Happy Hell Night (1992) Review

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Happy Hell Night missed the slasher frenzy by almost a decade but it’s still a pretty good attempt at a straightforward horror movie. As legend has it, twenty-five years ago seven students were slaughtered by a seemingly unstoppable force named Malius (Charles Cragin). The survivors - a student (played by a very young Sam Rockwell) and a priest (Irfan Mensur) forged ahead to a new life while Malius remained locked up at the local loony bin, eating nothing but bugs and sitting in a musty, old cell. Now it’s the present day and Blood-Soaked U is celebrating Hell Night. Strangely there’s only two initiates, one being Sonny (Franke John Hughes), a motorcycle riding rebel whose brother, Eric (the very handsome Nick Gregory), is the president of the fraternity. Oh yeah, and Sonny is doing the naked pretzel with Eric’s girlfriend, Liz (Laura Carney). So when fellow frat brother, Bara (Ted Clark), who runs a campus television show, comes up with the daring idea to sneak into the nut house and snap a picture of Malius, Eric is only too happy to send his deceitful brother on his way. Unfortunately, things go awry and Malius escapes with only one thing on his mind: murder.

happyhellnight41This Canadian/Russian co-production wisely took a more serious approach to an already worn out premise. Although the small budget, choppy editing and time lapses are sadly apparent (two of the actors have totally different hair styles by the second half of the film) Happy Hell Night manages to maintain a sinister atmosphere. Some of the carnage is pretty top notch too. Armed with a trusty pickaxe, Malius does some major damaged to a few of the more indiscreet students.

Happy Hell Night has several strong points. The two male leads are excellent in their prospective roles and the love triangle actually supports the great, downbeat ending. Now when was the last time a subplot came into play in a slasher flick? That’s like, sooo 1982! Both Nick Gregory and Franke John Hughes have gone on to fairly successful careers. In fact, this film is brimming with now familiar faces including Jorja Fox and the above referenced Rockwell. Darrin McGavin also shows up to help get the bloodshed flowing but puts in a rather cardboard performance. It’s easy to see that he was slumming it, but he barely even manages to look alive in his few scenes. Cragin makes an awesomely malevolent Malius. His black eyes and old man/baby face are haunting. Cragin only made a few films, but he truly looks like he was made to scare the pants off an unsuspecting audience.

happyhellnight6Ted Clark gives the film a breath of brevity as well. As Bara, he’s an annoying brat with a bad mullet, but he’s given the best lines in the movie and does not disappoint in their delivery. It’s worth the price of a rental just to hear lines like “They get the bitches and I get the riches,” “You got the willies or what,” and “While you were out fucking the dog…” A decade later, Clark would become one of the backwoods hillbillies in another underrated gem, Wrong Turn. Director and co-writer Brian Owens didn’t find much fame after Happy Hell Night, though he did go on to pen the dismal Brainscan, and it’s unfortunate since although it’s not perfect, this movie is overflowing with flickers of talent. The image of the squirming Jesus statue looks like it came right out of a fever dream. If only Owens been given a bigger budget and a better time frame, who knows what this film might have become. Give it a shot, you could do a lot worse.

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

  1. Great Review Amanda, too bad others don’t love this film as much as we do. Father Malius is one creepy Mofo!!

  2. Never heard of this one before, sounds like one I might enjoy! Gonna check Netflix! Thanks!

  3. Added it to my queue! Woohoo!

  4. I’ve read about this movie since I got the internet 13 years ago and this review REALLY makes me want to see it. Great review, Amanda!!

  5. Great review! We just reviewed this over at our blog as well. Even though it misses the slasher craze by a few years it definitely is a solid film all around and has all the elements of a classic. I loved the one liners Malius delivers ‘No more TV’, ‘No more sex!’.

  6. Awesome Review! and im wondering when is the old retro slashers going to come back? this blog is great and all but i miss the old stuff where i can easily find lists and lists of slashers and learn about them and find the interviews easier. at least put stuff in categories. im sorry but this blog is not as good as the old site.

  7. I recently saw it and I enjoyed it but the movie is full of flaws and some things just didn’t make sense due to bad editing I think.

  8. I enjoyed Happy Hell Night, at least, more than any other 1992 slasher I can think of at the moment…which isn’t saying much, but, eh…

    And I agree with Ryan. Love the blog, but shifting the articles and films over would be a larger selling point.

    Cheers!

  9. and i ment to say put stuff in better categories
    i know there are categories. im sorry if im offending anyone on the site. again i love this blog but yeah….

  10. Thanks for the feedback Ryan & Josh, I’m working on it.

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  12. Got the DVD sometime ago. I should watch it again.

  13. I was very pleased to find this site.I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post.

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