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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » New Year's Evil (Blu-ray)
New Year's Evil (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // February 24, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $24.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted February 22, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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"THIIISSSSSS ISSSSSSS EEEEEEEEVILLLL. REEEEEEEEEMEMMMMMBERRRRR MEEEEEEE?"

Oh, you don't? Hmmm. I guess I have to hammer out a plot summary after all.

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All hail our 43 year old queen of rock! Roz Kelly -- the once and future Pinky Tuscadero -- is woefully miscast as middle-aged mother Diane "Blaze" Sullivan, who for some reason is a punk/new wave icon all the way over in Los Angeles. Who gives a shit about one ball dropping? Blaze is ringing in 1981 with a television special counting down the new year across every time zone, throwing down when the clock ticks forward to midnight in New York, Chicago, Aspen, and, yeah, finally, L.A. You know how these things go: live music, "10...9...8..." countdowns, cheap champagne, sloppy kisses, bad decisions, and -- wait for it -- murder. An electronically masked voice like something outta The Phantom of the Paradise calls up Blaze's broadcast not to request the latest chart-topper by Kajagoogoo but to announce that he's going to murder someone close to her every time the clock strikes twelve.

In any other slasher, there'd be a whole whodunnit? angle as, one by one, everybody around Blaze is chopped up into fist-sized, bloody chunks. Since slasher conventions were still being ironed out in these early days, with production in full swing only a month after Friday the 13th first hit theaters, New Year's Evil veers off in a completely different direction. We get a good look at the killer (played by Kip Niven) within seconds of first hearing his aaaaaaawwwwkkkkwwwwaaaaarrrrrddddd, drrrraaaaaawwwwwnnnn-oooooout diiiiieeee---ooooo----llllllogue, and "Evil" unconventionally winds up spending more time in front of the camera than anybody else. There's a mystery element, yeah, but it's not "who's under the mask?" (which is only used in a couple of scenes late in the movie anyway) so much as "why?"

...and believe me, "why?" is a question you'll be asking a whole lot while watching New Year's Evil. F'r instance, why is this punk/new wave show interrupted by a bluesy slow jam? Why is this televised New Year's Eve party so sparsely attended? Would you call this "moshing" or "low energy lightly-bumping-into-people-next-to you"? Rather than cast someone young and edgy as a punk goddess, the movie opts instead for someone old enough to be that person's mom. I guess the whole point is so Blaze can have an emotionally ravaged twentysomething-year-old son, who gnaws on one of his mother's stockings while ineptly delivering a monologue about mental illness. The kid's barely in the movie, and there's zero payoff to his psychotic deal until the very final moments. (New Year's Evil 2: Auld Lang INSANE? Dare I dream?) Anyway, nothing about Roz Kelly exudes underground chic, prancing around on-stage in a grating, affected accent delivering excruciatingly out-of-touch patter. Blaze is deliberately written to be unsympathetic and unlikeable, and without any real moment of redemption, I...don't...really get why she's ostensibly the lead character in this flick.

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As far as the actual central character goes, Evil introduces himself by claiming he's going to butcher someone close to Blaze every hour. Turns out...? His first victim aside, no one else he kills has any connection to Blaze whatsoever. I know the slasher arms race really hadn't started this early into 1980, but the stakes aren't that high, since you're looking at a murderer who's only targeting four people and still can't manage to bat 1.000. As well done as the splatter is when the aftermath is revealed, the most gruesome stuff takes place off-camera, and it's all just switchblade stabbing anyway (and, okay, one death by baggie of weed). The greatest thing about Evil is that he's kind of shitty at what he does. The electronic voice he taunts Blaze with on the air is less "menacing" and more "howlingly ridiculous". The first couple of murders give you the sense that he's a meticulous killer who's planned his mayhem down to the second. Instead, he panics as he fights the clock in Chicago, and Aspen goes off the rails as the poor guy, clerical collar and all, is chased by a motorcycle gang. He disguises himself for every murder, far and away my favorite being Erik Estrada's mustachioed disco medallion business manager. Let that sink in.

So, yeah, from the standard issue cat-jumping-out-from-nowhere scare to the hyper-redneck voiceover in Aspen to the title song being played at least three different times all the way to Evil leisurely jogging after his prey in the park, New Year's Evil is terrible. Unlike the worst slashers from the early '80s, which were content to lifelessly parrot Friday the 13th on increasingly microscopic budgets, this one still manages to be a hell of a lot of fun. At least some of the ridiculousness is deliberate, hacking and slashing with a smile. It takes a pretty long while to get there, but a couple of sequences do wind up being mildly suspenseful, and there are some tasty twists I probably should've seen coming but didn't. New Year's Evil is dreck, but I'm a hopeless sucker for stupid, silly, schlocky slashers. If you're similarly afflicted, then this Blu-ray disc absolutely comes Recommended.


