acceptance into their Delta Zeta Omega residence need to spend the night in a spooky old house, historically, one that a family was massacred in a few years earlier. Unbeknown to the teens, one family member remains. ‘Seth’ is a towering beast of a man. Strong, monstrous looking and demented in the brain. He stalks the kids, keeps them locked inside and plays the game of cat n mouse, picking them off one by one. This is a tried and tested formula, even back in ’81, but Hell Night still deserves a bit more than being forgotten. It’s a damn sight better than most, even some which spawned a whole host of sequels. It’s director Tom DeSimone was an old veteran of cheap film, and had a whole host of semi erotic glitzy sleaze boxed up for people’s renting pleasure. Hell Night was his dabbling into the horror genre and what an entry was made. The film has a real unease about it. Tension, wariness, and something which other slashers steer away from which is ‘common sense’. Here the victims kind of stick together rather than splitting up, exploring the house, looking in the basement. It’s this realism of character which makes this film stand out and allows Seth to grow into a real threat of a villain. He’s everywhere, strong, physical, fast, vicious, dominating, silent with a damaged brain. Do we have some clues here? Frankenstein once again anyone?
I was ten years old watching this. Terrified the living daylight out of me. I can still remember walking home in the sunlight, traumatised, mind in darkness. This was a true milestone for me, one which I often recall. I remember mentioning this film to various people a few years later when my love for horror really began to bloom, only to find it was dismissed as American trash. By that time, my palate was maturing to the finer euro delights and as such, I often dismissed our US offerings. Shallow was I to turn my back on this one.
Although it has been said that Linda Blair was the selling point of this film, it’s a financiers trick. The film has a lot to offer. I’m also very surprised this little gem hasn’t been pinpointed as a Hollywood remake. It has dollars written all over it.
As for Pratt, for some reason once again unknown, we went our separate ways at the end of that summer…. and he was never seen again.