2 stars  

directed by: Claudio Fragasso (as Clyde Anderson), Bruno Mattei (uncredited)
starring: Peter Hooten, Tara Buckman, Richard Foster, Mel Davis, Lee Lively, Tova Sardot, Gaby Ford

choice dialogue:

“The maniac cut her into pieces and then fed her to the fish. Makes my stomach turn to even think about it!”

- the official statement from the maritime museum.

slash with panache?

[review by JA Kerswell]

How to describe NIGHT KILLER? Hmmm. Fucking batshit crazy is a good start. If I told you it was from the director responsible for TROLL 2 (and from the same year, too) with additional material by the man behind such trash gems as ZOMBIE CREEPING FLESH (1980) and RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR (1984) would you reach for the remote or a gun?  

  "One, two, Freddy's..." Wait a minute. ... A killer is lose in the daytime in NIGHT KILLER.

It's a demented mix of Florida set Italian-pretending-to-be North American high camp, bad acting, sleaze, and hallucinogenic plotting – with added breasts and a killer who can punch through torsos with a glove with rubber talons attached. Oh, and all the killings in NIGHT KILLER appear to happen during the daytime. Are you sitting comfortably? Let me begin …

A psycho in a monster mask and Freddy-like clawed glove (the budget seemingly only stretched to one) is terrorising women in a local town. First, he kills a dancer late for rehearsals for a show and then later her teacher after she goes in search for her. The film already tips its hat to sheer lunacy by the killer being able to slit a throat and punch through both women’s torsos with said glove, even though we see the rubber talons bending freely as he leans up against the wall! Any thoughts that these victims might have any bearing on the story are quickly forgotten apart from the near-empty theatre makes a cool setting and having nubile young things frug in lycra for 5 full minutes worked in everything from PIECES (1982) to MURDER-ROCK (1984).

  Tom Savini will not be having sleepless nights ...

Next, we meet single Mom Melanie (Tara Buckman), who prepares bacon and fried egg sandwiches for breakfast in a throat-to-ankle chiffon nightie. She cheerily waves off her daughter Clarissa (Tova Sardot) for the weekend with family friends Sherman (Richard Foster) and his wife Annie. She has an important job to do – although what is never made clear – but we know it’s important as she changes into a strapless dress and chain-smokes at home at a typewriter. However, she soon gets distracted and gives herself a pep talk in front of a full-length mirror whilst fondling her exposed breasts. I think it’s called procrastinating and I’m sure we’ve all done it when working from home. Anyway, she gets a call from a drunk in a bar in black gloves who we later find out is her ex-husband, but then also from the killer who is putting on his best Tattoo from TV’s FANTASY ISLAND accent: “The Plane! The Plane!” – except he says instead: “I won’t kill you straight away. First I’m going to fuck your brains out!”. What would Mr Roarke say? Despite phoning the police, the killer gets to her first in a homage to the calls-are-coming-from-inside-the-house shtick first seen in Bob Clark’s BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974). It’s curtains for poor Melanie … or is it?

  Melanie (Tara Buckman) works from home.

Melanie wakes up in hospital, but she has lost he memory. Dr Willow (Lee Lively) tells Detective Clarke (Mel Davis) she might just remember the identity of the killer if she saw his face just one more time. Hmmm. … After packing off Clarissa with Sherman and his wife, Melanie discharges herself from hospital despite her amnesia. Things go from bad-to-worse when her jerk of an ex taunts her from a moving jeep and then follows her into some restrooms, where she pulls a gun on him and makes him strip and flush his clothes down the toilet. She then heads to the beach and lays out enough pills on a beach blanket to sedate half of Florida; which she proceeds to chug down with vodka from a hip flask. Axel not only magics up some clothes from somewhere he also knows where his ex-wife has gone and rushes to the beach. He stops her overdosing by tipping her into the ocean and making her drink sea water to vomit up the pills, before taking her back to his motel room for what eventually becomes a consensual sado-masochistic sexual relationship. Are you keeping up? … All the while, the NIGHT KILLER continues to haunt bars, maritime museums (!) and other locales to find women to, ahem, fist with his dime-store latex Halloween glove. This includes one encounter with a tipsy woman where they role-play Little Red Riding Hood leading to the immortal line: “Why, grandmother, what a big schlong you have!”  

