Happy Hell Night (1992) Review

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HAPPY HELL NIGHT

** 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

Rating- R

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.

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13 Responses to “Happy Hell Night (1992) Review”

  1. Victor De Leon Says:

    never seen this one. decent cast too.

    • Well the known actors only have a very brief role. Very brief. Anyways, you ain’t missing much. I’ve seen it twice and while the 2nd time was a little better its still mostly poor and no desire to replace it.

      This was in my files.,wrote this a couple of years back figure might as well post it.

      Btw I’m about done on the underrated of the 90s I should have it for you tonight or sometime tomorrow.

      • Victor De Leon Says:

        excellent bro! thanks. I’ll start on an intro for you and your page. I really appreciate it!

      • The only thing keeping me from getting 100% done is I’m not used to the brief write ups. I got 4 of the 5 done. It’s just 1 I’m having trouble with. But yeah it’s all but done. I’m normally up,really late (not by choice) so I got several hours to finish it up tonight

      • Victor De Leon Says:

        Ah, ok! Cool. Can’t wait to read it, Dave. Thanks!

  2. This seems so vaguely familiar…

  3. You really summed up the ‘death’ of the slasher film in the 1990’s well. I was burned out on those types of films and they all started copying eachother from plot devices to the kill methods. Its a shame this one isn’t better – I have never seen it but it looked interesting from the pics. But I’ll take your word on it and pass – thanks, you saved me about $5 bucks and a couple of hours.

    • It’s a knockoff as well. If you notice the last 2 screenshots somebody clearly liked Halloween.

      It takes elements of far better movies. If you were burnt out by the early 90s this won’t change your opinion. I’ll say one thing to its credit. Movie does grow on you but still rather lame overall.

  4. This looks one of many films I might have rented while in college. They all just mix together at this point. By the late 80’s early 90’s so many horror films were just becoming the same thing. Probably a large part of why the 90’s is not one of my favorite decades for movies.

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