"HORROR HAS A NEW NAME!
In the frightening world of shadows, some shadows hold the darkest nightmares. And this nightmare has just begun.
Enter a psychopathic killer, a spawn of hell disguised as a priest who viciously stabs his victims to death. The dead are the lucky ones. The unlucky ones are those who survive.
Somewhere in the darkness something evil has risen and it knows what scares you. There's nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. It will find you. It will haunt you. It survives on fear. The innocent are at its mercy as it reaches from the gates of hell in unholy union with the devil - to devour, desecrate and capture your soul.
And it's chosen its victims. GOODNIGHT, GOD BLESS, your nightmare has arrived."
By the late 1980's the contemporary British horror movie was a rare bird, indeed. However, one movie changed that - albeit briefly - gaining rave reviews, boffo box-office (on both sides of the Atlantic), it spawned a still growing number of sequels. No, that movie wasn't GOODNIGHT, GOD BLESS, rather it was Clive Barker's tremendously successful HELLRAISER. This other little Brit genre flick, about a killer priest on a murderous rampage, didn't make a splash, in fact, it sunk like a stone beneath the waters with an absolute minimum of fuss. Be thankful for small mercies!
Despite being generally lacklustre in the extreme, GOODNIGHT, GOD BLESS' opening scene surprises, as it is something of a minor classic. Picture this: a school playground packed with young children playing; a figure in black walks past the fence (you never see his face), clasping a rosary. The figure pushes open the gate and approaches a female teacher, who bursts into a smile as the priest approaches. The padre suddenly pulls out a knife and stabs her in the stomach. As she falls to the floor, her face a mask of incredulity, he pulls out a handgun and proceeds to shoot seven children dead, as panic breaks out. One girl, Mandy Stuart (Jane Price), hides behind some nearby bins, hoping to remain unseen. However, she is quickly spotted, and the killer approaches and aims the pistol at her head (it is later revealed she only survives because all the bullets have been spent). ... This opening is powerful stuff, indeed, and it's almost unthinkable that such a scene would ever be shot today, in this post-Columbine, post-Dunblane era. In fact, it's so arresting that you'd be forgiven for thinking you're in for something of a lost classic. Unfortunately, GOODNIGHT, GOD BLESS can be called a lot of things, but lost classic is not one of them.
Naturally, the massacre is big news. The police are quick to move into action: the grumpy commissioner (who, curiously, is the spit of Lucio Fulci) barks orders at two of his detectives to get down to the crime scene, John (Jared Morgan), and his cop partner Joe (Frank Rozelaar-Green) - a New York detective who's presence in London is never really explained (but, I guess, was a move to get some transatlantic sales for this pretty hopeless slasher non-extravaganza). After checking out the schoolyard (complete with tasteless shots of little bodies under sheets), the duo go to interview the surviving girl. Surprisingly, despite her mother, Lisa (Emma Sutton), telling the cops to go easy on the kid, Mandy is in high spirits - they find her singing to herself and indulging in that game (throwing a ball up in the air and then catching it) that no kid ever actually does in real life unless some B-movie director tells them to. Despite staring death in the face, Mandy is next to useless when it comes to helping the investigation. However, all is not lost - Joe hits it off with Lisa, and they arrange to go to a violin concerto the next evening!
Obviously not knowing that Mandy has the observational skills of a myopic garden mole, the killer priest takes time off from stalking gormless bit part players to ineptly terrorise Mandy and Lisa when he goes to find them at their home. In one scene, where all the slasher movie tickboxs are routinely ticked, including the one that says that after the dumb victim-to-be has spent five minutes looking out a window into the inky night she'll then lean against said window until the killer smashes his hand through to grab her neck; we also get the old knife through the door gag and plenty of not very convincing hysterics. Of course, these hoary old chestnuts would still enliven all but the most banal movies, however, here any suspense is totally ruined by the actor playing the killer always giving the actresses' playing the mother and daughter plenty of time to get away by literally standing still until they've shuffled past him! In an even more ludicrous move Lisa manages to overcome the killer by throwing a table lamp at him - which could have been no bigger than 10 inches tall - not only does this mighty weapon knock him over, it also seems to knock him out for enough time for them to motion past him without bumping into the nearby furniture.