Oh, my. NIGHT KILLER is something, alright. Whilst not as consistently zany – or entertaining for that matter – as TROLL 2, it certainly has more than its fair share of what-the-fuck moments and utter, utter insanity. Characters act in completely nonsensical ways. Although ostensibly the film’s heroine, Melanie seems to spend half the running time trying to kill herself. Axel, as her drunk ex-husband and disgraced, fired policeman is villain one minute and hero the next. First, he is telling Melanie she shouldn’t kill herself because that’s his job, the next he’s saving the day. Hilariously, even after knocking out Detective Clark, by the end of the movie they are saying he will be reinstated as a cop with a promotion – and his evil, sadistic streak is replaced with a benign, smiling family man persona.  

  Actual footage of Peter Hooten accepting his role in NIGHT KILLER.

Just as in TROLL 2 the North American cast turn the acting up to 11 at all times – and with predictably delightful results. Most of the cast are not credited in the credits (for which I’m sure many of them would be thankful for). Amongst them is Sherman’s wife Annie, the actress who plays her gives one of the best/worst performances I’ve ever had the pleasure to sit through – especially when she pleads for Sherman not to leave the house as she repeatedly attempts to flick her highly lacquered 1990 hairdo. Her spitting the line (whilst trying to hit her mark): "She's been laid by everything in a 50 mile radius!" has to be heard to be believed.

Sadly, NIGHT KILLER just misses the mark in the so-bad-its-good sweepstakes. Its appealing silliness sits slightly ill-at-ease with other more mean-spirited elements – and that’s a shame. Reportedly, Fragrasso intended to make more of a serious psychological thriller (!). This is of course, a little hard to take seriously – albeit, for a moment it looks like it will go down the all-in-her-head route – but then it becomes abundantly clear it’s just down to incoherent plotting.

The film’s producers were apparently unhappy with the film’s lack of violence, so brought in Mattei to film new gore scenes (the oft repeated gag of the glove punching through a torso but only the colour of the blouse changing). Fragrasso was apparently angry that they ruined his finely crafted … haha … movie. Even without the over-the-top inserts by Mattei, as a thriller Fragrasso’s film makes José Ramón Larraz’s EDGE OF THE AXE (1988) look like VERTIGO (1958). Also, the problem with this talk of subsequent post-tampering was that Mattei has a cameo in the movie as a reporter and was also the film’s editor!  As with many histories of Italian horror movies the truth may never be known.

  Let's leave Grandma's schlong out of this ....

Tara Buckman as Melanie is probably most recognisable to slasher fans as Billy’s Mom in the flashback sequence in SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984). She regularly appears topless in this as well – often for little or no reason. She was also in XTRO 2 the same year. Her last film credit was in 1994. I must have seen Peter Hooten when I got taken to see ORCA: THE KILLER WHALE (1977) – I expect at my insistence as a horror hungry 8-year-old! – at the cinema. But I only remember Bo Derek’s legs being chomped off. Make of it what you will, but Hooten took a – self-imposed or otherwise – 23-year screen break after making NIGHT KILLER. Apparently, Buckman and the openly gay Hooten didn’t get on during filming. She didn’t think he’d be realistic as an abusive lover/husband, or something. Quite what realism has to do with anything in NIGHT KILLER is anyone’s guess. Neither have spoken about this film recently.

The Christmas set (although minimally) film was shot at the tail end of 1989 on location in Virginia (not Florida where it is set, which given the near constant rain and grey skies is kind of a give-away it’s not actually the Sunshine State) and some interiors in Rome (notably the opening scenes in the theatre shot by Mattei to beef up the gore quotient).

NIGHT KILLER was released in Italy as a second sequel to Tobe Hopper’s THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE – despite having nothing to do with the franchise let alone there’s not a chain saw in sight. Although this might seem outrageous it was something akin to par for the course with Italian genre film makers. Bruno Mattei’s SHOCKING DARK was released the same year outside of the US as TERMINATOR II as a sequel to James Cameron’s film.


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BODYCOUNT 5   bodycount!   female: 4 / male: 1

      1) Female run through with rubber glove
      2) Female throat cut with rubber talon, punched through abdomen and thrown off balcony
      3) Female drowned in plaster ofparis and run through with rubber talon
      4) Female run through with rubber glove
      5) Male stabbed in crotch and shot multiple times