After "The Exorcist II", Linda Blair's career didn't exactly recover. Sure, she had guest appearances on TV shows like "MacGyver" and a cameo in "Scream", but she also ended up in movies like "The Chilling", "Grotesque" and "Witchery." In short, strong roles in prominent Hollywood movies were a thing of the past. That out of the way, she did star in three genre faves-the revenge movie "Savage Streets", the women in prison classic "Caged Heat", and today's entry, the 1981 slasher "Hell Night."
Blair stars as Marti Gaines, who along with three other fraternity pledges, must spend the night in an old, Gothic looking house where a series of family murders took place years ago. Some of the frat members decide to fuck around and scare the pledges, but little do they know that the sole survivor of the Garth family-a deformed man with murderous intentions-is stalking the house.
"Hell Night" is, as you can tell, another movie that tries to capitalize on the success of "Friday the 13th" and "Halloween" (it's even from the producer of that movie.) That out of the way, this has some notable differences from some of those movies. First of all, while the characters are all people we've seen in slasher movies before (the sexpot, the horny guy, the sweet girl and her love interest), the movie actually invests some time with them, making them likable in the process-it helps that most of the performances are good too. Also, while there's some decent kills here, this is a movie that's not particularly interested in things like wanton bloodshed, and instead uses the decor of the house and the legend surrounding it to build a sustainable atmosphere, something some slasher movies of the time lack. Add a nice twist to the old "the police aren't doing anything" trope, an effective score by Dan Wyman, and a great conclusion, and you've got a quality horror movie.
To be fair though, there are two flaws with the movie. As I mentioned, I found most of the performances to be good. Blair is kind of hit and miss here, as she sometimes does a good job with the material, while other times she seems to not want to be there. Also, while I really enjoyed this movie, it probably could have had a few minutes trimmed, as it doesn't really need to be 101 minutes long.
That out of the way, "Hell Night" is a blast to watch, and I can see why the movie is considered a slasher movie classic to this day. Check it out if you have a craving for a fun 80's horror movie.