Video
Of that fairly massive stack of genre flicks that Scream Factory has licensed from MGM's library, New Year's Evil might be the best-looking to date. The image is consistently, impressively sharp and overflowing with detail. Its colors pack a wallop: rich, vibrant, and wonderfully saturated. Contrast is similarly dead-on. The AVC encode for New Year's Evil isn't flawless but does a significantly better job rendering the film's fine sheen of grain than the past few '70s/'80s Scream Factory titles to pass through my hands. There's no speckling, wear, or damage to get in the way either; the vertical line in this screenshot is pretty much the only thing along those lines throughout the movie's 85 minute runtime.

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Scream Factory rings in New Year's Evil with a dual-layer disc. The mattes have been opened up a few extra scanlines to reveal an aspect ratio of 1.78:1.


Audio
New Year's Evil is rocking a 24-bit, monaural DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The whole thing sounds kinda spectacular, honestly. Sure, sure, there aren't shimmering, crystalline highs or foundation-rattling lows, but every element in the mix is still reasonably clean and clear. I particularly can't get enough of the satisfying "clink!"s of Yvonne's braids early on, and the punk-spiked soundtrack comes through well enough. New Year's Evil isn't dragged down by any clipping, dropouts, excessive hiss, or any of the usual headaches either. The post-production work can be a little sloppy, though. Some of the Foley'ed sound effects late in the film are a swing-and-a-miss, the levels are kind of all over the place as Made in Japan starts tearing through "The Cooler", and some dramatic dialogue near the end matches poorly as the camera cuts to different angles. I wouldn't be even a little bit surprised if that's the way New Year's Evil has always been, so I'm not gonna hold that against this otherwise really nice sounding track.

"I think I have a mental disorder." No shit.

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The only other audio options are a commentary and a set of English (SDH) subtitles.


Extras
  • Audio Commentary: ::heaves a long, heavy sigh:: The extras on New Year's Evil lead off with what's gotta be in the running as the absolute worst commentary I've ever suffered through. Director/co-writer Emmett Alston sort of shrugs off the movie, saying a few times that it's just something he did before moving onto whatever was next, not finding New Year's Evil all that worth remembering. Rarely speaking for more than a couple sentences at a time, getting several basic facts about the production/release wrong, and generally a room temperature glass of tap water about the whole thing, Alston is one of the least engaging, least interesting, and least interested directors I've ever heard on a commentary track. Despite having a moderator on-board, there's no real flow, rhythm, or anything that could really be called a conversation. There aren't even any highlights to rattle off, at least unless you want to correct the year the IMDb lists for Three Way Weekend or were wondering why Alston couldn't attend the premiere of New Year's Evil. I have nothing but respect for everything that Bill Olsen has accomplished at Code Red, but he's an abysmal choice to moderate this sucker. The way the commentary's recorded, Olsen is VERY LOUD compared to the quiet, understated Alston, leaving me repeatedly fiddling with the volume button on my remote. Olsen does considerably more talking than the guy who co-wrote and directed the flick, and he cracks up at basically everything, even when he's the only one speaking and isn't...saying anything that'd seem to warrant a laugh. This commentary is a waste of time on pretty much every conceivable level, so let me take the bullet for you and move onto the retrospective doc instead.

  • [click on the thumbnail to enlarge]

  • Call Me Eeevil: The Making of New Year's Evil (37 min.; HD): That audio commentary is all you see....errrr, hear of Emmett Alston, who sits out on this pretty lengthy look back on New Year's Evil. Cinematographer Thomas Ackerman instead leads the conversation, joined here by actors Kip Niven, Grant Cramer, and Taaffe O'Connell. Ackerman starts by detailing what an ambitious production this was, considering that it was the first feature film for quite a few of the folks on both sides of the camera, the insanely tight shooting schedule (the whole thing was shot over 18 nights), and the threadbare budget of $600K. Among the other topics of conversation here are working alongside Alston, being a part of a Cannon production in this era, how established friendships played a huge role in casting/crewing up New Year's Evil, and filming during the actors' strike in 1980. There's just a sparkle in everyone's eyes as they chat about the movie that makes this retrospective that much more fun to watch, and there some really terrific comments scattered around in here, such as Niven not only having to hit his marks but precisely catch a glint in his switchblade, filming the climax in an actual, working, cramped, dangerous-as-all-hell elevator, and Niven coming up with that voice on the fly after an electrolarynx prop didn't really work out. It feels like "Call Me Eeevil" runs a little long for what it is -- slight tightening up or maybe just one more interviewee could've made a huge difference -- but it's still well worth a look for sure.

  • Trailer (2 min.; SD): Last up is a full-frame trailer, sourced from standard-def and upconverted to 1080p.

No newly-commissioned artwork, slipcover, or combo pack this around, but New Year's Evil does feature a set of reversible cover art. The default cover is based on the theatrical one-sheet, and I can't say I recognize the stroke-of-midnight art on the flipside. From an international release, maybe...? Anyway, it's there if you want it.


The Final Word
If you're in the market for a white knuckle, gruelingly intense entry from the Golden Age of Slashers, then...well, New Year's Evil really isn't gonna be the movie for you. Still, it's dumb, it's doofy, it's gloriously ridiculous, it's a hell of a lot of fun, and man, I wish there were a soundtrack CD along for the ride here. Recommended.
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