This is the last feature to date for British director Norman J. Warren, who a few years before had a considerable box office success with INSEMINOID (aka HORROR PLANET). Milking one more horror movie out of the 80s, this effort attempts to be as over the top as Warren's earlier TERROR, an acknowledged nod to Argento's SUSPIRIA, but fails to induce any scares and gets muddled in the vast pool of teen "body count" pictures of the period.
BLOODY NEW YEAR's title sequence unravels amongst a New Year's Eve party in 1959. The scenes are shown as a boxed off, black and white image through a home movie camera. Although it might at first remind one of Michael Powell's PEEPING TOM, the images pose no narrative threat and credibility is lost with the sounds of an excruciating "oldies" recreation via cookie-cutter 80s New Wave. The film then cuts to the present, where Carol (Catherine Roman), an American teen visiting England, is harassed by three thugs while visiting a carnival. A group of teens (two girls and three guys) rescue her, and after a wild chase through the crazy house, they escape in an old sail boat.
The teens hit a rock, damage the boat, and end up ashore on a seemingly empty island where the Grand Island Hotel stands. Even though it's July, the establishment is adorned with Christmas/New Year's decorations, and everything has the look of a bygone era. The teens' intelligence (or lack of) leads them to believe that the place does "theme parties," and they change into 50s style clothes that were lying around in the rooms. But soon strange faces are seen at the window, rock n' roll is heard from a ballroom, and a movie room projects the feature attraction of FIEND WITHOUT A FACE (a title which Warren wanted to remake for years), all without explanation. A maid also shows up out of thin air and then disappears, and our teen friends soon end up being chased by spooks or being turned into unearthly creatures. All this supernatural craziness is due to a mysterious plane crash years before -- don't worry, it's all explained in the end.
Frazier Pearce's screenplay throws in a generous amount of slasher and haunted house motifs, some of which come off very silly, such as a self-motivated vacuum cleaner and a phantom leaping from the movie screen to mutilate one of the adolescents. There are some well-crafted murders, including a head being turned fully around by a possessed girl, and another character being sucked into the back wall of an elevator as if it were another realm. But the dime store make-up, with its fright wigs and putty scars, as well as a climatic scene that has the survivors clinging to a moving billiards table amongst a room full of ghostly beings, just come off amateurish, resembling an early MTV video trying to emulate Argento's stormy style of colorful lighting and violence. While there are a couple of decent original bits, BLOOD NEW YEAR feels like a misguided episode of the "Hammer House of Horror," and is greatly hampered by an uninspired cast.
film is presented here full frame, even though it was shot open matte for an intended
1.85:1 ratio. BLOODY NEW YEAR didn't get much distribution (it never played in
U.S. theaters), so it basically looks the way people are used to seeing it on
home video. The transfer is pretty much blemish free, and for a cheaply-made film,
colors are nicely saturated and fleshtones looks natural. Some scenes looks a
little dark, but it was most likely the way it was shot. The mono audio track
is very clean, and an alternate French track is also included. Image Entertainment's
website states that the disc includes a theatrical trailer, still gallery, filmography
and interview with Director Warren (presumably the same one as on the PREY
disc), but the copy we were given at time of press did not have any supplements.
(George R. Reis)
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