Genghis Khan and his Mongol army invade Poland and lay siege to the city of Cracow. The Polish king tries to make peace in order to save his city, and Genghis Khan seems amenable to that. ... See full summary »
Two Vietnam Veterans have realistic nightmares about the war. So real are these nightmares that they start getting injured in them, and bringing things back that they had in the dream. They... See full summary »
David A. Prior
Brian Edward O'Connor,
Tough to track down, but surprisingly worth the efforts...
Lance Hayward's Terror Night was one of the surprisingly large amounts of slasher movies that inexplicably vanished from existence very soon after it was initially unleashed in the eighties. Actually, whilst trying unrewardingly to search out some information on the flick's production, I came across a statement from notorious B-movie mogul Fred Olen Ray - that said it never even acquired a US release. I guess that would of course, explain why it seems to have completely disappeared from cinema history. If it wasn't for the odd user comment posted on the IMDB or the fact that I managed to track down a copy (without a cover), I'd be inclined to believe that it was still laying in a vault somewhere, waiting for a label to pick it up for circulation. Information on whether or not it was shelved would be much appreciated from anyone who knows the facts of its history. I'm starting to believe that it may have surfaced briefly outside America only, which explains the reader's reviews and the fact that this copy has German subtitles. If that is the case, and it was withheld in its country of origin, then it's pretty hard to imagine a reason why it never gained the exposure it deserved. It really isn't all that bad; - certainly no worse than the majority of bottom-of-the-barrel genre-pieces that were appearing around '87. It's a damn site better than schlocksters like The Last Slumber Party or the incredibly awful Blood Lake turned out to be. And on top of that, it's a lot more authentic.
Nick Marino's splatter opus even boasts one or two alluring qualities that may have allowed it to reach cult status, if it was given the right chances. Firstly, legendary one-eyed filmmaker Andre De Toth supposedly shot a few scenes and offered his overall guidance to the director; and secondly it plays a great deal like a more successful and charmingly remembered horror film from the early eighties, Fade to Black. Although a few of the necessary trappings were firmly in place, FTB wasn't really a slasher movie by any length of chalk. It was mainly notable for a brief early appearance from Mickey Rourke, just before he hit the big time with Diner and Rumble Fish respectively. This on the other hand, is stalk and slash to the core; but chucks in a few winsome alterations to the traditional formula that I actually found fairly engaging. There's a few imaginative murders, some great disguises for the killer and even a brief cameo from grumpy old horror movie favourite, Cameron Mitchell. Amusingly enough, he's billed as the star, even though he turns up for two minutes and then disappears quicker than a rabbit with an amphetamine addiction. He later made a lucrative habit of showing up and sodding off in slashers like Memorial Valley Massacre and Jack-O. In fact, the only genre movies that he could have rightly been credited as any kind of lead were The Toolbox Murders and The Demon. At least in both of those, he actually bothered to hang around for more than a snippet of dialogue or two.
After a neat credit sequence that's deliberately modelled on those of late '20s cinema, (it even includes a corny 'rag-time' melody a la Al Jolson!), we leap headfirst into the action. We're shown a dilapidated mansion that once housed legendary Hollywood screen star Lance Hayward. Hayward was immensely popular in his day, starring in a number of successful hit-movies before he retired and disappeared into seclusion. Attempts to track down the actor's whereabouts have been unsuccessful. Some say that he relocated to Switzerland and changed his name, while others believe that he must have passed on to the big ol' silver screen in the sky. It's unlikely that he's still alive and kicking, as nowadays he would be over ninety years old. Due to the authority's failure to track him down, a real-estate agent and a Lawyer have arranged to meet at the property and negotiate the building's sale. They plan to demolish what's left of the once beautiful abode, so that they can use the space to develop something more useful than the ageing eyesore.
The first guy arrives a little early, so instead of waiting with the amiable 'security guard' (who really doesn't look too reassuring), he decides inexplicably to drive out into the dense forest that surrounds the grounds and wait amongst the trees. Of course, in a slasher movie, lone-trips into the woodland usually mean that someone's about to suffer a painful death; and this one certainly isn't trying to break the mould in that respect either. A psycho that's dressed in prohibition-era gangster attire, jumps out of the bushes and clumps the unlucky fellow on the back of the neck, effectively knocking him to the ground. He drags the unconscious guy over to a tree and ties his arms around the trunk, before attaching his legs to the rear bumper of his automobile. The luckless seller awakens just in time to learn that he's about to be ripped in half by a totally out of period Frank Nitti impersonator, with some serious animosities towards estate agents! The actual murder (which is nice and gooey) is intercut with stock footage that we later learn is a mix of scenes from Hayward's history of moviemaking. As in the tradition of Fade to Black, each murder is themed by one of his fictional screen credits; and he wears a prominent guise for each bloody deed.
