New Year’s Evil

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On New Year’s Eve, in a Holiday Inn high rise, Blaze (Roz Kelly) is hosting a televised punk and new wave show. During the telethon portion of her holiday special Blaze gets a phone call from a man calling himself “Evil” (Kip Niven) who promises to kill a different woman in every U.S. time zone at the stroke of midnight culminating with Blaze herself. As this psycho killer slays his way to Blaze the police attempt to protect the diva.

New Year’s Evil (1980) is tasteless, sleazy, stupid, and, depending on one’s mood, mildly amusing. New Year’s Evil is one of a slew of holiday themed slasher films that was produced in the wake of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). New Year’s Evil was made early enough in this trend to prioritize suspense rather than gore which came to dominate this niche genre later in the eighties. Unfortunately director Emmett Alston and screenwriter Leonard Neubauer are unable to imbue New Year’s Evil with any tension at all.

Like most slasher exploitation films of this period New Year’s Evil is motivated by misogynist frustrations and trades in the spectacle of sexualized violence. The film’s much lauded plot twist makes these themes wholly explicit and reorients the politics of the film from the public sphere of the media and into the domestic sphere of marriage. While this may sound promising the filmmakers fail to interrogate or explore the ramifications of these re-contextualized themes in any meaningful way. The plot twist is nothing more than a narrative device that is entirely superficial in New Year’s Evil.

However, by making the killer Blaze’s husband, New Year’s Evil suggests that the violence that women may face in relationships is equivalent to the horrendous acts of Ted Bundy, the Zodiac Killer, and Son of Sam which the film fetishizes. But New Year’s Evil is never seriously focused on Blaze’s perspective and delineates from the Halloween formula by privileging the perspective of the killer. The gaze and very structure of New Year’s Evil is as misogynistic, angry and violent as that of its homicidal main character.

For the squeamish the highlight of New Year’s Evil will undoubtedly be the musical interludes performed by Made In Japan and Shadow as part of Blaze’s holiday concert special. These brief sequences are so ineptly blocked and photographed that they become parodies of themselves. It’s as if, in the background of New Year’s Evil, Allan Arkush’s Get Crazy (1983) is going on in full swing. So while New Year’s Evil is no masterpiece, it does have its moments.