Bloody New Year, (shot as Time Warp Terror), was the last feature film directed by the late Norman J. Warren (Terror, Horror Planet aka Inseminiod) and that, along with its setting, makes it a good choice for my last review of the year.
The film begins with black-and-white footage of a New Year’s Eve celebration held in 1959 accompanying the opening credits. The film’s imitation 50s theme song, the credits, and the footage ends as a woman’s reflection pulls her into a mirror and we emerge into what was then present-day England. Ironically as I write this that’s actually further in the past than the 50s footage was from Bloody New Year’s main events.
The film opens at a seaside carnival where our leads Tom (Julian Ronnie, Murphy’s Mob, Consuming Passions), his girlfriend Lesley (Suzy Aitchison, Wilf the Witch’s Dog, The Family Man), Rick (Mark Powley, Bronson, Wing Commander) and his significant other Janet (Nikki Brooks, Jupiter Moon, Crossroads), and fifth wheel Spud (Colin Heywood, The Rainbow Coloured Disco Dancer, Wendi Mcarthur’s Mono Loco) see some goons hassling Carol (Catherine Roman, Eat or Be Eaten, Once in a Lifetime) and get involved. This leads to some almost comical chases around the carnival before they make their escape and go for a sail in Rick’s boat. As it turns out this just isn’t their day, they hit a rock and end up on an island.
You may be wondering how New Year’s Eve fits in with fun at the shore and sailboats. Warren and his co-writers Frazer Pearce and Hayden Pearce give us a big hint when the cast finds a hotel that seems to have been abandoned in the midst of a New Year’s Eve party.
While Warren’s previous films went heavy on gore and nudity, Bloody New Year goes in the opposite direction and is anything but bloody. Instead, we get appliances turning themselves on, a kamikaze vacuum cleaner, billiard balls rearranging themselves, phantoms glimpsed from the corner of the eye, etc. It’s all very blandly staged as well, there’s none of the energy in the director’s earlier works on display here.
I don’t know if it was the film’s lack of budget or if Warren had lost his enthusiasm for the genre in the six years between Inseminoid and Bloody New Year but this feels like the work of an entirely different director. Some of the killings are inventive but they lack the ferocity and nastiness one expects from him. Instead, the film just sort of plods along from one killing to the next.
The relatively few effects we get reflect Bloody New Year’s budget. The monster looks like it was made from sheets of green plastic, the zombies are mostly white makeup and a bit of latex on the actors’ faces, and a seemingly solid spirit that dissolves into dust was obviously made from plaster of Paris. What was probably intended as the film’s bloody highlight, a death by outboard motor, ends up taking place off-screen.
There’s also no real sense of cohesion to the film’s events. A character comes off of a movie screen to kill somebody. A creature that looks like it’s made from seaweed pops out of a table, an elevator wall comes to life, a snowstorm occurs indoors and eventually, zombies enter the picture. It’s as though the writers just made a list of ways to kill the characters off and never got around to why there are so many different things going on. Some are of a ghostly/supernatural nature, others have a more science fiction feel to them, reflecting the island’s vaguely explained secret.
There is a good idea at the core of Bloody New Year, but the execution was sadly lacking. The script needed a rewrite or two and the film’s bizarre deaths required better effects and staging that didn’t feel like the filmmakers were just going through the motions. It’s better than the other seasonal horror film New Year’s Evil, but it’s a rather sad end to an exceptional career.
Bloody New Year is available on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome and it’s also available to stream on Tubi and various other digital platforms including YouTube. If you’re a fan of Warren’s films or British horror in general and haven’t seen it then it might be worth it for free.