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          One dark night 12 years ago, madman Raymond Garth butchered his wife and children in their creepy mansion before killing himself. Legend has it that one child survived the slaughter and remains hidden in the house as a deformed monster. Tonight, a group of fraternity and sorority pledges must spend the night in Garth Manor on the anniversary of the killings. But even if these college kids can handle one wild evening of sex, partying and pranks, will they survive the ultimate horrors of HELL NIGHT?

"If you weren't screaming, and we weren't screaming - then someone is trying to mind fuck us here."
                  - Seth

          Okay, so if Hell Night was a shampoo, it would be a simple lather, rinse, repeat formula. Like many early 1980s horror films, its ingredients were college students partying. This time fraternity and sorority pledges must spend a night in an old mansion. Is the mansion haunted? At each sign of danger, the youths go towards the scary sounds into darker areas or upstairs and will either get chased around or killed, or both. Then start the process again. Hell Night is guilty of this over and over, but....
          Riding the wave of slasher flicks post-Halloween, Hell Night at least holds its own with a talented cast, solid direction and a lot of care put into the production -- particularly the excellent lighting scheme. For a film that takes place entirely at night, everything looks correct for night time. No "day for night" shots or false levels for flashlights or moonlight. People are probably not aware of all the work that really went into this production.
          Kudos also for opting for suspense and some character importance over the usual distractions of naked gals and gore. When films load up on bare breasts in particular, you know the film is distracting the male viewers more than anything else, trying to cover up the fact that the scares are lacking (Friday the 13th Part 2 is an example). This film allows everyone including the female viewers to enjoy and focus on the story rather than sitting and waiting for the next T & A moment. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) For reviewers to complain about lack of nudity, there are plenty of other films to satisfy that need.
          During the usual wandering through the corridors and chase scenes, there is at least a sense of suspense since the characters and production are well above the usual standard fare. Compare this to other productions of its time and you don't seem to mind since the interest level is decent. Take a film from that time like The Prowler -- that was a film that had no sense of spookiness and spent so much time having characters just wander around endlessly.
          For viewers seeing this film for the first time (especially if you have been weened on more slicker productions), Hell Night might seem quite bland by comparison. However, take into consideration the time it came from, and the fact that it didn't rely on gimmicks like breasts, extreme gore, or a "possible hits" soundtrack, it offers quite a lot of fun despite the appearance of usual slasher fare. I found myself interested in each character caring if anything happened to them, and found the almost late-1960s "Scooby Doo" mystery element a treat. You have to give credit to films from way back when, the danger situations had to be thought out better since teens in peril didn't have cell phones to call for help! Sure, there was a lot of crap passing themselves off as horror films, but Hell Night had some creativity to carry it through.
          Sure, I've seen plenty of scarier films, but Hell Night offers just enough fun and those not being too picky will enjoy it as a mystery that holds up after all these years. Could be too that faces like Linda Blair and Vince Van Patten were noticeable faces in genre films and guest-filled shows like The Love Boat back then, and there's a fondness that I know I have for those fun times.

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Did you Know?

          - The majority of the movie was shot in three locations. The outside of Garth Manor was shot at a mansion in Redlands, California. The inside of Garth Manor was filmed in a residential home in Pasadena, California. The frat party was filmed in an apartment lobby in Los Angeles, California. The mansion used as Garth Manor is now a museum in Redlands, California -the owners made the change from private residence to a museum shortly after filming was completed on the movie.

          - The film makers had a hard time with the owl who was supposed to fly directly at the camera. They eventually settled with a shot of the owl flying to the upper right of the camera.

          - The many underground tunnels filmed in the movie were actually no more than two corridors in which the director had the actors running repeatedly through from different angles.

          - Filming took 40 days.

          - The hedge maze was brought in as there was no actual garden maze on the mansion property.

          - Though the movie required several shots of the actors to run from the front of the house to the front gates, the actual distance between the two is one mile.

          - For the scene where Jeff is thrown down a flight of stairs and hurt his leg, there wasn't a lot of acting involved. In reality, actor Peter Barton had really hurt himself and most of his limping was due to being in real physical pain.

          - This was the last film released by Compass International Pictures.

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