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“NEW YEAR’S EVIL” (Blu-ray Review)

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As our more season horror fans know, in the early years of the slasher film, there was not much of an urge on part of filmmakers to give their killers any sense of personality. And for the few that did, they often didn’t reveal themselves until later in the movie, with little indication that they were the killer or a rushed backstory following a “whodunit” set-up. Yet, despite being criticized by slasher purists, NEW YEAR’S EVIL attempts at doing just that, dueling narratives between a killer and his victim before coalescing into an engaging third act that brings the two face-to-face.

Now before we go any further, NEW YEAR’S EVIL is an admittedly corny film. It’s certainly not bad; in fact, this writer had a lot of fun with the film and thinks many points are expertly executed. But NEW YEAR’S EVIL is extremely dated, between it’s core concept of a “rock ‘n’ roll” battle of the bands to bring in the new year to the name of the female TV personality: ‘Blaze’. Even the mannerisms of the film’s villain is cheesy at points, and obscenely cartoonish when he threatens the victim in question. However, NEW YEAR’S EVIL runs with ever colorful, weird flourish with the utmost confidence and assurance, which makes the film oddly compelling from start to finish.

NEW YEAR’S EVIL plays with perspective throughout the film, almost unilaterally following TV host Blaze as she receives threatening phone calls during her New Year’s broadcast for the first third of the film. But once the killer is shown to live up to his word, the film almost abandons the singular perspective, the film shifts gears entirely and follows the killer in action for a majority of the second third of the film. It’s a bold choice to make, especially when the killer shows off a certain type of charisma and a hilarious ineptitude at achieving his tasks at time, and it’s eventually justified by melding the perspectives into one once the identity of the killer is revealed. And while the film is surprisingly skimpy on the bloodshed, NEW YEAR’S EVIL is supremely fun and dark, and it’s certain in a league of it’s own in terms of its narrative weirdness.

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While the script from Leonard Neubauer is highly evocative of Hitchcock and De Palma, with evocative being a term used very cautiously, director Emmett Alston and his producers at Cannon make the film an exceptionally entertaining watch. Much of this is hitched upon the weird world in which NEW YEAR’S EVIL exists within, although once the film begins to follow the killer, Kip Niven’s performance is flat-out great. Playing a serial killer with both inexperience and time restrictions, Niven offers a human side to the normally inhumane killer by offering his frustration and desperation when his plans don’t go accordingly. And Alston, although playing to expectations, offers a technical prowess and visual composition that helps keep the story from going too far into over-the-top or bleak territory.

NEW YEAR’S EVIL also lucks out with the Scream Factory treatment, which brings the film to high definition for the first time and gives collectors some worthwhile features. While not completely perfect (thanks to the aging on the negative, no doubt), the HD transfer for NEW YEAR’S EVIL is mostly fantastic, with the film’s neon-lit sequences completely popping off the screen beautifully which works even better when paired with Scream’s predictably excellent audio transfer. Meanwhile, NEW YEAR’S EVIL offers a new and quite fascinating Making-Of featurette, complete with new interviews with Niven, Grant Cramer, Taaffe O’Connell and Director of Photography Thomas Ackerman, as well as an informative ported-over commentary track with director Emmett Alston and a Theatrical Trailer.

Overall, Scream Factory delivers another great release, which will suit both die-hard fans of NEW YEAR’S EVIL as well as newcomers alike. For those who expect something super-stylish or bloody, you might want to look elsewhere, but for those who want something beyond standard slasher fare, NEW YEAR’S EVIL does so boldly. And for those who love holiday horror, NEW YEAR’S EVIL will make a fitting entry into your collection, and one that you’ll most likely have a lot of fun with.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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