NEW YEAR’S EVIL *** USA 1980 Dir: Emmett Alston. 82 mins
The punning title hides a busy, nicely acted movie that displays more restraint than most 1980 slashers, including an opening flick-knife murder that takes place behind a shower curtain. Celeb D.J. Roz Kelly hosts “Hollywood Hotline”, a New Year’s Eve party counting down to January 1st with new wave rock, and she’s too busy to notice that her estranged husband, star of “Spaceship America”, has lost his shit, spending his days talking to himself while wearing one of her red stockings on his head.
Meanwhile, handsome but deranged Kip Niven is on a mission to kill a woman every hour as New Year arrives in various time zones, terrorising our heroine over the phone and adopting various disguises (priest, doctor, plastic face mask) to achieve his goal.
Like a lot of early 80’s slashers, this devotes too much screen time to a mediocre in-house punk band (Made In Japan!) and ropes in silly supporting characters, notably a shrink who compares Niven to the Son of Sam, noting “He’s mutilated the breasts of most of his women…That’s a common characteristic of a psychopathic killer with a mother fixation!” It does, however, have fun with Niven’s penchant for alter-egos, including a great sequence in which he dons a groovy fake moustache, pretends to be Erik Estrada’s business manager and picks up a chatty Haiku-writing, Zen-practising blonde (Louisa Moritz) and a friend with nervous diarrhoea.
Niven makes for an unsettling, Mercedes-driving, psychotically giggling middle-class misogynist and, in the film’s most generically slasher movie sequence, gets to stalk a blonde teen who has been indulging in a bout of topless groping at a drive-in showing of BLOOD FEAST. The elevator shaft climax is tense, and, although the focus is unusually on the killer, Kelly makes for a flawed, credible heroine. Typical of the sub-genre, it has a corny “shock” coda and a score that briefly, shamelessly imitates FRIDAY THE 13TH’s classic chi-chi-ma-ma vocal effect.
Review by Steven West