The killer, whose face we never see, is more successful during his other stalking exploits. This is probably because of the calibre of the potential victims, including one girl with a shock of big hair who looks like she's wearing a orange parachute cultivated into some kind of fashion statement. First we have to suffer a cringe-inducing disco scene where the clothes and hairstyles had me suffering flashbacks to my own sartorial nightmares (the late 80's were a cultural black hole in anyone's book, and I refuse to believe that any of these looks could ever come back!). Anyway, I digress, this walking cheesy wotsit in high heels jettisons the guy she picked up in the club, "'ere, get your beedin' 'ands off me!" she squeals, stropping off alone after she's wolfed down some fish 'n' chips. Eventually she finds herself being stalked by the killer, but get this: trapping her in an alley, he pulls a bloody great butcher's knife on her, and, as it glints in the moonlight, drops his rosary. Rather than spinning round and legging it into the night (with metres and metres of orange satin billowing behind her, no doubt) she bends down and picks up the rosary and hands it to him! Doh. It's no wonder the next day's headlines proclaim her subsequent, and well earned, evisceration.
However, the film's biggest horror comes during a scene of such mind-bending banality I'd rather chew off my own feet than ever see (or listen to) it again. ... Naturally, Joe and Lisa become an item. So, we are 'treated' to a ten minute montage of them, and Mandy, sampling the 'delights' of one of the UK's, er, top tourist destinations: Birdworld. Yes, even if you haven't been there I'm sure you can picture the visual feast conjured up by a theme park based on a skanky old budgie and an incontinent parrot with Tourette's Syndrome. Still, not content with pushing us, the poor viewer, into a coma with scenes of the grinning goons go-karting, flinging themselves around like baboons on a bouncy castle, trying on sombreros and leisurely taking a pleasure cruise, the director is evil enough to accompany this visual equivalent of a horse tranquiliser with a power ballad so utterly atrocious it seriously makes Celine Dion sound like Megadeth.
You may have guessed by now that GOODNIGHT, GOD BLESS isn't the best slasher flick in the world. To be honest, I've seen worse - but not by much. There are a couple of high spots: there's a minorly effective stalking scene in the woods, a few of the actors give their most to parts that don't really warrant it and the director at least deserves some kudos for using everyday British locations like a grimy pub and a fish and chip shop (this flick is determinedly glamour free). However, it's amateur day in most respects: a boom bobs into shot in at least once, and despite employing almost very subgenre cliche in the book almost none of them are used to much effect. Plus, the less said about the film's main score (which sounds like a narcoleptic had passed out face-down on an out-of-tune synth) the better. We never do find out who the killer is, apart from the fact that he dresses like a priest and sounds like a chipmunk with a voice box when he's on the phone, the only clue is the vaguely creepy but utterly nonsensical 'twist' ending, but most viewers will have passed out, or be swinging from the light fitting, long before that point. The rich horror potential of using priests as bad guys has been tapped before (and I must admit, as a lapsed Catholic I get a certain kick out of it): all the gialli I've seen do it better; Pete Walker's THE CONFESSIONAL MURDERS (1975) beats it hands down; PROM NIGHT IV: DELIVER US FROM EVIL is a cut above; God, even the quip happy freak priest in HAPPY HELL NIGHT (both 1992) is more frightening (and I'm really scraping the bottom of the barrel here!). There's no absolution for this underperformer, I'm afraid.
Director, John Eyres, returned to the subgenre in 2001 with the infinitely more polished, but hardly more satisfying, RIPPER: LETTER FROM HELL.
female:7 / male:7
1) Female stabbed in the stomach with knife
2-8) Children shot with handgun
9) Female stabbed with knife (off-screen)
10) Male stabbed in the back
11) Male impaled on spikes
12) Female found stabbed
13) Male found with slash marks to his face
14) Male found with throat slashed