The Lawyer arrives and the security guard stops him to reminisce about a flick called The Mobster and The Lady, in which Lance's character killed a 'rat' using exactly the same methods that we just saw rehashed on that decidedly unfortunate visitor. It's beginning to look like the star has returned to forcibly reclaim his property, and he's not willing to negotiate the sale possibilities with any money-snatching property-developers. But admittedly, his reappearance does kind of beg the question: If this guy's meant to be in his nineties, then I can't really see him being too much of an agile homicidal maniac. 'The psychotic geriatric' doesn't exactly sound terrifying, does it? I know that Michael Myers' slo-mo stalking was creepy, but maybe a Zimmer-frame is taking things just a little bit too far?
After the discussion, the guard is sent home and the attorney meets a sticky end courtesy of a spear through the stomach. Again, the slaughter is intercut with scenes from one of Hayward's previous cinematic successes, this time it was 'Pride of the Bengal Lancers'! Just so that no one thinks that we're watching a sequel to that cheesy old anti-estate agent slasher, Open House; we meet a gang of typical eighties teens - all hairspray and heavy metal - that chuck us into more formulaic and instantly recognisable territory. Every one of the six youngsters is little more than an overused cliché, from the nerdy movie-geek to the loud-mouthed insensitive pair that look certain to suffer a gruesome fate for their apparent over-brashness. They all meet up at an apartment where the six-o-clock news plays on the television, and the major topic is the fate of Lance Hayward's estate. One dim-witted bimbo that's sure to regret the extent of her imagination comes up with the idea that they should drive up to the house and take one last look around before it's bulldozed into oblivion. They all agree on the plan and pile aboard Todd's van for the journey. Unbeknown to them, there's already a pair of rowdy rockers with very similar motivation en-route to the mansion, which takes the body count possibilities up to a whopping eight should-be victims!
After the gang has arrived, they bump into a drunken hobo (Aldo Ray) that's staggering around the grounds, giving us his best Crazy Ralph impersonation. He stops to incoherently warn the youngsters that there's a murderous psychopath roaming the woodland, before donating some corn syrup to Hayward, who's cunningly dressed as a Pirate. Of course, his warnings don't do much to discourage the eager beavers, and neither does the sure to be surviving girl's brief sightings of an ominous shape lurking suspiciously between the trees. They carry on up to the property and discover that a window has already been broken to summon them inside the intriguing location. Once they've entered, they find plenty of nostalgic memorabilia littering the vast foreboding rooms, and a few patent signs that they're not alone, which (of course) they fail to take into account. Before long, each of them finds comically inept reasons to take fateful lonesome strolls that only lead them back to their agent's hopeful waiting lists. On their journey into obscurity, they meet the resident psychopath, and suffer one of his fairly imaginative ideas for cinematic slaughter...
As I said previously, Terror Night doesn't deserve its impossible to track-down status. To be honest, I found it to be a mindlessly diverting splatter romp, with a few alluring elements that work to its credit. It's fairly gooey in places and the killer's vast array of slaughter patterns and disguises were a whole lot of fun. I especially liked the knight in armour, which was used to a similar effect by David Hess in that underrated slasher from 1980, To all a Goodnight. The masked-desperado and Robin Hood were two other humorous camouflages, and there's a big enough bloodbath for him to don an impressive number of costumes. The use of old movies to accompany the murders was an interesting touch; although I must admit that I'm considering the fact that these additions may have had something to do with the flick's total disappearance. The end-credits do not acknowledge where the footage was borrowed from, and one has to wonder whether Marino infringed a few copyright issues, which eventually resulted in the film being shelved? It's only an assumption, but I'm pretty sure that something must have landed this otherwise promising debut - deep into troubled waters. Although the synopsis of 'teens exploring a derelict abode' may sound tediously formulaic, things don't follow suit as closely as you'd expect from a regular genre-piece. The conclusion was somewhat authentic and it does at least try to add a new sheen to the woe-be-tired formula.
Unfortunately, it isn't plain sailing all the way through; and this does suffer a few too many conspicuous flaws. It's inadequately lighted to the point of frustration in places, and it lacks the visual gloss that made a few of its counterparts more memorable. The most obvious blemish that plagues Terror Night's armour, is the fact that it doesn't solve the mystery that it takes the time to build throughout the runtime. We never find out what Lance Hayward actually is, or what was the motivation behind his carnage. Even after the conclusion, we still never learn if he's a ghost, a zombie or just a normal bloke blessed with extremely youthful looks for a ninety-year-old? I won't mention the lamentable performances of the youngsters, or Cameron Mitchell's slumming ten seconds of screen time, simply because, slasher movies have never been noted for their competent dramatics. However I must note the final scene, which breaks all boundaries of nonsensical narrative to helm a conclusion that's, well, - 'bizarre' isn't a strong enough description. Put it this way, it is truly shocking... But for all the wrong reasons!
Terror Night is one of the few slasher movies that had the potential to be a lot better than it eventually ended up, but somehow lost its way between the months of pre-production and the final days of shooting. It's a shame that we'll probably never find out how it might have turned out if it was given the proper chances, and it looks as if it probably suffered a bit of a nightmare production. Still, for fans looking for an extremely rare genre-piece, it does deliver the goods on a few levels. It's packed to the brim with hokey gore and there's some excessive nudity that always interests fans of exploitation. It's just that it never really manages to excel above moderately watchable.
7 of 14 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?