Considering some of the crud that was congealing on the shelves at video stores, it was surprising that this late 80s slasher opus – which is certainly no worse than most – ended up languishing in obscurity until recently. Unreleased in America until the last few years, it's no Holy Grail that's for sure, but it does have enough off-the-wall nuttiness and slasher movie goodies to be worth a look for the undemanding.
The crumbling mansions of Hollywood certainly make the perfect backdrop for a slasher movie (well, they would if there were any left – last time I was there scant regard was paid to heritage and tinstletown history came second to having the latest interior design). The sacrilege of Hollywood history provides the backdrop to TERROR NIGHT: taking place on the night that it is announced that the estate belonging to 1920s swashbuckling film star Lance Haywood has been purchased and will be torn down. Haywood – who would be in his 90s – has not been seen for years and is widely thought to be dead. However, the night that the news gets out that his estate has been sold, two businessmen are messily dispatched by someone someone dressed in costumes once worn by Haywood (with one graphically pulled in two and the other feeling the sharp end of a spear).
Coincidentally, a group of teens are planning to party the night away (as they always do in these kind of films). Kathy (Staci Greason), the sensible one with the hair like a pubic crash helmet; Lorraine (Carla Baron), the blonde who looks like she could be drawing her pension; Greg (Ken Abraham), the asshole Jock who's banging Sherry (Jamie Summers) the ditzy blonde. Kathy's boyfriend, Todd (John Wildman), turns up with the nerdy Chip (William Butler). Pretty soon Kathy realises that she and Chip actually do have something in common – a love of old movies. Forgetting that she's meant to be the sensible one, she suggests they all hotfoot it up the Haywood place for last party before it gets torn down. Of course, that's exactly what they do – even ignoring the Crazy Ralph like warnings of the local drunk (played by Hollywood actor of yore, Aldo Ray), whose only thanks is a hook to the head from the killer (now dressed in pirate gear).
Although they don't know it yet, a drunken biker couple have also had the same idea. Angel (Timothy Elwell) and his guffawing girlfriend Jo (genre regular Michelle Bauer) have already broken into the mansion and have been making whoopee. None of this puts the killer in a better mood, and not letting the costume changes slow him down none he soon makes short work of all those pesky trespassers ...
Despite being made in 1987, TERROR NIGHT is pleasingly old school in its approach. It plays it relatively straight and doesn't succumb to the temptation of making its villain a wise-crackin' buffoon. It's well made and makes good use of clips from old movies, when the preamble to the killings consists of scenes ostensibly from Haywood's films (DOOM ASYLUM (from the same year) did something similar, but unlike that film the action doesn't grind to a halt every time the old reels begin to play). It has been mooted that copyright problems over these lips may have kept the film from being released previously. Having the killer dress as everything from a swashbuckling pirate to an Arabian Prince keeps things zipping along at a nice pace, and takes the similar idea from FADE TO BLACK (1980), which promised to be a slasher but never really was. It also means that the killer is never short of handy weapons. TERROR NIGHT is deliciously gooey. If you need a fix of corn syrup and latex you'll get it here, with a head lopped off with a scimitar, a hand severed with an axe and many more bloody morsels.
TERROR NIGHT is also blessed with more than just a crust of cheese. My favourite head slapping moment has to be when the final girl runs to the front door to find the safety latch on, yet she neglects to undo it and escape to safety, rather she throws her hands up in the air and runs back into the house! The cast all give knowing performances, but seem to be having fun with the material. Especially good as the dizzy blonde is Jamie Summers (a rare straight role for the porn princess). Cameron Mitchell gives one of his many five minute give-me-the-damn-paycheck-already! performances as a peculiarly sinister cop. Unlike others that would have phoned his performance in, Mitchell has a whale of a time with what little screen time he has. Veteran actor John Ireland also gives the proceedings the kind of gravitas you don't normally see in 80s teen slasher movies. Also, curiously, André De Toth - Hungarian director of the classic Vincent Price horror, HOUSE OF WAX (1953) - is listed as co-director. Whether that was actually the case is open for discussion. Finally, showing it's a small world when it comes to 80s slashers, the final two characters in TERROR NIGHT turn up as machete fodder in the beginning of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD (1988).
TERROR NIGHT isn't worth going out of your way to see, but
the formulaic thrills (and oddball last half hour) are worth it if you're in
an undemanding mood.
female:8 / male:4
1) Male pulled in half by car
2) Male impaled on spear
3) Male gets hook in his head
4) Male shot wit arrows
5) Female decapitated with scimitar
6) Female impaled on spikes
7) Female whipped and falls down stairs
8) Male hacked with axe
9) Male has neck broken
10) Male impaled on picket fence
11) Male strangled
12) Female kissed to death!