New Years Evil Poster

New Year’s Evil (1980) Review

With Christmas behind us, it’s time to look forward to the new year, and how better to do that than with a look at one of the surprisingly few genre films set around New Year’s Eve or Day, New Year’s Evil?

We met our heroine, Diane “Blaze” Sullivan (Roz Kelly, Happy Days, Full Moon High). As she’s telling her assistant Ernie (Jed Mills, Kiss Daddy Goodbye, The Creature Wasn’t Nice) to “Drop a ‘lude and relax”. Of course, when she finds out her husband Richard (Richard, Kip Niven, Damnation Alley, Earthquake)is in Palm Springs, “either coked up or loaded” it’s OK for her to lose her shit. But, with or without his presence, the show must go on.

In this case, the show is a nationally televised New Wave New Year’s Eve concert complete with a hotline for viewers to call in. And call in they do, including someone with an electronically disguised voice who calls himself “Evil” and promises to kill somebody as the clock hit midnight in each time zone. And he’s got recordings of the killings to prove he means business.

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Probably best remembered now due to the fact it was a Cannon Films production, (if you don’t know who they were I recommend watching Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films), New Year’s Evil is an odd early entry in the slasher genre.

For starters, there’s almost nobody in the cast the viewer can identify with or root for. The victims are random, introduced minutes before they’re killed. Films like Maniac or Don’t Go in the House flipped the equation and let us get to know the killer instead, Here, Evil is as much an unknown as his victims. Well, he’s not totally unknown, you’ll probably guess his identity very early in the going. But we still know nothing about him, not even a motive.

As for our leading lady, Blaze is a severely unlikeable character. She’s so wrapped up in herself that she obliviously talks over her obviously troubled son Derek’s (Grant Kramer, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Willy’s Wonderland) announcement that he’s landed a part in a TV series. She’s also utterly bitchy to Lt. Clayton (Chris Wallace, Don’t Answer the Phone, Dead End). At least until it’s clear she really is in danger.

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Writer Leonard Neubauer (Black Snake, Run for the Hills) and director Emmett Alston (Nine Deaths of the Ninja, Demonwarp) also don’t provide much in the way of scares or interesting kills to keep the viewers interested. The body count is relatively low and several of those take place off-screen. New Year’s Evil spends almost as much time showing the studio audience dancing as they do on the killer’s activities. If your idea of musical nostalgia includes generic New Wave songs you might find that to be a plus however.

About the only novel thing about the film is that the killer only wears a mask in the scene where we learn his identity. We see his face all throughout the film but have no idea who he is. As I said earlier though, his identity is fairly obvious to anyone whose seen more than a few thrillers, let alone horror films. They don’t even give him an interesting motive, just a standard rant about evil women ruining his life.

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What New Year’s Evil really feels like is a vintage made-for-TV movie spiced up with a couple of brief breast shots and flashes of gore. I’d wouldn’t be surprised if it was an unsold script given some hasty rewrites to try and take advantage of the unexpected success of Halloween and Friday the 13th. Instead, whatever amusement I got from it came from seeing somebody claim to know Erik Estrada to try and pick up a woman.

New Year’s Evil is currently available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber and Digital platforms from Paramount. And if that isn’t enough holiday horror for you, FilmTagger can suggest a few more titles.

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