Bloody New Year (1987)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2013-01-02 06:41

Written by: Frazer Pearce, Hayden Pearce, and Norman J. Warren
Directed by: Norman J. Warren
Starring: Suzy Aitchison, Nikki Brooks and Colin Heywood

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

Trapped in a hotel of horror, they can check out at any time--but they can never leave!

Bloody New Year feels like the also-ran in the 80s New Year horror race behind New Yearís Evil, probably because it actually has precious little to do with the title holiday. That itís also a bad movie doesnít help its cause, either. To date, it represents the final feature film of Norman J. Warren, the British schlock-master that came into prominence during the late 70s for directing unabashed junk like Alien Prey and Inseminoid. If Bloody New Year is any indication, the advancing 80s excess either left him behind or left him with little desire to get caught up in it, as this was a comparatively quaint effort that feels better suited for the 80s iteration of The Twilight Zone than the exploitation circuit.

Its subjects are fit for a slasher, though, as Bloody New Year centers on a group of dopey teens; initially, theyíre causing mischief at a local carnival, where they run afoul of a thuggish biker gang. After fleeing the scene in a boat, they wreck in the middle of the ocean but manage to stumble across a mysterious island. Despite being the middle of the summer, its lone resort is decked out for the holidays, and the place has seemingly been abandoned, save for the appearance of some creepy staff members who occasionally pop up. Even more bizarre is the retro theme, as everything looks as if itís been preserved since the late 50s, from the decorations to the theater thatís screening Fiend Without a Face.

Something isnít quite right, of course, and it takes these dolts a while to catch on to this (of course), and the proceedings here are a somewhat admirable mixture of 80s slasher tropes and a cornball haunted house movie. Itís much more House than it is Friday the 13th, complete with amenities that come to life on their own to terrorize the kids. There are also zombies and other spectral antagonists, so thereís a real funhouse quality to Bloody New Year once it gets going (thereís even a scene set in an actual funhouse for good measure). The movie takes its sweet time in getting going, though, and thatís a problem, especially since the thing doesnít really make a lick of sense; while itís certainly got a strange, cock-eyed vibe going for it, Bloody New Year never really has a bonkers energy to match the scriptís gonzo approach.

As such, the nigh-incoherence isnít much of a boon. Sometimes, a movie like Bloody New Year can be sort of fun despite itself, but Warren doesnít leave himself much to hang his hat on besides random goofiness. None of the characters even approach being indelible (Iím not even sure half of them are named), and the various episodes are hit and miss. A zombieís struggle with a net is unintentionally amusing, while a sequence that sees two of the kids being stalked to the tune of a sitcom-style laugh track is memorably bizarre. Still, the lack of bite is a little odd considering Warrenís exploitation legacy; despite the title, Bloody New Year is hardly all that bloody, and Warren even completely cuts away from what should be the filmís money shot involving quicksand, a characterís head, and a giant saw blade.

Warrenís schlock roots also donít completely forgive the amateurish production; this might not be a cheap 80s slasher in content, but it is one in almost every other respect, from the thick acting to the unimaginative camerawork. Even something like Inseminoid had pretty decent photography and production values (relatively speaking). All Bloody New Year can boast is a kitschy atmosphere and a well-worn concept involving a perpetual time warp, an old Twilight Zone standby that was mined pretty often in other anthologies (even the lone episode of Bates Motel resorted to it). In this case, it plays like a sort of demented riff on Rudolphís Shiny New Year, as these kids have stumbled onto an island where itís always set to be 1960. Sadly (but perhaps not unexpectedly), thereís no commentary on the dangers of nostalgia or anything like thatóinstead, itís empty-headed nonsense with the occasional inspired moment of weirdness here and there.

Unfortunately, Bloody New Year is never as fun as it sounds (and it takes a bit of a sell to even make it sound fun); Warrenís attempt to separate himself from the slasher crowd was a pretty good idea, but the execution is pretty far off the mark. If not for its title, itíd probably be even more forgotten, and, even within the New Year arena, it can barely contend with New Yearís Evil (which isnít a great film itself, so this holiday could use another date with the horror genre). Released on a now out-of-print DVD from Redemption, the film is perhaps destined to be more obscure; the film itself isnít worth tracking down, and this release doesnít do much to entice the curious since it features a full-screen transfer and boasts no extras. Redemption has been revisiting a lot of their catalogue lately, and if you must see Bloody New Year, Iíd wait to see if it gets a re-release since itís commanding absurd price tags on the secondary market. If it does, donít expect to make it an old acquaintance, but donít be surprised if itís pretty swiftly forgotten. Rent it!

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