New Year’s Evil is a neat catalog of all the things wrong with the holiday at the end of the calendar. Amateurs who never drink throwing back way more than they should. Overpriced booze and food. Bands that confuse “loud” with “good.”
It’s also a handy sampler of everything worth hating about the ‘80s. Big hair. Too much rouge. Serial killers fucking up our holidays.
Seriously, what’s up with mad slashers go to town when everyone else is partying down? Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, even freaking April Fools’ Day—is no holiday safe?
It’s New Year’s Eve (duh), and Blaze (Roz Kelly) is preparing for her live-from-L.A. TV show, Hollywood Hotline, which will ring in the New Year in all four U.S. time zones with satellite hookups to New York, Chicago and Aspen. Blaze is in a rotten mood, though—not just because she’s more than a bit of an asshole, but also because her assistant, Yvonne, has gone missing.
Seems our crazed killer (Kip Niven) is one of those guys who likes to start his New Year’s resolutions early: he dispatches poor Yvonne—stabs her to death in the shower (how original!)—before the opening credits even roll.
While hotel security searches for Yvonne, Blaze goes on with the show, which consists of a couple of punk rock bands (if you define “punk rock” as “shitty music played poorly buy guys wearing way too much eyeliner), an unruly crowd and four phone operators taking calls from viewers/listeners.
One of those callers is, of course, our killer, who speaks through a voice modulator, identifies himself as “Evil” and reveals his master plan: He’s going to kill someone every time the clock strikes 12 in each of the time zones, with Blaze saved for the night’s final victim. (Never mind that he’s already blown his own concept by killing Yvonne well before midnight.)
So “Evil” spends the rest of the movie wearing various disguises—hospital orderly, sleazy business manager, priest—while slicing his way through L.A. Things go reasonably well at first—he bumps off a nurse and two bar patrons—but then he runs afoul of a biker gang and, after a high-speed chase, hides in a drive-in where a horror-movie marathon is playing. (There’s a fleeting moment of hope that we might cut away from New Year’s Evil and stick with what’s playing at the show. No such luck, though.)
Meanwhile, Blaze’s actor son (Grant Cramer) is having quite the meltdown in her dressing room—popping pills, pulling one of Mom’s nylons over his head, self-piercing his ear with a nail (ow!) and trying to call his dad, whose line is perpetually busy.
Finally, “Evil” makes his way back to the hotel, hits a cop in the head with a brick (ow!) and dons a Stan Laurel mask before confronting Blaze and revealing his true identity.
Director Emmett Alston doesn’t do much with the New Year’s setting—aside from a bar scene and the time zone gimmick, this movie could be take place on any of the other 364 days of the year—and the murders themselves mostly happen off-screen (what little blood we see looks awfully fake).
Kelly, best remembered for playing Fonzie’s girlfriend, Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days, really doesn’t have much to do except look alternately irritable and terrified (more the former than the latter), but Niven does bring a bug-eyed intensity to his mad-slasher role, especially when he’s being pursued by the bikers—the hunter briefly becomes the hunted.
The cops, though, are typically useless until the dramatic conclusion, which sets us up for a sequel that, mercifully, never arrived.
Toward the end of New Year’s Evil, a drunk man in a plummeting elevator says, “There’s some funky shit goin’ on here!”
Couldn’t have put it better myself, sir.