Originally released in December of 1980, this year marks the 40th anniversary of Emmett Alston's New Year’s Evil...
...That means we’ve had 40 years to quietly reflect on just how "bad" New Year’s Evil is.
The Rotten Tomatoes audience score is 14%. The late Roger Ebert’s 1980 review didn’t exactly praise the film, either. He explored New Year’s Evil’s anti-woman, cliché plot. Ebert awarded the film one-and-a-half stars (out of five).
"New Year's Evil" is not, I repeat, a good movie or even a very good thriller;
it's just barely competent.
I had the opportunity to watch New Year’s Evil for the first time to determine if it truly is as bad as the internet says it is.
Internet, would you lie to me?
Let’s break it down.
The Big Picture
New Year’s Evil epitomizes common slasher tropes—blonde female victims who can’t run to save their lives (literally), gratuitous displays of women’s nipples, young-ish punks with disregard for doofy authority figures, the classic mirror scare, and ominous background ch-ch-ch-ha-ha-has. Top this with a dollop of flatly delivered lines, bad ‘80s hair, and the perpetuation of counterculture stereotypes, and you have the recipe for Bad.
On New Year’s Eve night, Roz AKA Blaze (Diane Sullivan) hosts her radio station’s annual New Year’s Evil countdown event. All of Las Vegas’s punks attend to rock out to music that isn’t actually punk. The opening credits play the film’s namesake theme song, a corny and somewhat ominous rock ballad that adds to the ‘80s cheese factor.
After the show’s opener, Blaze receives a phone call from someone who calls themselves “Evil”. Evil says he’s going to kill at midnight, and the film dissolves from there.
We’re introduced to the killer within the first fifteen minutes of the film. The build up to a surprise is partially ruined. Is he supernatural? Does he have a hook for a hand? Does he know what we did last summer? We never get to experience any anxiety-provoking questions that create a sense of anticipation because the film immediately uncovers Evil:
He’s a vanilla dude with a bad haircut, a few costumes, and a voice-changer that turns Evil into the miracle child of Inspector Gadget and Skeletor.
At least he has a wicked porno ‘stache. Watch out, ladies.
Blaze is the “heroine” of the film. She’s the film’s attempt at an Elvira-like host for the ‘80s punk scene. She’s a driven career woman with a twist. Blaze hosts a rock radio show, and she has really big red hair. She frequently makes out with her show’s suit clad producer, and she treats everyone with a kind of faux Southern charm.
We’re supposed to think she’s cool.
I’m not convinced.
What I hope for in a horror film leading character is depth. I want to see someone who puts up a fight for survival against impossible odds. Claw, kick, bite, pee. They should do whatever they can to fight back. At least rip a bloody chunk out of Evil’s ear.
Blaze just screams and flails around like an angry tilapia.
The Generic ‘80s Derek
Blaze’s son is a confusing character with a poorly devised story arc. Derek (Grant Cramer), the quintessential ‘80s film manchild, visits his mom in her hotel room before she hosts the New Year’s Evil countdown. It’s obvious that Blaze is too busy prepping for the show to give her son a proper greeting. Derek is upset, and we’re shown just how upset he is through a scene in which he pops two unlabeled red pills and slides a fishnet stocking over his head. I’m still not sure what the point of the scene is, other than to tell the audience that Derek doesn’t cope well with parental negligence. The scene is akin to Buffalo Bill’s solo naked dance-off in Silence of the Lambs. It’s uncomfortable. It’s weird. We get it—you’re a little messed up.
At least Buffalo Bill was entertaining.
Derek’s character serves a singular purpose: He’s here to show us how awful his mother is for becoming a rock-and-roll radio host.
The Supporting Cast
The supporting cast is my favorite part of the film. The punks, the clueless cops, and the cliché victims are all more entertaining than any other plot device or leading character.
I would prefer the film focus on the killer and his quest for murder under the guise of a mustached talent manager or priest. I’d love to see what the group of punks are doing after the show, flaunting their switchblade hair combs and ripped jean jackets. I want to see Sally find enlightenment and solve her roommate’s diarrhea problem.
While I agree the film is “barely competent”, this is not the kind of movie you review for Oscar-quality execution. Most importantly, we need to remember: Bad does not necessarily equal unenjoyable.
I’m here to tell you how to enjoy New Year’s Evil and all it has to offer.
Suspend your disbelief. Embrace the B-movie cheesery.
Embrace the cheese.
New Year’s Evil is hilarious.
Closed captions at the beginning of the film mistakenly quote Blaze addressing the audience and telling them to “boil your heads”. There is a scene in the film in which the killer steals a police uniform. The officer is noticeably larger than the killer, but the uniform fits the killer perfectly. We’re treated to a double-whammy of silly dumpster kills.
It’s the kind of movie you expect to find a Rifftrax for (Rifftrax, this is my official request to add New Year’s Evil to your catalogue). With gems like these, you can’t go wrong:
Blaze: So, you got a name, Phantom?
Killer: Call me Eee-vil.
Blaze: Evil? E-villl Eye?
Killer: No! Just eee-vil!
Sally: ...it’s how [she] cured her nervous diarrhea
Killer: ...and that is NOT nice!
To make this film even more fun, watch it with a group of friends. Every time you hear the words “New Year” or “evil”, take a swig of your beverage of choice. Whenever you see a switchblade or eyeliner as thick as your grandma’s pie crust, take a shot. By the end of the film, I promise you will be drunk—which is one of the only ways to enjoy all it has to offer.
Happy Anniversary, New Year’s Evil.
By Amy Cerkas