I was very fortunate, unlike a lot of my 80s peers, to see "New Years Evil" on Turner Classics this morning (honestly, I think this film is best viewed after Midnight) instead of some terrible, badly beaten up VHS copy that would be incredibly difficult to find unless you were willing to fork of 60 bucks like some desperate slasher fans might. Some might say that this is the way to view any slasher for the first time, but a clear picture really maybe helps one appreciate the print for some of the stylistic touches that are here even if the more titillating and gory details the genre is known for are absent. I think at best, "New Year's Evil" will be considered by genre aficionados as a middle-of-the-pack slasher.
I do think, even if it is ludicrous and implausible, the plot gives us a novel premise: the psychopath who taunts the host of a New York New Wave radio New Years studio show about killing a woman every Midnight across the country in different time zones, leaving her as his last victim. I can't really swallow the premise that Niven can get from Florida to NY (driving through several time zones throughout the country) in like a couple hours, while getting into disguises, setting up murders, carrying them out, escaping, and making it to his destination with only a few hitches along the way. I do consider an interesting premise which strays from the typical formula something somewhat noteworthy.
I think Kip Niven, his handsome and friendly looks, is actually a wise casting choice because you can see how he might trick females by gaining their trust. What I found fascinating by this movie compared to countless others is that the lead protagonist, Roz Kelly's music personality/celebrity, Diane Sullivan, isn't a sympathetic figure in the least. She's self-absorbed to an extreme degree, only concerned with her own success, worried about how this New Year's Eve music show will benefit her own career (completely ignoring her son's announcement of getting a lead role on a television show, just ruining a moment of pride for the kid, further illustrating how wholly involved in only her own world this bitch is), and even as the killer phones in his crimes, she's worried about how they will infect the show. I will be honest: the ending, where she is bound to the bottom of an elevator where it appears she will be squashed ("Get smashed."), I was rooting for her demise to be epic. If only they had gone that route, I would bump up my rating for "New Year's Evil". I just flat hated her, I won't lie. Every time she's on screen, I just despised her more, I won't lie.
Anyway, the film goes back and forth between Niven stalk and hunting girls while the high rise studio rock show with Roz worrying about dying as kid punks with an "F-U" attitude bump and grind in a mosh pit where they seem to be spaced out on coke or pills, in a zombie-like state bouncing off each other. The film actually opens with a group of punk rock fans, dressed the part, and sold out to the lifestyle, including ugly behavior to anyone who drives by their open convertible. As a 80s artifact (if you were of the mindset that NYC was becoming a cesspool, this movie probably gave you ammunition), I think this movie will be of interest. Grant Cameron, as Roz' pretty son harboring issues with Mommy, has some great scenes if you like seeing one of the beautiful people going off the deep end after dropping three pills, pulling a stocking over his face and rambling demented things, eventually jamming an earring through his ear. The violence is rather underwhelming--the usual switchblade slash-stab off-screen jazz--but the way Niven gets into killing his girls adds some impact to them just the same. I have to say, Niven makes this film for me; it could've been so much less tolerable.
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