Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bloody New Year (1987)

... aka: Horror Hotel
... aka: Time Warp Terror

Directed by:
Norman J. Warren

First off, let me take a second to wish friends and visitors alike a very Happy New Years. Hope everyone had a great holiday and no one's too hung-over today.

After having already made the sleazy devil cult shocker SATAN'S SLAVE (1976), the alien-terrorizing-lezbos trash-fest ALIEN PREY (1977), the bloody witch flick TERROR (1978) and the alien-knocks-up-Judy-Geeson-in-space ALIEN clone INSEMINOID (1981), British director Norman J. Warren decided to tone it down a notch for this haunted hotel flick; his final genre feature to date and also one of his best distributed here in America during the VHS era. Couples Janet (Nikki Brooks) and Rick (Mark Powley) and Lesley (Suzy Aitchison) and Tom (Julian Ronnie) are enjoying a nice day at a beach-front carnival. Their girlfriend-less third wheel bud Spud (Colin Heywood) is on the prowl for a girl of his own. Luckily he spots American tourist Carol (Catherine Roman) getting harassed by some punks on one of the rides. He and his friend rescue her and take off on a sailboat. They run into some rocks, their boat sinks and they're forced to swim to a nearby uninhabited island. After walking inland a little ways, they stumble onto the Grand Island Hotel.

Upon entering, the hotel appears to be abandoned. No staff is there to greet them and it's still decked out in Christmas and New Years decorations in July. They go ahead and make themselves at home to the drinks, food and even clothes they find in some of the rooms. Everything seems trapped in the 1950s; 1959 to be exact, and that's because the young folks have stumbled into some kind of time warp. The electricity flickers on and off, people (a maid, a band...) materialize and then seem to disappear into thin air and stuff starts moving by itself. And that's just the start of the weirdness. After sitting through a screening of FIEND WITHOUT A FACE, a reel with home movie footage of the hotel comes on screen. A sheik, who's black-and-white like the film footage, jumps off of the screen and kills one of the guys. Everyone else tries to run off but find that leaving isn't such an easy task. The entire island - not just the hotel - is rampant with ghosts, supernatural forces and animated everyday objects out to kill them.

Once things are messed with they return to how they were before they were touched using reverse film fx. Invisible spirits chase people through the woods while a sitcom laugh track plays. TV sets air old news programming. A monster pops out of a tablecloth and attacks. A fishing net, a banister, a pool table, an entire kitchen full of stuff and many other things spring to life. Outside, there's a plane crash and an undead ghostly pilot whose head explodes. Footsteps appear in the sand. A blizzard erupts inside a house. Someone gets consumed by an elevator, another gets chopped up with an outboard motor and a head gets twisted around several times. All of the victims return as hideous ghosts to attack the others. The explanation has to do with a top secret government device (unleashed there during the plane crash) that has warped both time and matter, but that's not really important. What's important is that this movie is loaded with all kinds of crazy, imaginative things.

Bloody New Year starts out pretty rough. The performances are mediocre at beast, the characters are a little on the obnoxious side (just count how many times someone rudely pushes someone else off who's trying to help them), there are many abrupt and awkward editing cuts and people also have the annoying tendency to freak out and run away from the others anytime something odd happens (which is often), particularly the annoying Janet character. However, once this hits its stride in the second half, it's very busy, colorful and brainlessly entertaining. There are many unusual surprises in here if you're patient and can wait for them. Special effects are quite good and the band Cry No More contribute several catchy songs to the soundtrack.

Faults and all, if you're going to ring in the New Year with a holiday-themed genre film, this is a much better choice than the awful slasher flick NEW YEAR'S EVIL (1981). Academy released this on VHS and it was issued on DVD by Image Entertainment in 2004.

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