This New Year’s, we at Horror Facts wanted to sift through every horror film centered around the holiday and let you know if it’s worth your time or if there are better ways to ring in the New Year. The first film on our list is the 1980 slasher film New Year’s Evil.
The Premise of New Year’s Evil
New Year’s Evil focuses on Diane “Blaze” Sullivan, the most renowned punk-rock lady idol on television, as she is set to host Hollywood Hotline, a late-night New Year’s Eve televised celebration with live music and partying. As the event counts down to the new year, listeners can call in with their musical requests.
Everything is going swimmingly until Diane gets a phone call from an anonymous caller who refers to himself as “Evil.” The caller announces on live television that a “Naughty Girl” will be murdered (punished) when the clock strikes midnight.
Now normally, the idea of killing someone at the stroke of midnight doesn’t make for much of a slasher movie, more like an episode of Criminal Minds. But our killer has layers to his plan. He intends to kill someone in each time zone across the continental United States.
The killer warns Diane, who’s located in the Pacific Time Zone, that she will be the last victim he claims on this night.
Afraid for her safety, she contacts the authorities, who put little stock in Diane’s fears until a nurse is found dead at a sanitarium after the ball dropped in the Eastern Time Zone.
The caller, still referring to himself as “Evil,” calls back into the show and plays a recording of a New Year’s Eve celebration in New York, followed by the screams of the murdered nurse, and proclaims that he will claim his next victim when the clock strikes midnight in the Central Time Zone.
Sure enough, an hour later, “Evil” calls back and plays a recording of a New Year’s Eve celebration in Illinois, followed by the cries of his latest victim.
While attempting to claim his Mountain Time Zone victim, he accidentally runs into a gang of bikers with his car. He tries hard to find his next victim before midnight, but he has to give up and go to the hotel where Diane’s New Year’s Eve party is being held.
Once inside, “Evil” stalks his prey, hoping to make Diane his final victim.
Who is the man responsible for these slayings? a deranged fan, a religious fanatic, or perhaps it’s someone far closer to Diane than the police (or audience) could have ever anticipated.
Any of these people could be the person who intends to kill Diane on this night.
Just another Slasher?
New Year’s Evil attempts to capitalize on the holiday-themed slasher formula that all began with John Carpenter’s Halloween.
Unlike the other holiday-themed slashers that came after Halloween, like the original Friday the 13th or My Bloody Valentine, the writers of New Year’s Evil thought they could copy the formula a little too closely and reveal the killer near the beginning of the film.
The only deviation from the reveal is that the audience gets the trade-off of getting to see the killer’s face without knowing his true identity. That information comes in the form of an unexpected twist in the third act.
The main issues with “New Year’s Evil” are that it takes a lot of suspense out of the story by telling us when the killer is going to kill, literally planning the kill down to the second.
Then there’s the fact that he’s picking random people to whom we’ve only just been introduced. As a result, we as viewers have no emotional attachment to these characters. A good slasher film will introduce us to a cast of characters and then gradually pick them off one by one, but throughout the film, we develop some kind of attachment to these characters, so that when they meet their untimely end at the hands of our killer, it has some kind of impact on us, whereas if we just meet these characters, their deaths are meaningless to us.
The other issue is that this killer chooses to reveal his face, but he wastes his time putting on disguises, which consist of him wearing fake mustaches and changing his clothes as if he’s trying to avoid being recognized.
Because if he is apprehended later, it will be impossible to identify him in a lineup, “Well Officer, the man had a mustache, so it couldn’t possibly be him.”
The final issue is the film’s quintessential “final girl.” We know that Diane is destined to be our final girl, but unlike the other final girls before her, she is not a likable character. She treats her son like he doesn’t exist, and is more concerned with herself than anyone else. Also, she is so far removed from the killer until the final act of the film. Her life is never in danger until the final moments of the film.
New Year’s Evil is an obvious example of a film attempting to capitalize on the slasher craze, which was at its peak at the time the film was released in 1980. It was banking on audience members being so taken with the idea of a New Year’s slasher film that it never stopped trying to come up with a decent storyline. Instead, they made this convoluted and pointless film.
If you’re a golden-age slasher completist then you might check out New Year’s Evil just to check it off your list, other than that there is no real reason to watch this New Year’s inspired film.
The film was released the same year as Terror Train. But unlike Terror Train, it was released 12 days before New Year’s Eve.