Hell Night (1981)
Back of the box...
“Half man, half beast, he lurks inside the mansion killing all one by one as he follows the murderous instincts of his twisted mind.
A macabre tale of three young people who spend a night in a mysterious Garth Mansion as part of their initiation into Alpha Sigma Rho fraternity and its sister sorority. The murderous history of the mansion not only would make anyone shudder, but would keep any one miles away from the place. . . who will live to tell about hell night.”
Director: Tom DeSimone
Starring: Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Peter Barton
Watch the Trailer
It’s Hell Night for the Alpha Sigma Rho fraternity as a drunken crowd of eager college students gather outside the Garth family mansion waiting to usher four new pledges to their fate. Peter, president of the fraternity, addresses the caravan of costumed coeds in ceremonial fashion as he recounts the sordid details of the mansion’s past:
“In 1850 Virgil Garth built this mansion with the gold that was pouring out of his mines. Since then, four generations of Garth’s have lived here. . . until 12 years ago. The last people to live in the house were Raymond and Lillian Garth and their four children. Now, Lillian Garth was a hopeless simpleton—about the only thing she was good for was childbearing and she didn’t turn out to be too hot at that. The first child she bore for Raymond was a boy, a mongoloid boy they called Morris. Now Morris brought great sorrow to the Garths, they immediately set about to have another child and they were soon cursed with a baby girl, Susanne. She was so hideously deformed that it was impossible to tell from looking at her if she was male or female. And, to her father's immense disgust, she used to drag herself around the house with the help of her one good leg. The Garths were very fanatical about their privacy. They didn’t wanna have to be dependent on anybody else so they isolated themselves up here. That is why they never put in any modern utilities; there’s no gas, no electricity, and no phone. So again, they tried to have a child and within the year the Garth’s added Margaret. But, unfortunately, it soon became apparent that poor little Margaret could neither hear, nor speak, nor see. But good old Ray was determined and he decided to have one last go. And Lillian got pregnant again. But she carried the child for 10 and a half months until finally she delivered a little gork named Andrew. Andrew never spoke a word in his first 14 years, he just made these grunts and groans like the sounds of wild animals. Now Raymond Garth lived isolated in this house for 14 years with this freak show until he couldn’t stand it anymore. 12 years ago he assembled the entire family in the parlor and then he took his dear wife, Lillian, and he strangled her to death. Then he took the mongoloid son Morris and bashed out what little brains he had with the fireplace poker. Then he took the deformed little Susanne and impaled her with the same poker. Then he took the deaf, dumb, and blind little Margaret and he slit her throat. And then Raymond Garth got a rope and hung himself to death, leaving the cruelest punishment of all to his 14 year old gorked out son Andrew, who was forced to witness the slaughter of his entire family. Now, when the police arrived they discovered a note written by Raymond Garth describing the entire gruesome act but, strangely, they only discovered three dead bodies and young Andrew was nowhere to be found. Well, they searched the house as thoroughly as they could but still only came up with three corpses. Andrew is still believed by some to be living somewhere within this house.”
And that’s the cue to send in the four pledges for a House on Haunted Hill, survive-the-night style hazing. Gee, we hope nothing bad happens to ‘em in there.
If your interest isn’t already peaked by that amazing setup, let us tell you more. Firstly, you’re probably wondering what a “gork” is—we know we were. According to the Urban Dictionary, “gork” is old medical slang and an acronym for “God Only Really Knows.” Roger Ebert provides a more fitting definition:
(n.) Deformed, violent creature that lurks in horror movies, jumping out of basement shadows and decapitating screaming teenagers.
So now that we’re all up to speed, let’s talk about the movie. Hell Night was directed by Tom DeSimone (Reform School Girls, Concrete Jungle) and is something of an 80’s update on a Hammer style horror film. The film stars Linda Blair, who you may recognize from her role in the S Club 7 TV movie, S Club 7: Artistic Differences. . . and some other movie but we can’t remember. Blair is accompanied by Vincent Van Patten (Rock ‘n’ Roll High School) and two other nameless actors as they fight for survival in the house from Fleetwood Mac’s “Big Love” music video.
A fun fact we discovered while researching this movie was that there was a “Dial-a-Date” contest to win a date with Linda Blair around the time of the film’s release. The contest took place on Howard Stern’s DC101 radio show and the winner was a 21 year old named Michael Vance. Hopefully she was more enthusiastic about the date than she was about the final product of the movie. Her opinion of the movie could best be summed up with the phrase, “a girl's gotta eat!”
But what about us, you might be wondering, did we like the movie? We’re just happy that Linda was able to put some food on the table. Seriously though, it’s an ok slasher movie. It has its fun moments and a few cool kills but overall, it’s a movie we’ve seen done better so many times before that it’s difficult to fully recommend it. However, that being said, maybe you haven’t seen House on Haunted Hill or Night of the Demons and maybe a survive the night gothic slasher starring Raegan from the Exorcist as a busty college student is right up your alley. As cult classics often go, they’re best enjoyed with groups of loud friends, and Hell Night is no different. Don’t hold your breath for boobs though, they weirdly never show up.