December 28, 2015 This Week in Horror Movie History – New Year’s Evil (1980)
This week in Horror movie history, back on December 26, 1980, New Year’s Evil was released in theaters by Golan-Globus Productions. There have been quite a few movies based around special occasions – from classics like Halloween, Friday the 13th, Silent Night, Deadly Night and My Bloody Valentine, to lesser known offerings like Uncle Sam, Happy Birthday to Me, Easter Bunny Kill! Kill!, and Thankskilling. Movies about New Years are few and far between. While New Year’s Evil is no masterpiece, it sure is a fun way to pass the time waiting for the newest calendar year. Starring Grant Cramer (Hardbodies 1984, Killer Klowns From Outer Space 1988), Roz Kelly (Happy Days TV series 1976, Full Moon High 1981), Kip Niven (A Fire in the Sky 1978, Magnum Force 1973), Chris Wallace (Body and Soul 1981, Don’t Answer the Phone! 1980) and Jed Mills (My Favorite Year 1982, Casino 1995), New Year’s Evil was directed by Emmett Alston (Moonchild 1974, Force of the Ninja 1988) and co-written by both Alston and Leonard Neubauer (Black Snake 1973, The Millionaire TV series 1956-1957), co-produced by Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan (both of Over The Top 1987 and Bloodsport 1988), and with music by W. Michael Lewis and Laurin Rinder (Enter the Ninja 1981, In Search Of… TV series 1977-1982).
Filmed entirely in LA, New Year’s Evil starts off with Hollywood Hotline television show VJ Diane Sullivan (Kelly), known to her Punk Rock fans as Blaze, in her hotel room getting heavily made-up so she can host a live New Year’s Eve music show featuring the top New Wave Rock tunes of the past year. She is also fretting about her husband, Richard, not making it to her show and blowing off her son, Derek (Cramer), even though he insists that he has important news for her. As she talks with her agent, Ernie (Mills), her friend Yvonne (Alicia Dhanifu) is killed in her own hotel room down the hall by an unseen slasher hiding in her shower. Downstairs, a bunch of Return of the Living Dead-type Punks show up at the hotel to join the party with Blaze, and when she finally arrives, they all go nuts. By “go nuts,” we mean they close their eyes, let their arms droop at their sides and roll their heads around on their necks as they bounce aimlessly into each other.
Still live, Blaze starts answering phones to talk to people calling in to vote for their favorite Rock songs, and she gets a call from a Bruce Jenner-haired guy (Niven) calling himself Eeeeevil. He uses a voice disguiser that makes him sound like a Jim Henson creation, but seriously tells her he is going to kill a “Naughty Girl” every time the clock strikes midnight in the different times zones across the country. Blaze is freaked out but gains enough composure to introduce the live band, Shadow, who play the most annoying New Year’s Eve song ever. Eeeeevil then sneaks into the local Crawford Sanitarium and first hits on and then hacks up nurse Jane (Taaffe O’Connell) just as the East Coast rings in the New Year. He also records this act on a tape recorder, which he then uses to prove to Diane/Blaze that he followed through with his threat.
As this is all going on, poor, ignored Derek starts doing some pretty creepy things, like wearing read pantyhose on his head and piercing his own ear with a hat pin. Next, Eeeeevil puts on a terribly fake mustache and picks up ditzy Sally (Louisa Moritz) and her roommate Lisa (Anita Crane) at a bar and convinces them to leave with him. As the year turns over in Chicago, Eeeeevil kills both of the girls (one hilariously with a bag of pot) and records his shenanigans to play over the phone for Diane/Blaze.
She calls the cops, who find the girls posed on a nearby swingset. Eeeeevil changes into a white priest collar, but that does not help his luck as he rams his car into an entire motorcycle gang. Eeeeevil tries to hide in a drive-in, but the bikers find him and smash up his car, forcing him to carjack a young, horny couple so he can escape. The guy gets tossed out of the car, but the girl stays in the backseat, pleading for her life. She manages to jump out when a couple of drunk New Year’s revelers stumble into the road in front of the car. Detectives finally get involved, and Lt. Clayton (Wallace) seals off the building to keep Diane/Blaze safe, forcing Eeeeevil to sneak into the hotel, since he had been planning to kill Diane/Blaze at the West Coast midnight.
Blaze goes up to her hotel room to change with a cop bodyguard in tow, only to be surprised by Eeeeevil sneaking up on her in a Stan Laurel mask. He pulls off the mask and Eeeeevil is revealed to be Diane/Blaze’s husband, Richard. She is happy that he is there to protect her and finds out that the surprise Derek had been babbling about earlier was his father’s arrival. After tracing the registration of the abandoned car from the drive-in, Lt. Clayton realizes the killer is Diane/Blaze’s husband and runs upstairs to save her. Blaze confesses his crimes to his wife, blaming her and her money and fame for his crimes. He handcuffs her to a chain hanging underneath the elevator car and sends it careening to the top floor, where Diane/Blaze sees Yvonne’s severed head. Lt. Clayton, along with a few other cops, find Richard and chase him to the roof. Once he is cornered, Richard puts his Stan Laurel mask back on, recites some Hamlet, and jumps. Derek finds his father’s body on the ground and cries over him. As Diane/Blaze is being loaded into an ambulance, the camera pans up to the front seat, where we see the driver, presumably Derek, wearing his father’s mask and driving off with his mother in the back. Fade out on a radio announcement that it was midnight in Hawaii, implying that Derek was going to take over where his father left off and kill people at midnight, starting with his mother.
Roger Ebert gave the film a 1½, and wrote, “New Year’s Evil is an endangered species – a plain, old-fashioned, gory thriller… But as thrillers go these days, New Year’s Evil is a throwback to an older and simpler tradition, one that flourished way back in the dimly remembered past before 1978. ” New Year’s Evil knows that it is ridiculous and plays right into that knowledge, making it a gloriously cheesy tongue-in-cheek romp that will have fans of ’80s B movies howling, although not exactly in fear.