Ah, the slasher film. What a worn-out, misunderstood genre you are. Back in the heydays, when Halloween gave you critical chutzpah and Friday the 13th delivered the box office gold, you were quite the cinematic social butterfly. Everyone wanted to take part in your throat slashing, eye gouging glory and fans just couldn't get enough of the slay stuff. They made icons out of what were essentially psychotic spree killers and demanded the deaths be more and more inventive. Everyone knew it couldn't last, the wicked well eventually had to run dry, but the need to satiate the splatter fiends was just too great. Sure enough, the fatted fright calf was slaughtered, and with its dwindling delights came the revenge of the retarded. More and more, the slasher film resembled a bad black comedy, with quips replacing MPAA-mandated gore trims, and storyline recycling (angry sister, vengeful mother, insane nerd) par for the pathetic corpse course.
All of which doesn't begin to prepare us for the abject paltriness of Girls Nite Out. Made in 1982, during the height of the genre's popularity, and released two years later to little fanfare and minimal return, this poor excuse for entertainment holds the grand distinction of hosting two members of the Holbrook family (Hal and son David) as part of its cast. Believe it or not, it took four writers to scribble out this drivel of a script, which is nothing more than a collection of clichés tossed into a formulaic fright flick. Our killer dresses up in a goofy cartoon bear suit (which he or she jerryrigs with a series of steak knives) and runs around a college campus killing off co-eds because, well, because they are whores (wow, how insightful and original). By the end, we are anxious to learn who is behind the baneful bruin's facade, if only because it guarantees that this nominal nightmare will be ending. Dull and dopey, here is clear proof why, twenty years later, no one is anxious to revisit the Voorhees oeuvre to fashion their fear.
It's the annual scavenger hunt at Low SAT University, and all the Greeks are geeking out. This sorority-sponsored expedition around a spooky, seemingly lightless campus is a ritual for the students, with the local college radio station spinning Golden Oldies (mostly by the Lovin' Spoonful) to get the preps in the proper 'finders keepers' mood. Of course, short attention spans and bad memories are ever present, since it was only a few years before that the daughter of the University's head of security, a gruff old goat named Mac (Hal Holbrook), was found dead.
Her matriculation eviscerator, some fey looking fool named Barney Cavanaugh, was locked up in the local loony bin, and since then, the student union has been relatively corpse-free...relatively. But now, an evil presence has returned to the dorms, and we're not talking about the overheated hormonal hi-jinx of the basketball team. Someone has absconded with the school's mascot costume - a bear - and is running around getting grizzly on the gang. One by one they are dropping like binge drinking pledges at a Hell Night house party, and if Mac doesn't discover who is doing the death dealing, he's in for one very bloody Girls Nite Out.
It is really hard to say what is more disappointing - a horror film that doesn't even try, or an attempted terror that gets all of its tenets wrong. Somewhere in the middle, which may be the most miserable vortex of all, is Girls Nite Out. Endeavoring to ride the claret drenched coattails of its slasher brethren betters, but falling flatly into amateur status, this is one incredibly insipid film. It's hard to tell what director Robert Deubel and his quartet of screenwriters had in mind when they made this motion picture misfit. The first hour of the film is like a really bad 80s teen comedy, with college kids doing improv routines that members of the Friar's Club would consider corny. The main party scene set piece is like a sequence out of the grad student's guide to Caligula, and the interaction between the characters is so stale and scripted you'd swear it was a Presidential debate.
Then, there is the horror, or what supposedly passes for the macabre in this movie. The opening sequence inside the local nuthouse has a nice, "why are there never any lights on inside a storehouse for the criminally insane" kind of vibe, and the scene ending twist has a nice, tasty twitch to it. But after that atmospheric introduction, it's all dorm dates and pseudo soda shop hysterics. Red herrings abound (without much set up or sense, mind you) and as our explorers of secondary education get down to a little bump and grind, we wonder if we're ever going to see someone slain. The answer comes 45 minutes in, and it's as depressing as we imagined. Girls Nite Out is not going to out-invent its horror half-siblings in the murder department. Instead, our scabrous Smokey uses a Freddy Krueger like set of "claws" to slice up his prey. How predicable.
Indeed, every death here is the same. Our pissed off Panda finds a solitary sorority sister, sneaks up on them (as only pantomime bears can do) and sticks a paw in their throat. Basic blood gushes from the wound and our victim screams like she's just discovered a hole in the condom. Eventually, when the bodies are found, they are artfully arranged in 'oh so spooky' manners. There is no logic here, no attempt at anything remotely authentic or realistic. In truth, this has to be one of the most under-populated college campuses in the history of higher learning. There is literally NO ONE around at night except for potential entities for our killer to cream. University security is an old guy with an attitude problem, and some curly haired deputy who gets the night off before the nastiness happens. When the real police arrive to investigate, they spend all their time and effort in QUESTIONING potential suspects, not looking around the grounds for other bodies. When another corpse does turn up, the lead detective gets a dejected look on his face, as if to indicate how farfetched he thinks this all is as well.
