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The print I watched for this write-up was the British version, released on the 'Braveworld' label titled 'THE DAMNING'. Now if you were to see the cover in your local video shop, and read the blurb printed on the back. You could be rightly forgiven for thinking that this owed more to ROSEMARY'S BABY than it does ROSEMARY'S KILLER. But the silly satanic sheen is just a bad attempt to hide a routine plot for a whodunit / slasher. And not an extremely good one at that!
In the beginning, we are introduced to a typical 'house on the prairie' type family who apparently (or so it states on the cover) have a shocking secret lurking beneath their normal exterior. It looks like good old Granpa (Hy Pyke) belongs to a satanic cult and he seems pretty intent on his young Grandson Tommy (Gregory Scott Cummings) becoming a part of it too. The only person who knows of the evil old man's plans is Amanda (Katina Garner) and she confides in her husband Bill (Michael Potts) who bravely (and foolishly) suggests: "I'll go and confront him myself". She begs him not to, warning him that it's Halloween and he "shouldn't go there tonight". Now what good would a horror film be, if the odd hapless and innocent person didn't ignore a dire and harsh warning like that? The answer: not very good at all; so the somewhat confused 'have a go hero' husband sets of into the night to set the record straight. Of course it doesn't go at all how poor old Bill expected it to, and he ends up being brutally cremated in his own car with a claw hammer sticking out of his forehead! Now did you guess that was going to happen! So far so run of the mill. Roll on thirteen years, and young Tommy is, well...no longer so young and surprisingly enough his complexion and hair color have completely changed as well! We soon find out that tonight is 'his night' and he will finally be initiated into the mysterious and murderous cult. It also seems that there are two other major events occurring in that quiet remote town. The first one being a fancy dress party (hows that for cliche). And for the second a psychopathic killer in a cape and devil mask is going round freely executing people with the sharpest point of a trident! Now obviously every character and their Grandma featured in the flick have their own personnel reason(s) for wanting to chop people up. But it's you the lucky viewer's job to see if you can guess who the assassin is...
Somehow I just knew how this film was going to be before I had even watched it. I know a cheap flick when I see one and THE DAMNING is definitely just that! The crew behind the production of this typical late eighties genre addition seem to be incredibly proud of the fact that they've got Hy Pyke (who had a small part in BLADE RUNNER) in their movie, a fact that is emphasized by placing his name above the title. I can't understand why, he's a terrible actor. But then again, I guess that just made him feel more at home with the rest of the cast, in other words none of them got invited to the Oscars that particular year! They unconvincingly chat away their lines as if they've just finished learning them over a cuppa. Over and under dramatising as much as humanly possible. At the same time, a pathetic score
which, sounds like it was knocked up in five minutes on the local church
keyboard - accompanies them. Director Mundhra (who also helmed OPEN HOUSE) attempts to make things trendy by sticking a silly hard rock video half way through, that would even make the most avid metal fan reach for his ear plugs. And when that's finally over, it's not long before it's 'plug in' time yet again as another 'never to be heard of after' group of young rockers take centre stage at the fancy dress party. Ah, yes...the fancy dress party, which is also the film's somewhat leisurely paced climax. Now has anyone else noticed who it's become almost customary for a cheesy slasher flick to have one of these friendly gatherings? I mean, think about it: DEAD KIDS, GIRL'S NITE OUT, DON'T OPEN TIL CHRISTMAS and KILLER PARTY. Need I go on. All the usual ingredients are here including loads of silly costumes, even sillier revelers, the rock band I mentioned before, the unfunny practical joker (who miraculously survives it intact!) and of course the psycho who finds his/her own source of entertainment in walking round and dispatching of people in the most gruesome means imagineable. And when you think you've survived the worst of the cheese, the corny ending springs up unannounced and just goes on to add insult to injury.
To be fair HALLOWEEN NIGHT has the odd enjoyable moment in a cheapo kind of way. It manages not to get too tedious and even chucks in some amusement just for good measure. In one scene one unlucky victim who thinks the masked killer's her boyfriend, strips naked, closes her eyes and cheerily asks "are you gonna surprise me?" Lets just say that I bet she was more than surprised at what happened next. There's also a fun bit of gore to brighten up our screens (although ten seconds was edited in the UK print) including one man getting a shovel 'dug deep' into his head. But still, unfortunately HALLOWEEN NIGHT can't help but feel extremely cheap and somewhat rushed. It's worth watching if you can take it with a pinch of salt. But be warned the only similarities between this and HALLOWEEN are those in the title!
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