Yep, that's Linda Blair there on the box art, screaming as she climbs the wrought iron gate in her flouncy top. Blair stars in Hell Night as Marti, one of four fraternity/sorority pledges who must spend the night in spooky Garth Manor to complete their initiation.
The legend of Garth Manor is explained to us on the long walk from the crazy campus costume party to the house itself by Alpha Sigma Rho head honcho Peter (Kevin Brophy). 12 years ago, Garth patriarch Raymond wigged out and slaughtered his deformed family before killing himself as well. He left one survivor: Andrew, the "gorked-out" son. I'm not even sure what that means, exactly. The other Garth family members are described as mongoloid, blind-deaf-and-dumb, dim-witted...but Andrew is constantly referred to as "gorked-out". At first, I thought Peter was saying "dorked-out", which would simply mean that Andrew was a big nerd, but...I digress. At any rate, Andrew was never found by authorities, and is said to still be living somewhere in Garth Manor! And with that, Peter padlocks the gates and tells the pledges he'll be back at dawn to release them. From the get-go, we know exactly how this movie's gonna play out, right? Sure we do, but the fun's in the getting there.
The pledges pair off into boy-girl duos and promptly split-up. Heading straight to bed are surfer dude Seth (Vincent Van Patten) and Quaalude-packin' Denise (Suki Goodwin), while Marti (Blair) and Jeff (Peter Barton) have a fireside chat about life...he's rich! She's a mechanic! One time, she thought she saw a witch! One time, he thought he saw an elf! How sweet.
Meanwhile, Peter and some cohorts have returned to Garth Manor to play some of those Spooky Sounds cassettes over a jury-rigged PA system to scare the pledges- you know, those orange tapes with sounds like screams, rattling chains, moans, creaking doors, and the such. They've got a whole night of pranks planned for the pledges, but...dare I ssay it...the joke's on them!
Soon enough, the bodies pile up, just as we knew they would. Not only is gorked-up Andrew still alive, but so is his homicidal dad! There's 2 Garth crazies stalking the halls and the underground passages...who will make it out alive after this...um...hell night? Most likely it's the one actor who starred in The Exorcist.
Hell Night has decidedly less gore and nudity than its contemporaries, but it more than makes up for these "shortcomings" with great atmosphere and some genuinely scary scenes. Director Tom DeSimone talks about both the lack of gore and the gothic feel of Hell Night in Adam Rockoff's Going to Pieces:
We knew we were making a slasher film, however, we wanted to get away mostly from the gore and try to scare them with scares, rather than repulse them with guts. A lot of our murders, although they're kind of horrific, you don't really see that much. There isn't that much bloodletting in our picture.I'm a fan of movies that go for the scares over the shocks, and Hell Night certainly delivers on the spookiness. If you're looking for a night of restrained horror- yes, it's possible, even in a slasher!- give it a shot. I mean, Linda Blair, folks...come on now! Don't get all gorked-out on me! I give it 7 out of 10 heaving bosoms.
I wanted a classic Gothic look. I don't like these horror films where people are walking around haunted houses wearing jeans and t-shirts. So we threw our heads together and I said I wanted Linda in a Gothic kind of wardrobe. And we came up with the idea to make the hell night party a costume party. And that way we were able to have everyone in those kinds of costumes that suited their personality.