Now, had Deubel delivered something we could sink our sick sensibilities into - i.e. gore or gratuity, hopefully lots and lots of both - we'd be in his corner, no matter how hideous his narrative stumbles. But no, there are no boobies in this bastardization of all that is slasher (Heck, Jason even got to spy some titties before he carved up his co-stars) - no firmly rounded rumps or scenes of excessive boot knocking. The closest we get to any skin is during a maddeningly awful strip poker sequence which features a couple of klutzes who couldn't get dates during the Chicken Ranch's "Free Fornication for Misfits" special, and even then, the potential fleshpots anteing up their accessories resemble rejects from a Tracy Turnblad casting call. Ouch! Similarly, the blood flows in filtered, infrequent shots that seem purposefully staged to hide the F/X tubing producing the grue.
Besides Deubel's dynamic is so stunted, so locked in a point and shot sensibility that we just keep praying for as many murders as possible. Death is the only interesting elements in this movie, since this director obviously failed Mood and Tension 101 (among other introductory classes) in film school. Every scene drags like an inebriated frat boys' knuckles and attempts at romance fall flatter than the actresses' chests. Characters are introduced at random, given little to do, and then disappear until it's their turn with the claw. And the reveal at the end steals from so many better motion pictures (besides, it is founded on some pretty flimsy concepts) that it deserves to just slink off into the realm of hack hideousness - and believe it or not, it does.
With a disc jockey who never shuts up, a soundtrack that only certain members of Sha Na Na could love, and a coma-inducing concept to its filmmaking, this is one blast from the past that is as welcome as a post-coital fart in a lover's bed (which, by the way, is one of the movie's major moments!). True, slasher movies by their very nature are the entertainment equivalent of fingerpaints in the world of cinematic art but they can still be bloody, bodkin baring fun. When done right, the killing as catharsis motif meshes effortlessly with the death from immorality message, with both ending up playing out like some kind of interesting internal monologue in our head. As the violence escalates, our fear of said diminishes, and we become desensitized - not to the bloodshed, but to the social standards that say certain personal choices lead to individual destruction. In the end, when the slayer is revealed, we rest easier knowing that it takes a certain strangled mindset to turn serial killer and that we are safe - at least for now. Girls Nite Out offers none of this nuance. Instead, we get boredom on top of balderdash, never a good fright night combination.
Produced as part of Media Blasters Guilty Pleasures Slasher Collection, Girls Nite Out is given a nice DVD dynamic. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image is defect free and optically acceptable. This is a very dark film - almost too much so - and yet there is none of the pixelization or other digital problems one comes to expect from such an underlit environment. The colors are a tad washed out, and the details are dim in certain sections, but overall, this is a professional presentation for a slipshod film.
On the sound side, something strange is going on. The entire movie is mixed VERY LOW, almost as if the distributor is hiding the fact that several incredibly popular songs from the 60s ("Summer in the City", "Hanky Panky", "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy") are used with irritating regularity on the soundtrack (thus avoiding licensing fees, maybe?). There are several sequences where the dialogue drops out completely, and in the end, certain scenes are almost unintelligible. Either it has something to do with the original stock elements, or a bad Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 soundscape, but this movie is as irritating to listen to as it is to follow along with logically.
Actress Julia Montgomery, who made this misstep of a movie while co-starring in the daytime sudser One Life to Live, participates in a brief Q&A about the film. She is sort of embarrassed to be talking about this movie some 20 years later, and her comments are considered and kind. Oddly, the farting scene mentioned above gets a major discussion here, and is replayed THREE times during the course of the interview. Aside from a trailer for the film, and an "alternative" credit sequence (just five seconds showing the movie's alternative title - The Scaremaker - ZZZZZZZ) there are no other added features as part of this DVD release. While interesting, this collection of context is unimpressive at best.
Horror films have a bad enough name without something like Girls Nite Out soiling its ridiculed reputation even more. How anyone could find pleasure or nostalgia in what is nothing more than a half-baked bunch of hokum is unfathomable. Individuals who like to be scared will only be bored to death, while lovers of clots and corpses will grown at the lack of gore. Fans of flesh will flip at the lack of lady bags, and anyone who wants to know how slasher cinema once ruled the Cineplex will find none of the audience addictive properties present here. Instead, this is like a Cliff's Note version of what partying in college circa 1984 was like, and what's up on the screen is not very pretty (take it from someone who knows). There are literally dozens of far better 'maniac killers on the loose' movies that one can witness. To waste time on this dreck is just dumb - about as dumb as the University students lining up to be slaughtered here. This may be a Girls Nite Out, but it seems rationality and entertainment took the evening off as well when this movie was made. Don't waste your time, or that's all you'll do.
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