Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Netflix Roulette: New Year's Evil

"It's the end , the end of the 70's.
It's the end , the end of the century."

--The Ramones

It's time for another edition of Netflix Roulette. Today's randomly generated horror movie is 1980's New Year's Evil (directed by Emmett Alston), a crappy slasher film built around a Midnight Special-style rock show whose host is being tormented during her New Year's broadcast by a nut who kills people at the stroke of midnight (one for each time zone). The broadcast itself is allegedly a "New Wave" broadcast, but this movie's vision of punk/new wave is seriously influenced by disco (which, though waning at the time, still had a grip on the styles of the day). The cops put words to the disdain that films had for punk and New Wave at the time, which makes the ultimate conquest of the culture all the funnier. The movie does bring in a ringer in way third rate New Wave band Made in Japan to no good effect. It's a pretty sorry excuse for a soundtrack, and it makes Allan Arkush and Joe Dante seem all the more brilliant for hiring the Ramones for Rock and Roll High School.

Only slightly more problematic is lead actress Roz Kelly (who will forever be linked to Happy Days and Pinky Tuscadero). More than one review has suggested that the role would have been perfect for Leather Tuscadero, Suzie Quatro, but that's just wishful thinking.

The combination of "look" and actors fixes this film at a specific place in time, when punk was still dangerous and when slashers still ruled the cinema. There are still relics of the 1970s throughout, including nods to biker films and urban decay thrillers and teen sexploitation films. All of this would soon be washed away, except for slasher films, though even those are placed in the soon to be extinct drive-in. The movie name checks the Zodiac killer and Son of Sam, too, putting this in the traditions of the 70s-era psycho killer rather than the 80s conception of a serial killer. In some ways, this film can almost be seen as an epitaph for the decade. Except it's not really good enough for that...

As for the plot: well, it's not much. There are some interesting characters, none of whom are explored. The twist at the end has been used before, and better. So watching it for the plot is kind of pointless. The filmmaking? There are continuity errors. Lots of of them. Watching the killer flash a switchblade at his next victim in one shot, for instance, then a reverse to show her reaction, and then cutting to him opening the switchblade to terrorize her is the sort of thing that takes a viewer out of the movie. I'm on record as not much liking slasher movies, but it's not the content of the movies that I don't like, so much as it's the incompetence of them. Hell, this one isn't even particularly gory, so what's the point? I mean, murder scenes are to the slasher film what musical numbers are to musicals. Without them, this is just a bunch of dumb show.

Crap for the most part, but it reminded me of a Blondie bootleg I bought in the 1990s from their London New Year's Eve show at the end of the 1970s. All I could think was, "I think I'd rather be at that Blondie show than watch this garbage." Alas.

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