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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » To All a Goodnight (Blu-ray)
To All a Goodnight (Blu-ray)
Kino // R // October 21, 2014 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted November 12, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

To All A Good Night isn't a great film by any stretch but it is a pretty interesting one. The movie was shot in ten days for a cool seventy grand and it marked not only the big screen debut of beautiful actress Jennifer Runyon but was also the only feature film ever directed by the late, great David Hess. Yes, this film was directed by Last House On The Left's Krug. It was only ever given a VHS release way back when, a DVD never materialized, but now thanks to a collaboration between Kino Lorber and Scorpion Releasing, the film makes its digital debut with this fine Blu-ray release.

The film is set at the Calvin Finishing School in 1980 where just two years prior, a student fell to her death from a balcony when a hazing prank went horribly wrong. When the movie begins, Christmas is right around the corner and most of the students are heading home for the holidays. There are, however, a half a dozen stragglers sticking around: Nancy (Jennifer Runyon), Melody (Linda Gentile), Leia (Judith Bridges), Trisha (Angela Bath), Sam (Denise Stearns), and Cynthia (Lisa Labowskie). Nancy is pure and virginal and good while the rest of the girls are more interested in getting busy with the boys than doing much else. When the headmistress has to leave to take care of a family emergency, she leaves the girls in the care of her trusted employee, Mrs. Jensen (Kiva Lawrence credited in the film as Katherine Harrington) assuming all will be well. The girls have other plans though, and they give Jensen a few sleeping pills to keep her out of the way so that they can have some dudes over for a party.

Before things can really get moving though, Cynthia and her man are violently taken out of the picture by a maniac running around in a Santa Claus outfit. Leia's boyfriend, T.J. (William Lauer), along with his friend Tom (Solomon Trager), Blake (Jeff Butts) and Alex (Forrest Swanson), all arrive at the school for some fun while Nancy is warned by the gardener, Ralph (West Buchanan), that evil is afoot! You can kind of figure out what happens from here as one by one the Santa Claus killer starts making his way through the cast while an ineffective cop named Polonsky (Sam Shamshak) tries to figure out what's going on.

It's obvious as you watch To All A Good Night that it was made fast and cheap to cash in on the slasher movie craze that pretty much meant an easy profit for low budget filmmakers in the early eighties. As such, you can't realistically expect a whole lot of standout creativity here. Hess' direction isn't particularly flashy or exciting but he does a fine job of offering up enough sex and violence to fit the genre requirements and the boarding school used for the primary location in the movie looks decent enough. There's some okay murder set pieces here but no real scares or suspense even if the basic idea of a killer in a Santa Claus suit is eerie enough in its own right. The premise works on the same level that something like Maniac Cop works on, in that it takes something that we're taught to trust and see as a positive and twists it around to instantly play against social expectations. Santa Claus is a good guy, right?

As far as the cast are concerned, Runyon does a fine job as the female lead here. Granted, this isn't the most demanding of parts but she handles herself well in front of the camera and considering that this was her first acting gig, she's plenty fun to watch. Kiva Lawrence also stands out here, not only because she's older than the other girls in the movie (which makes perfect sense for the character she plays) but because she uses her distinct facial features rather effectively. The rest of the cast, male and female alike, are pretty much disposable and on not all that memorable but the ladies who play the students are all quite attractive, something that Hess effectively exploits with a few nude scenes. Most of their performances, however, are pretty goofy and sometimes flat out bad. Look for a brief cameo from none other than the late Harry Reems (of Deep Throat fame) as a pilot, credited here as Dan Stryker, which would be some sort of odd variation of his birth name, Herbert Streicher).

Slasher completists will have more interest in this one than casual horror fans and Hess' involvement will no doubt make this appealing to his cultish fan base but the film is neither inspired nor particularly original. It's more of a curiosity item than anything else but for the undemanding horror fan, it's a perfectly entertaining low-brow ninety minutes of sex, violence and nonsense.

The Blu-ray:

To All A Good Night never made it to DVD but it did get a VHS release from Media Home Entertainment. That tape was ridiculously dark making most of the scenes that didn't take place in broad daylight or well-lit interiors almost impossible to make out. Enter Kino's Blu-ray, sporting an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed in the film's original aspect ratio of 1.85.1 widescreen. While this new transfer is still a little rough in spots, compared to that old tape it is a revelation. The dark scenes are now completely watchable and color reproduction looks nice and natural whereas on that tape colors were pretty flat. The framing looks proper and that improves the compositions used in the film while skin tones look more lifelike and accurate than before. Shadow detail isn't mind blowing but at least there's some there. Some minor print damage shows up here and there and film grain is pretty prominent, but this isn't particularly upsetting to see. Most of the flaws here have more to do with the way that the movie was shot, the best example being some obvious day for night shots that look a little bluer than true black because of the filtering that was used. So yeah, this may not win transfer of the year but it's definitely a solid representation of the source material and the film is actually very watchable now.

Sound:

The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in the film's native English language, there are no alternate audio options, closed captioning or subtitles provided. Hiss and distortion are never an issue and the levels are properly balanced throughout. Dialogue is perfectly easy to understand and follow and the score has a bit more depth and range than you'd probably expect. Some scenes are a little flat but all in all, the audio on the disc is just fine.

Extras:

The main extra on the disc is trio of video interviews, the first being a twelve minute piece with leading lady Jennifer Runyon that runs just over twelve minutes. She's got some interesting stories here as this was basically her acting debut. As a first timer she didn't really know what to expect but talks about how director Hess made it as easy for her as he could and how she didn't know ‘who he was' in regards to his music background or his acting background. She also talks about the sex and violence in the film and her thoughts on acting in a slasher film. The second interview is with Kiva Lawrence and it runs just short of ten minutes. She talks about why she's credited as Katherine Harrington in the film, the interesting twists that involve her character in the film, how it was interesting to her that she was asked to play such a doting woman in the movie and what it was like working with Hess (who she met while doing theater) and some of the other cast members in the film. The third and final interview runs just under fourteen minutes and it's an informative talk with Alex Rebar who wrote and executive produced the film. He shares some stories about how this film came to be, the rushed production schedule that he and everyone else was under during the shoot, how and why Hess came onboard to direct the ramifications that came with Harry Reems' involvement in the movie. All three of these interviews are definitely worth taking the time to watch as they do a fine job of documenting the history of this pretty obscure Christmas themed slasher from a few different angles.

Outside of that we get a trailer for the feature, static menus and chapter selection.

Final Thoughts:

It's unlikely that To All A Good Night is going to be anyone's ‘go to' Christmas slasher when there are superior competing entries in this odd little sub-genre but it's a moderately entertaining low budget horror picture with some fun performances (and some bad ones!) and a decent twist. The movie is historically interesting for Hess' involvement behind the camera and Kino, with some help from Scorpion Releasing, are savvy enough to document a lot of that in the supplements. The transfer wears the picture's low budget roots on its sleeve but compared to the old tape release, it's a MASSIVE improvement. A solid release overall and one that those with an affinity for cheaply made holiday horror films should appreciate, warts and all. Recommended!

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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