Happy Hell Night (1992) Review
** ½ Out of 5
Tagline- Tonight the Party Animals of Phi Delta Kappa Will Raise More than Hell
Release Date- April 13th, 1992
Running Time- 87-Minutes
Screenplay- Michael Fitzpatrick, Brian Owens & Ron Petersen
Director- Brian Owens
Starring- Frank John Hughes, Nick Gregory, Laura Carney, Ted Clark with Charles Cragin and Darren McGavin as Henry Collins
Released in 1992 Happy Hell Night is a rare and seldom seen slasher movie that seems like a holdover from the late 80s. By this time the slasher flick was dead and the horror genre as a whole was in a rut and what worked in the early 80s slashers wasn’t really working in the mid-80s and slasher flicks started to become more satirical or light in tone and just wanted to be a fun splatter flick and this helped keep these movies going, but by the end of the 80s all that could be done with these movies had been. Once we got to the 90s there were a few filmmakers still trying to cash in on the slasher film, but it really wasn’t working anymore and even the franchises were seeing their lowest of box office returns and from a fans standpoint some of the weakest films of the series.
Happy Hell Night mixes the slasher conventions with something along the lines of Night of the Demons and the mixture doesn’t really work. The idea was a nice try and the makers attempt comedic elements, but also legit suspense moments and the two don’t mix very well and more importantly neither are very good to begin with. Happy Hell Night takes both elements of the early and mid-80s slasher flick, but again nothing here really worked very well and the movie lacked any real direction. Happy Hell Night is a mostly forgettable movie that has its moments and had the potential to be more than it was, but in the end it just wasn’t a very good movie and I’m not really shocked this is such a seldom seen movie.
At Winfield college Zachary Malius went on a killing spree and murdered 7 frat boys now 25-years later a fraternity stages a prank, which accidentally frees Malius who quickly goes back on the rampage.
The screenplay by Michael Fitzpatrick, Brian Owens & Ron Petersen was rather poor with lifeless and dull characters. This is the kind of movie that you’ll be hard pressed to remember anybody’s name. The characters are mostly interchangeable and lack their own identities. I don’t expect deep characters, but I do expect them to have their own identities and also several of the characters are rather pointless to the script and just seem to be there just for the sake of it.
The biggest problem with the screenplay is it lacks any clear direction as it seems unsure if it wants to be comedic and light or scary and suspenseful. The killer, Malius (Cragin) is pretty much a knockoff of Freddy Krueger from the later Elm Street movies as before every kill scene he has a really unfunny one liner; some of the lines are a little funny due to how absurd they are, but in general it isn’t funny. There is also a love triangle, but this idea seems like it’s just a filler and it doesn’t add to the story at all and only serves to slow down the pace. It was a nice attempt at creating some depth for the movie and characters, but it doesn’t work.
Director Brian Owens makes his directorial debut (and only directing credit) and he delivers a sloppy, but mostly well-made movie all things considered. The tone switches between light and fun and dark and neither really works and just makes a mess out of the movie as Owens fails at brining much life to the film and at times the pacing can be quite slow as the tone of the movie never works since nothing was established.
The only thing Happy Hell Night has going for it is a pretty decent cast that includes Darren McGavin in a small role as well as Sam Rockwell. Jorja Fox of the hit show CSI also appears in a brief, but un-credited part.
In 2004 Happy Hell Night would get another lease on life when Anchor Bay would release the movie on DVD. The release a barebones release with only a trailer did have a nice transfer and decent audio and this was towards the end of Anchor Bay’s run as not too long after this they would focus on newer horror flicks and when releasing something older it would mostly just be their more popular titles. Even with the original release and the DVD it doesn’t seem like this movie picked up much of an audience as there aren’t very many write ups about the movie on the Net.